Environmental Monitoring

Environmental Monitoring

Lee and Bradshaw in Making Monitoring Work for Managers: Thoughts on a conceptual framework for improved monitoring within broad-scale ecosystem management efforts " take the position that monitoring is first and foremost a tool for managers. That is, the principal role of monitoring is to illuminate decision making .

Monitoring that works does so in three ways:

  1. by providing an accurate assessment of the status of the resources being managed;
  2. by validating that management decisions are correctly interpreted and implemented, and that such decisions achieve the desired consequences; and
  3. by providing improved insight into how systems operate.

Any monitoring system that achieves these three objectives will almost certainly meet the additional expectations placed upon it by interested publics".

The key components are:

  • An explicit hypothesis with clearly articulated assumptions (ecological, statistical etc);
  • A clear link between management and the sampling program, with explicit decision paths. The decision-maker needs to leave behind a record of all the information, assessment criteria, assumptions or expectations about risk and uncertainty, design decisions, and analytical methods and analyses;
  • An explicit statement as to what constitutes success or failure and who will do what as a consequence.

We need to make a distinction between a good decision and a good outcome. A bad decision may lead to a good outcome and conversely a good decision may lead to a bad outcome. This may seem counter intuitive but is a reflection on the limitations of knowledge, data, and theory in most real world situations. An invalid assumption combined with poor analysis may, fortuitously, lead to improved outcomes! We might get away with it once but to plan on repeating luck is an uncertain fate.

The quality of a decision must be evaluated on the basis of the decision-maker's alternatives, information, values, and logic at the time the decision was made. Without the trail of evidence we cannot distinguish good or bad decisions and, consequently, we cannot learn from our actions. Learning is, ultimately, what it is all about.


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