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Species Monitoring -  Species Ranking System

Habitat Monitoring and Reporting System

From the Action Plan

Adaptive Management

Simply put,adaptive management is "learning by doing" (Aldridge et al. 2004); it is the adjustment or modification of conservation actions to achieve a desired conservation goal. 

In practice, adaptive management is a rigorous process that should include sound planning and experimental design with a systematic evaluation process that links monitoring to management (Wilhere 2002, Aldridge et al. 2004). Adaptive management requires flexibility for implementation, but should be fitted over a fundamentally sound, well-planned design.

An adaptive management process produces the strongest inference and most reliable results when experimental design components are incorporated into the monitoring process. Adaptive management is most rigorously applied in an active format when components of experimental design (i.e., controls, replication, and randomization) are included in the monitoring process (Walters and Hilborn 1978, Wilhere 2002). Incorporating valid statistical analyses of results will further enhance the value of the adaptive management process. However, in some situations, rigorous experimental design procedures can be relaxed without invalidating monitoring results. In a passive format (Walters and Hilborn 1978, Wilhere 2002), adaptive management can involve applying a conservation action at a site, observing the results and adjusting the action in the future if warranted


Monitoring and performance measures are important, but often overlooked elements of conservation planning. Monitoring provides the critical link between implementing conservation actions and revising management goals. 

Monitoring is the systematic, repeated measurement of environmental characteristics to detect changes, and particularly trends, in those characteristics. Monitoring provides essential feedback, the data needed to understand the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of planned conservation actions and the management projects undertaken to address them (Wilhere 2002).

Performance Measures

Performance measures include qualitative or quantitative measures used to provide an estimate or index of the characteristic of interest, and to chart the overall progress of conservation actions towards specific goals.

Successful monitoring programs provide natural resource professionals with valuable feedback on the effectiveness of conservation actions that have been undertaken and make it possible to implement a more flexible adaptive management approach. An adaptive management approach ultimately will be more efficient and effective when it tracks inputs, incorporates an effective monitoring program that integrates performance measures, and evaluates results against desired goals.


The State Wildlife Action Plan serves as the guiding framework in this adaptive management process; it serves as the underpinning for the integration of (management) projects conducted to fulfill conservation actions that are planned to resolve conservation threats to the SGCN or the habitats they occupy. 

Based on evaluations of project results, the conservation actions are revised (if necessary), and the process is repeated.

A well-developed monitoring protocol is also one of the principal, required criteria for the Action Plan. The plans for proposed adaptive management, monitoring and performance measures were developed through literature reviews and the FWC staff meetings. Overall, a results-based approach is incorporated into the Action Plan, for which effective monitoring is an integral component. Florida will monitor conservation actions, species, habitats, major threats and the Action Plan itself. Details can be found in the Chapter Florida's Strategic Vision, Monitoring and Performance Measures section. Florida's monitoring plans are briefly summarized below, and include:

  • Track the status and trend of species, as well as monitor the implementation of conservation actions on a species by species basis, and where possible at a statewide level by using and improving upon an existing species ranking system (Millsap et al. 1990). Currently, Florida's species ranking system addresses a total of 668 vertebrate taxa. A high priority monitoring action is to update the ranking system with all SGCN and fill species data gaps to further develop, undertake and assess for success additional practical and effective conservation measures.
  • Use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to more effectively plan management actions and to monitor changes to habitats at the landscape scale, regionally and locally throughout the state. Florida can measure the percentage of area protected in terrestrial and freshwater habitat to assess successful implementation of the Action Plan and monitor terrestrial habitat conversion. Use of this technology as a performance measures will make it possible to produce reasonably accurate quantitative assessments.
  • Improve data layers of Florida's habitats to more adequately identify conservation targets and set or adjust monitoring and performance measures accordingly.
  • Take steps to expand the use of GIS to monitor habitats and more effectively integrate and coordinate conservation actions at the landscape level and other levels.
  • Develop methods to monitor habitat conditions and quality as statewide performance measures.

Strategic Vision

Monitoring, performance measurement and adaptive management are integral components of Florida's strategic vision for wildlife conservation. Developing a comprehensive adaptive management scheme for a system as large as Florida is a daunting task; therefore, Florida has taken a flexible approach that targets multiple levels and systems.

The basic approach is to implement projects focused on key actions and then to monitor changes in performance measures through time. The actions will be based on information and needs identified in the Action Plan and performance will be measured at the species, habitat, threat, and Action Plan levels. Florida Wildlife Legacy Initiative projects will be evaluated on an annual cycle whereas the Action Plan will be evaluated on a five-year cycle. Actions will be evaluated on both cycles, with the annual cycle focused mainly on whether actions are being completed successfully and the five-year cycle focused mainly on whether the appropriate actions have been identified and implemented. Performance measures at the species-, habitat-, and threat-levels collectively will be used to determine if the Action Plan is being successfully implemented or needs review and revision. Monitoring and adaptive management efforts will be dependent upon cooperation and partnering at many levels by many organizations and individuals. To be successful, all those working in the conservation arena will need to work together to develop and track measures that can be used to monitor response to conservation efforts and adapt management as necessary to achieve the goals of the Action Plan.

To maximize both effectiveness and efficiency, a principal goal of the Action Planis to concentrate conservation efforts at the habitat level to prevent additional SGCN from attaining imperiled status. Monitoring is focused at all levels (species, habitat and threats) within the Action Plan as appropriate to assess consistency with performance measures established to determine the effectiveness of conservation actions. Overall, successful implementation of key conservation actions would be expected to result in:

  • Lowered biological scores and action scores for ranked SGCN.
  • Increased percentage of lands and waters conserved through purchases, easements, or otherwise conserved in natural or semi-natural state.
  • Reduced rate of habitat conversion or degradation.
  • Achievement of major threat monitoring goals.
  • Decreased number of species lacking population trend and status information.
  • Reduction in number of identified data gaps.
  • Increased public understanding about the ecological importance of human impacts on habitats.
  • A number of completed conservation actions.

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