Ecosystem Indicators

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

Lead Investigator (Institution): Kathleen Goodin (NatureServe) kathy_goodin@natureserve.org

Co-investigators (Institution): 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)

NOAA Technical Point of Contact: Becky Allee (becky.allee@noaa.gov)

Award Amount: $399,955

Award Period: September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2017

Summary: 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 will create a structured framework to evaluate biological and socioeconomic ecosystem indicators collected by existing monitoring programs, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations for a set of scientifically rigorous, practical, and cost-effective indicators for five key habitats (salt marsh, mangrove, seagrass, oyster beds/reefs, and coral reefs) across the Gulf of Mexico. To assemble the framework and make recommendations for a comprehensive set of indicators, the investigators will 1) catalog the indicators being used in existing inventory and monitoring programs; 2) develop conceptual ecological models and identify indicators of ecological integrity for the five major habitats to help managers understand critical ecosystem functions and stressors that affect ecosystem condition; 3) identify key ecosystem services provided by the habitats and identify indicators of their sustainability to elucidate the relationship between ecosystem condition and the services they provide; 4) summarize key indicators of ecological integrity and ecosystem services and identify thresholds for each; 5) hold workshops where experts will evaluate the models and proposed indicators; and 6) align selected indicators against current indicators used by existing monitoring programs across the Gulf to determine gaps and identify their strengths and weaknesses.