Where can I learn more about the process for selecting, testing, and revising indicators?

Where can I view geospatial information and see metadata for the individual indicators?

  • The indicators used in the State of the South Atlantic were from Blueprint 2.0, and most have been subsequently updated or replaced. The Blueprint 2.0 indicators are no longer available online to prevent the accidental use of outdated data. The spatial data and documentation for the current indicators are available on the South Atlantic Conservation Planning Atlas.
  • For links to the latest, most up-to-date indicators, you can also visit the indicator page.

How were the indicators used for Blueprint 2.0 different from those used in the State of the South Atlantic?

Though both efforts drew from the same set of indicators, they differed in a couple of key ways. All the South Atlantic’s natural and cultural resource indicators are measurable and were included in Blueprint 2.0. However, not all scores were included in the State of the South Atlantic. Any indicator that appears as “baseline for future; not scored” in the report was not included in the State of the South Atlantic.

In two cases, the way an indicator was calculated changed slightly between the Blueprint and State of the South Atlantic. The index of coastal condition, modified from EPA’s Coastal Condition Index, was calculated in the Blueprint by interpolating sampled points. This provided the necessary spatial coverage for the more spatially detailed Blueprint. In the State of the South Atlantic, that level of detailed spatial coverage wasn’t necessary, so it was calculated by averaging sampled points for better consistency with EPA’s overall sampling approach and intended use of those data.

In Blueprint 2.0, rather than using structural connectivity as an input to the indicator modeling, hubs and corridors were incorporated in a separate step using a least-cost path analysis. This was done because connectivity is a core part of the conservation design and interacts with the other indicators.

Regular updates to the Blueprint and the indicators since the release of Version 2.0 have produced more differences between the latest Blueprint and the State of the South Atlantic 2015.

Why were some indicators not scored in the State of the South Atlantic?

There are several reasons why indicators were marked “baseline for future; not scored” in the State of the South Atlantic. The 2015 assessment establishes the current condition baseline so that the next assessment may compare indicator status against 2015 to inform future scores.

Some extent indicators (e.g., acres of maritime forest) lack the necessary historic data to put the current value into context. Though the indicator, for example, tells us how many acres of maritime forest exist today, we don’t have good enough past data to convert the decline in extent to a specific letter grade.

Other indicators are relative measures that identify where the top percentage of the indicator occurs (e.g., the beach bird index). So the indicator identifies, for example, the highest concentration of beach birds–even if all the numbers are skewed much lower than they should be by human activity. The method of calculating these relative indicators may be changed in the next indicator revision cycle to avoid this issue in the future.

Why do some State of the South Atlantic indicator names not match what appeared in Blueprint 2.0?

Deciding on short and sweet indicator names in the State of the South Atlantic was challenging. Some indicators had long, complicated names like “low impervious surface watersheds” that needed to be shortened and translated into plain language. For one freshwater aquatic and one beach and dune indicator, we settled on “impervious surface” and “altered beaches”. When the South Atlantic LCC started the indicator selection and revision process, we decided to frame all the indicators in a positive way, so that higher indicator scores were always better. In these two cases, the names didn’t really match the scores. Ecologically, high impervious surface can be a bad thing. But a high score on the impervious surface indicator meant there was a low amount of impervious surface in that watershed, which is good. This was easy to work around in the State of the South Atlantic because we used words like “better” and “worse” instead of “high” and “low”. And an “A” is universally understood to be better than a “C”.

However, when we decided to use the State of the South Atlantic names in the Blueprint for consistency, this introduced some confusion. Is high beach alteration good or bad? Lesson learned–this is why we initially adopted the rule of all positive indicators! Even though the names might be slightly less clear, we renamed these two indicators “permeable surface” and “unaltered beaches”. These names were updated in the Conservation Planning Atlas and the Simple Viewer, and the next version of the State of the South Atlantic will adopt the new names, as well!

The bottom line is that the scoring hasn’t changed–higher scores always reflect better ecological condition in the South Atlantic indicators. Renaming these two indicators ensures the names match the score. So high permeable surface? Good. High unaltered beach? Also good.

How were the thresholds for “good condition” determined?

The “good condition” threshold was based whenever possible on the peer-reviewed literature. In the absence of peer-reviewed science, the thresholds are based on expert judgement. When no biological thresholds could be determined because of insufficient historical data to define “good”, indicators were not included in the final score calculations.

Where can I find all the detailed scores?

Ah, so you’re a detail person! Do you want to see the numeric indicator scores, rather than just grades? Want to see the scores for each indicator by subregion?

Can I use these the State of the South Atlantic as a template for assessing my subregion?

In a word, yes! The design team for this project, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Integration and Application Network, is committed to freely sharing its products, from each piping plover icon to its complete InDesign templates. So if you’d like to use the South Atlantic’s ecosystem indicators to assess a more limited portion of the South Atlantic’s geography, the scores can be recalculated for a smaller area and you can tailor the stories and interpretations to make them your own.