What are Indicators?
Indicators are quantitative or qualitative measures that provide information about the status of or changes in natural, cultural, and economic aspects of an ecosystem.
The Gulf of Maine regional indicators and reporting initiative is guided by the following objectives:
- Provide baseline data and information, using historical data where available, about ecosystem conditions against which future changes can be compared;
- Develop ecosystem indicators for assessing the state of the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy that have a scientific grounding and that are relevant to management issues of concern in the region;
- Provide consistent, scientifically-sound, credible information that can be used to strengthen environmental policy and guide management decisions with environmental and social implications;
- Utilize a collaborative, interactive process that involves a variety of partners and data sources; and
- Ensure that information reaches decision-makers within the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy region in a manner that is useful to them.
Although decision-makers receive information from multiple sources, the Gulf of Maine indicators and reporting program will uniquely convey linkages between science, management, and ecosystem goals at a regional scale and elucidate connections between ecosystem conditions and human needs. This initiative will begin with modest short-term goals and gradually extend the scope of its effort to expand 1) the depth and breadth of management-relevant issues that are covered, 2) the level of integration across specific management issues, 3) the spatial scale of focus, and 4) the audience that is reached through products of this program. It will rely heavily on partnerships with existing government agencies, environmental organizations, community groups, business and trade groups, academic institutions, and other programs operating within the region and at national and international scales.
Decision-makers in the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy region will possess the necessary information to preserve ecological integrity and to sustain economically and socially healthy human communities. Regional ecosystem indicators, developed in a manner that is guided by science and supported by routine monitoring, demonstrate patterns of change in the ecosystem. By presenting and interpreting these indicators in biennial state of the environment reports, information will be communicated in a manner that decision-makers at all societal levels can use to shape their priorities and guide their choices. The gulf-wide insights provided through indicators and state of the environment reports will integrate across multiple jurisdictional boundaries that exist within the Gulf ecosystem and will complement other information used by decision-makers. By creating links among science, management, ecosystem, and community goals at both regional and local levels, this information will help decision-makers understand the larger implications of their choices.
The core principles established for the gulf-wide indicators and reporting program ensure the production of a high-quality product that is relevant for its users and is developed through a transparent, science-based process that engages a wide group of partners.
- Partnerships. This effort will build on existing monitoring, indicator, and reporting programs within and encompassing the Gulf of Maine. Strong, robust partnerships between these programs and other organizations will be vital for a region-wide indicators and reporting program to succeed.
- Science-based. Indicators will be selected based on the best natural and social scientific understandings of the structure and functions of the ecosystem, including its human components.
- Audience-relevant. Indicators will be responsive to audience needs, and information will be presented in formats that are clearly understood by the target audiences.
- Necessary and sufficient. This effort will track the minimum set of indicators necessary to determine whether ecosystem goals and objectives associated with specific management issues are being achieved.
- Transparent. The selection, development, and interpretation of the indicators will be conducted and documented in a manner that ensures transparency such that each indicator can be evaluated by users and replicated by other programs or in future iterations of this initiative.