Indicators and Assessment Framework for Ecological Health and Ecosystem Services
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is undertaking a multi-faceted project to develop and implement “Gulf EcoHealth Metrics,” an integrated indicators and assessment framework to characterize the health of the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.
The metrics will be unique in linking environmental and human communities in support of management needs for restoring and sustaining a healthy Gulf of Mexico. Our vision is to develop a graphical representation of the environmental condition of the Gulf that will be scientifically based, widely accessible, and readily understandable by policy-makers, stakeholders, scientists, and, most importantly, the American public.
The Gulf EcoHealth Metrics will provide the scientific information and understanding necessary to evaluate the health of the Gulf, clearly demonstrate how well it is or is not progressing towards desired long-term goals, and inform the decision-making process on the policies and resources needed to achieve sustainability of a healthy Gulf of Mexico.
This project began with a survey and critical evaluation of existing ecological health and ecosystem services indicators, their links to human well-being, and assessment/decision frameworks for their applicability and utility in managing the restoration and sustainability of the Gulf sponsored by the NOAA RESTORE Science Program.
From this we have developed an integrated assessment and decision framework, along with associated indicators, for characterizing ecological health and ecosystem services and their links to human well-being, designed to meet the management needs for Gulf restoration and sustainability. We will test this approach in a proof-of-concept application to the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (Mission-Aransas NERR). We will then evaluate the results and lessons learned from the Mission-Aransas Reserve pilot study for broader applicability and utility towards sustainability of a healthy Gulf of Mexico.