West Hawaii - Indicators

Indicators reflect the status of key components of an ecosystem

To achieve sustainable management of any ecosystem, it is necessary to identify and monitor indicators that detect important changes in the state of an ecosystem. Indicators are specific, well-defined and measurable variables that have been proven to reflect the status of some component of the ecosystem and provide a practical means to judge changes in ecosystem attributes related to the achievement of management objectives. An important prerequisite for indicator development is the availability of reliable and robust information at an appropriate spatial and/or temporal scale.

Ecosystem indicators compiled by the West Hawaii IEA span a wide range of ecosystem components, from climatic and oceanographic drivers of ecosystem change to the states of ecological and human communities and associated activities. As part of the West Hawaii IEA a suite of indicators have been assembled to help track the status and trends in key social-ecological processes in West Hawaii and are presented in the West Hawaii Ecosystem Status Report

Although we have assembled a suite of ecosystem indicators to help track the status and trends in key social-ecological processes in West Hawaii, many gaps remain. Additionally, our understanding of ecosystem dynamics and the myriad of social-ecological interactions occurring in the region continues to expand and evolve. As such, the evaluation and synthesis of information and development of ecosystem indicators is an adaptive and continual process.


Selecting the Indicators

To aid in the selection of ecosystem indicators, it is often useful to employ a conceptual modeling framework that identifies the focal ecosystem components. The below Conceptual Ecosystem Models (CEMs) were employed to aid indicator selection. This ensures the indicators that are selected reflect the status of key drivers, pressures, states, ecosystem services, and responses in the ecosystem.

Conceptual model of West Hawaii ecosystem
The West Hawai‘i IEA program recently engaged stakeholders in West Hawai‘i to understand key social and ecological relationships in this region — human dimensions — and develop a conceptual model. This conceptual model developed by the West Hawai‘i IEA program, displays interactions between pressures (red) created by drivers (orange) that alter the state of ecosystem components (green) that comprise the overall ecosystem. Changes in the state of these components lead to impacts on ecosystem services (purple). This model helps to guide management by gaining perspective on how societal actions are influencing ecosystem services and benefits, and associated values, that are derived from the ecosystem. Figure from Ingram et al. (2018).