Monitoring and Evaluation for Restoration Projects
Monitoring and evaluation are essential to determine whether restoration projects are implemented correctly and performing as expected so that we achieve the intended benefits. Monitoring and assessing restoration projects also helps to ensure that project and program resources are used efficiently and effectively.
The NOAA Restoration Center’s competitive funding programs focus on four primary habitat restoration approaches: removing fish passage barriers, restoring hydrologic processes, restoring coral reefs, and rebuilding native oyster populations. For each of these approaches, we have identified short- and long-term desired outcomes for habitat and other ecosystem components.
Restoration Center Monitoring and Evaluation Guiding Principles
Monitoring and evaluation should be:
- Integrated with other activities to advance program and restoration practice generally.
- Managed like other program activities to assure high quality implementation, cost-effectiveness, and full integration with our program.
Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting, and Feedback Framework
The Restoration Center has developed a Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting, and Feedback Framework. The framework establishes a consistent and cost‐effective approach to monitoring and evaluating the performance of restoration actions. To do this, the framework establishes a tiered approach to monitoring that distinguishes between implementation and effectiveness monitoring; provides guidelines for data management and reporting; and describes a process for using what is learned from monitoring to influence project selection, implementation actions, and ultimately program priorities. Our goal for implementing this framework is to improve our planning, decision‐making, information sharing, effectiveness at achieving desired outcomes, and contribution to restoration practice.
The key elements of the framework are:
- Tiered monitoring targeted for our primary habitat restoration approaches
- Increased emphasis on data management
- Focused on on dissemination and feedback to projects and programs
- Reliance on partnerships
Ultimately, the framework creates a flexible, yet consistent, monitoring and evaluation approach. This approach will help us determine if a project is successful, improve the effectiveness of our work, and measure progress towards our desired program outcomes.
A Tiered Monitoring Approach
The Restoration Center uses a tiered approach that distinguishes between implementation monitoring (Tier I) and effectiveness monitoring (Tier II). Tier I monitoring allows us to evaluate whether we executed a project as designed. It is required for all major project types shortly after implementation is complete. Implementation monitoring is essentially quality assurance for project construction. Tier II monitoring investigates more sophisticated ecological, socioeconomic, and/or technique effectiveness questions.
With effectiveness monitoring, we are evaluating whether the project is functioning as intended. Tier II monitoring is longer-term and often requires detailed field investigations of multiple physical, biological, and geochemical phenomena. It is more expensive, so we can only complete effectiveness monitoring for a subset of our major project types. We try to choose Tier II monitoring sites carefully so that they represent commonly found habitats for given project types. This allows us to generalize what is learned at one Tier II site to the larger setting it represents and increase the cost effectiveness of our monitoring program.
Tier I: Implementation monitoring
- Evaluates structural changes (e.g., as-built surveys)
- Assesses basic effectiveness parameters, as appropriate
- Establishes consistent parameters
- Identifies quantitative target values
- Compares before-after design
- Uses standardized data reporting in Performance Progress Reports
- Is required for all projects within the four primary project types
Tier II: Effectiveness monitoring
- Evaluates ecological, socioeconomic, and/or technique effectiveness
- Guided by priority effectiveness questions developed by Restoration Center staff and regional partners
- Provides science-based answers to advance programs and restoration practice
- Implemented only on a subset of projects
NOAA Restoration Center Implementation Monitoring Guidance (pdf, 19 pages)
Guidelines for Data Management Plans (pdf, 2 pages)
Example Project Performance Report Form (pdf, 14 pages)
Oyster Habitat Restoration Monitoring and Assessment Handbook (pdf, 96 pages)