Selecting Indicator Portfolios for Marine Species and Food Webs: A Puget Sound Case Study
by Jessi Kershner, Jameal F. Samhouri, C. Andrew James, Phillip S. Levin
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) has emerged as a promising approach for maintaining the benefits humans want and need from the ocean, yet concrete approaches for implementing EBM remain scarce. A key challenge lies in the development of indicators that can provide useful information on ecosystem status and trends, and assess progress towards management goals. In this paper, we describe a generalized framework for the methodical and transparent selection of ecosystem indicators. We apply the framework to the second largest estuary in the United States – Puget Sound, Washington – where one of the most advanced EBM processes is currently underway. Rather than introduce a new method, this paper integrates a variety of familiar approaches into one step-by-step approach that will lead to more consistent and reliable reporting on ecosystem condition. Importantly, we demonstrate how a framework linking indicators to policy goals, as well as a clearly defined indicator evaluation and scoring process, can result in a portfolio of useful and complementary indicators based on the needs of different users (e.g., policy makers and scientists). Although the set of indicators described in this paper is specific to marine species and food webs, we provide a general approach that could be applied to any set of management objectives or ecological system.
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