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 leverages funding, provides technical assistance, and develops high quality projects. We monitor our projects to ensure short- and long-term desired outcomes for habitat and other ecosystem components are reached.
NOAA Restoration Center Monitoring and Evaluation Guiding Principles
Monitoring and evaluation should be:
- Integrated with other activities to advance program goals and restoration practice
- Managed like other program activities to assure high quality implementation, cost-effectiveness, and full integration with our programs
Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting, and Feedback Framework
The NOAA Restoration Center has developed a Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting, and Feedback Framework. The framework establishes a consistent and cost‐effective approach to systematic monitoring and evaluation of the performance of restoration actions. The framework establishes approaches to monitoring based on different program needs and is built upon a tiered approach that distinguishes between implementation and effectiveness monitoring. It 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 contributions to the community of restoration practice.
The key elements of the framework are:
- Tiered monitoring targeted for our primary habitat restoration approaches
- Increased emphasis on data management
- Focus on information sharing 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. The details outlined below demonstrate how the Community-based Restoration Program implements the framework.
A Tiered Monitoring Approach
The NOAA Restoration Center uses a tiered approach that distinguishes between implementation monitoring and effectiveness monitoring.
Implementation monitoring allows us to evaluate whether a project was executed as designed. It is required for all project types shortly after implementation is complete. Implementation monitoring is essentially quality assurance for project construction.
For our four primary restoration approaches, we collect standardized implementation metrics (Tier 1) to assess the implementation and basic success of these projects.
The four most common habitat restoration approaches are:
- Restoration of coral reefs
- Restoration of native oyster reefs
- Hydrologic restoration of wetlands, estuarine, and riverine systems
- Removal of fish passage barriers to improve passage of sea-run or other migratory species.
Effectiveness monitoring (Tier 2) investigates more complex physical, biological, and geochemical processes, and/or restoration technique effectiveness questions. With effectiveness monitoring, we are evaluating whether the project is functioning as intended. Tier 2 monitoring is longer-term and often requires detailed field investigations of multiple parameters. It can be expensive, so we only fund effectiveness monitoring for a subset of our primary project types. We try to choose Tier 2 monitoring sites carefully so that they represent commonly found habitats and priority project types. This allows us to generalize what is learned at one Tier 2 site to the larger setting it represents and increase the cost-effectiveness of our monitoring program.
Tier 1: Implementation monitoring
- Evaluates structural changes (e.g., as-built surveys)
- Assesses basic functional parameters to determine project success, 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 2: Effectiveness monitoring
- Evaluates ecological, socioeconomic, and/or technique effectiveness
- Guided by national and regional effectiveness questions developed by NOAA 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 Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Points of Contact
Alaska: Erika Ammann (Erika.Ammann@noaa.gov)
Northeast: Matt Collins (Mathias.Collins@noaa.gov)
Northwest: Megan Hilgart (Megan.Hilgart@noaa.gov)
Southwest and Pacific Islands: Bob Pagliuco (Bob.Pagliuco@noaa.gov)
Southeast and Caribbean: Kris Kaufman (Kristen.Kaufman@noaa.gov)