Environmental Monitoring

Environmental Monitoring

This site was developed on the basis that the primary intention of monitoring is to inform management. Given the resource limitations of local government focus your interest and attentions firstly on those issues you can do something about and, within that context, the issues that will achieve the greatest impact. Clearly you will need to know your catchment well enough to make to these decisions.

In broad terms there are two approaches to monitoring: understanding the total environment of concern, or understanding a process that you want to understand/manage. It is usually unrealistic for someone in local government to undertake the former, and where they do visual or biological surveys are most likely to be cost effective. Limited physico-chemical monitoring over a large area is unlikely to provide the controls or replicates you need for good results. Monitoring a small subcatchment might be viable, but in that case it is more likely to be in the context of a design to investigate process. Process issues may relate, for example, to how a stormwater treatment device works so you can improve design and/or management, or test the assumptions used in modeling.

Various terms are used in the literature to describe different types of monitoring, and how they relate to the different intentions for monitoring. Here management intentions are basis for looking at the different reasons for monitoring.

The first question that often arises is, is there a problem? This needs to be accompanied by, can I do anything about it (now)? This is often referred to as a snapshot, a way to get a quick overview of the situation and to begin to understand the scale of the issue. Simple visual monitoring is often most effective and can provide a useful reference for future design and implementation. Priorities can be established on the basis of risk management including the kinds of risks (Wynne 1992); identifying the sites of greatest risk/impact and identifying actions to manage those sources that are amenable to intervention. This also allows to you think about reference sites to compare against those sites that you propose will improve through the proposed interventions.

These first outcomes are often part of state of the environment reporting, which can be a good way to raise awareness about management issues and to gain support for proposed interventions.

Once a problem has been defined the next step is to establish the current (pre-intervention) baseline, using the parameters relevant to the proposed management intervention(s). That is, what you need to establish are the patterns of those parameters that your management will address, and perhaps others that might be relevant for understanding the model you have developed as part of the design.

The next question is did we do what was proposed? You can't assume that what you intended was actually done without looking. This is especially true of policy implementation where there are many agents involved in the implementation (See Wynne 1992). This will include monitoring the actual actions (e.g. implementation of WSUD strategies, or maintenance of stormwater management devices) and not just the endpoint. You need to ensure that when you look for environmental benefits you can at least be sure that what you proposed has been done and there is reason to believe it is worth looking for an outcome.

The next logical question then becomes has my intervention been effective? This question is answered in relation to the predictions of your model (e.g. which parameters, which changes where, how much, under what circumstances). Remember an intervention that 'fails' is still an opportunity to learn about what you don't know or understand about the system and what you are doing (so long as your experimental design is sound enough!). Your predictions had to be 'wrong' for a reason! The only "bad" decision is one you don't learn from.

At some point you have to ask is the monitoring program still relevant? Don't just keep monitoring because you are afraid to stop. Have you learnt what you needed to? Do you need to keep monitoring as you adapt your management interventions? Be mindful about what you are doing; there might always be better things to do with your resources.

Types of monitoring 76KB
There are six main types of waterway monitoring listed here, with each one better suited to particular monitoring objectives. These types of monitoring are all useful for achieving increased community education and awareness, as well as increased community skills. From Waterwatch Queensland

Types of evaluation 60KB
The most widely used typology of monitoring, including the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, is that of Noss and Cooperrider (1994). They divided monitoring into four basic types: baseline, implementation, effectiveness, and validation. Monitoring activities have expanded rapidly since they wrote, and we now have enough experience to make some important distinctions.

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