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Ecosystem Indicators Inventory

Full Title: Inventory of Gulf of Mexico ecosystem indicators using an ecological resilience framework

This project created a comprehensive guide for management using indicators of five common coastal habitats: salt marsh, mangrove, seagrass, oyster beds/reefs, and coral reefs.

The Team: Kathleen Goodin (Lead Investigator, NatureServe,, Don Faber-Langendoen (NatureServe), Ken Dunton (The University of Texas at Austin), Greg Steyer (U.S. Geological Survey), Camille Stagg (U.S. Geological Survey), Richard Day (U.S. Geological Survey), Dave Reed (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), Rob Ruzicka (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), Matt Love (Ocean Conservancy), Christine Shepard (The Nature Conservancy), and Jorge Brenner (The Nature Conservancy)

Technical Monitor: Becky Allee (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

Project Timeframe: September 2015 to August 2018.

Award Amount: $399,955

Why it matters: An indicator is a measure of a component or process in an ecosystem that can serve as a proxy for overall condition of the ecosystem. This project evaluated and created a comprehensive inventory of ecosystem indicators that can be used for ecological models and effective management. Ranges of condition for these indicators were also developed.

What the team did: This project created a structured framework to evaluate biological and socioeconomic ecosystem indicators collected by existing monitoring programs, assessed their strengths and weaknesses, and provided recommendations for a set of scientific, practical, and cost-effective indicators for five key habitats; coral, mangrove, oyster, saltmarsh and seagrass. Two workshops were held for each key habitat. Workshop participants had expertise about key habitat types and the researchers solicited feedback from these experts to confirm selected indicators were valid and to establish condition ranges.

The investigators cataloged indicators found in existing inventory and monitoring programs; developed conceptual ecological models to help managers understand critical ecosystem functions and stressors that affect ecosystem condition; and identified key ecosystem services provided by the key habitats and associated indicators of their sustainability. 

Project Outputs and Outcome: The work resulted in a comprehensive list of indicators and thresholds that managers can use to help with restoration, monitoring, and management efforts. Indicators and distributions for five key habitats linked into the Habitat Indicator Explorer.

Management Impacts: Managers have access to a validated suite of indicators and condition ranges to assist with monitoring key habitats, identifying ideal locations for restoration, and improving overall management practice.