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Environ Manage. 2012 Mar;49(3):703-19. doi: 10.1007/s00267-012-9808-7.

A methodology for evaluating and ranking water quantity indicators in support of ecosystem-based management.

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Center for Urban Waters, University of Washington, P.O. Box 358438, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA.


Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) is an approach that includes different management priorities and requires a balance between anthropogenic and ecological resource demands. Indicators can be used to monitor ecosystem status and trends, and assess whether projects and/or programs are leading to the achievement of management goals. As such, the careful selection of a suite of indicators is a crucial exercise. In this paper we describe an indicator evaluation and selection process designed to support the EBM approach in Puget Sound. The first step in this process was the development of a general framework for selecting indicators. The framework, designed to transparently include both scientific and policy considerations into the selection and evaluation process, was developed and then utilized in the organization and determination of a preliminary set of indicators. Next, the indicators were assessed against a set of nineteen distinct criteria that describe the model characteristics of an indicator. A literature review was performed for each indicator to determine the extent to which it satisfied each of the evaluation criteria. The result of each literature review was summarized in a numerical matrix, allowing comparison, and demonstrating the extent of scientific reliability. Finally, an approach for ranking indicators was developed to explore the effects of intended purpose on indicator selection. We identified several sets of scientifically valid and policy-relevant indicators that included metrics such as annual-7 day low flow and water system reliability, which are supportive of the EBM approach in the Puget Sound.

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