West Coast Sanctuaries

California Current Project


CCIEA scientists from across west coast National Marine Sanctuaries and NOAA Fisheries Science Centers are applying the IEA framework in novel ways to support marine resource management.

Specific examples include:

  • Adapting and applying the IEA approach to indicator development and ecosystem assessment at the sanctuary scale in support of sanctuary condition reports
  • Downscaling CCIEA indicators to individual sanctuaries and upscaling regional datasets from sanctuary-based research to IEA applications
  • Developing data visualization and education/outreach products

Conceptual Models – A Visual Reporting Tool

Conceptual models of each habitat (Figure 1) were developed to provide a visual aid and communication tool for the indicator portfolios. The conceptual models provided graphical representations of each indicator within the context of the target habitat. The imagery provides the proverbial “thousand words” necessary to convey the complexity inherent in marine systems, and allows rapid sharing of common indicators. 

Indicator Development for Sanctuary Condition Reports

National Marine Sanctuary managers regularly report out on the status and recent changes in the condition of sanctuary resources, ranging from plankton to whales. These condition reports provide critical input to sanctuary management plan updates. Our goal was to create a quantitatively rigorous and repeatable approach, modeled on the IEA framework, for identifying and assessing indicators of ecosystem integrity, physical drivers and human pressures. We developed a process to evaluate and select indicator portfolios for each major habitat in a sanctuary (8 habitats in this example for MBNMS). Each indicator portfolio is linked to the standardized status and trend assessment questions in the condition reports. For example, forage and midwater larval fish diversity metrics were identified as targets for determing the status of biodiversity in pelagic habitats.

Interactive Infographics Put Information at your Fingertips

In collaboration with partners, such as the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), we are developing products to help dynamically update the sanctuary status and trend report and make this information readily available through the internet (Figure 3). A demonstration of the interactive infographic concept is being developed by MBON for Monterey Bay and Florida Keys sanctuaries with plans to expand to Channel Islands and other sanctuaries in the future.

These web-enabled products will help managers determine if recent changes are natural or human-caused, and whether management action is needed to reduce stressors on resources and improve the health of a sanctuary.

Sanctuary education and outreach teams are interested in exploring the utility of the interactive interface in different venues including sanctuary visitors centers and middle school and high school science classrooms.

More On This Topic

Learn more about other Sanctuaries across the U.S. working with IEA


  • Marine Biodiversity Observation Network

    MBON logo
  • National Marine Sanctuaries

    NMS logo

Figure 1

Figure 1: Overview of the eight major habitat categories at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Conceptual model depicting the portfolio of indicators of ecosystem components (black font), climate and ocean drivers (green font), and human pressures (blue font) for pelagic habitat in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Q numbers align with the standardized questions in Office of National Marine Sanctuaries condition reports

Figure 3

Figure 3: New indicators of forage biodiversity were developed by CCIEA scientists at NMFS-SWFSC in collaboration with the Sanctuaries MBON demonstration project (Santora et al. 2017).

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