Developing the indicators
The South Atlantic LCC’s first step was to develop an indicator selection process. We then chose the original set of indicators based on detailed input from 235 experts in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial resources in the South Atlantic region, as well as nine experts representing all five adjacent LCCs. We attempted to select three indicators per ecosystem that reflected the goals of ecological integrity and intact cultural landscapes, according to a set of ecological, practical, and social criteria:
- Ecological: indicators must represent a variety of other organisms or ecological attributes and respond to landscape change.
- Practical: we must be able to monitor and model indicators based on current programs and resources.
- Social: indicators receive extra consideration if they resonate with a variety of audiences.
Before the indicators could be incorporated into the Conservation Blueprint, your cooperative had to model them–and verify that the indicators actually met the criteria. Following the indicator revision process, we revised the first suite of indicators based on the results of testing and validation. The South Atlantic LCC formed expert teams specific to each ecosystem to review the results and recommend changes to the indicators. The current set of indicators reflects two rounds of annual revision in preparation for Blueprint 2.1 and Blueprint 2.2. We continue to regularly update both the ecosystem indicators and the Conservation Blueprint, informed by the results of testing and extensive feedback from our cooperative community.
Ecological criteria testing
Indicators need to represent a wide range of organisms and ecosystem attributes. How well do the freshwater aquatic indicators represent fish community health and water quality? How well does the forested wetland bird index represent Rafinesque’s big-eared bat? How well do the pine and prairie indicators represent at-risk plants, reptiles, and amphibians? These are the types of ecological criteria questions regularly tested in the revision process. When an indicator performs poorly or a gap is found, we either improve the indicator model or replace it with a better performing indicator.
Practical criteria testing
To use indicators in the Blueprint and State of the South Atlantic, we must be able to monitor and model them based on current programs and resources. If we can easily acquire or generate a GIS layer of the indicator across the entire LCC and there is consistent monitoring of the indicator across that area, it meets the practical criteria.
Social criteria testing
Not all indicators have to resonate with a wide range of people. That said, indicators that do get special consideration.
November 2012: Indicator selection process approved
March 2013: First set of ecosystem indicators approved
March 2013: Indicator revision process approved
September 2013: First draft attempt at the State of the South Atlantic released
May-December 2014: Ecosystem indicator revisions for Blueprint 2.0
January 2015: Modeling of all indicators complete
March 2015: The 2015 State of the South Atlantic released
June 2015: Blueprint 2.0 released
June 2015-January 2016: Ecosystem indicator revisions for Blueprint 2.1
August 2016: Blueprint 2.1 released
Fall 2016: Ecosystem indicator revisions for Blueprint 2.2
November 2017: Blueprint 2.2 released