Ecosystem Health Index John MacKinnon (2012)

 

Definition: Ecosystem Health is taken to be the suitability of a site to continue to provide secure conditions for survival of component species and delivery of key ecological services, including resilience to climate and other changes.

Objective: EHI is a not an evaluation. It is a dynamic, constantly varying index that reflects biodiversity health, just as a financial index reflects economic performance.

  • EHI provides a baseline against which targets for maintaining or achieving a given level of health can be set
  • EHI can be used as a results based indicator of project achievement and impacts
  • EHI can indicate where the project is succeeding or failing and allow revision of activity efforts throughout the project
  • EHI is complimentary to the Management Effectiveness scorecard in project M & E.

 

Introduction: Ecosystem health is reflected in the ability of a site to maintain its biodiversity values and ecological functions. These will vary significantly from site to site. Any index should include three components: 1) score of habitat suitability for important biodiversity; 2) status of important biodiversity and 3) the broader environmental context. The score does not necessarily indicate stability. Many wetland sites are very dynamic but what we are interested in is the ability of the biota to adapt to or even thrive with the changes. This will become increasingly important as climate and water flow patterns change. I suggest a simple scoring system as in table below. Each site using this index should undertake a baseline survey which also selects indicators and target species for subsequent surveys. Indicators should include key wetland birds, important aquatic fauna – fish, mollusks; selected indicator insects; endangered mammals; major components of vegetation; incidence of AIS.

The index establishes a snapshot value at the time of surveying; can relate present scores against baseline established at an earlier date, identifying trends in the different indicators; and can establish reasonable targets for improvement for each different indicator, and compare current state against identified targets.

Although a human body may not yet show much physical deterioration, we can identify several indicators of lifestyle that constitute health threats (excessive drinking and smoking habits, lack of sleep, lack of inoculation, living in region of known diseases, poor hygienic habits, lack of medical facilities etc.). In the same way we can recognize several threats to ecosystem health in the external context that may not be immediately reflected in condition of habitat or status of species. Such indicators include the levels of external development threats, the level of secure legal protection enjoyed, the level of human use pressures being applied or expected in the future.

Use of the EHI scoresheet

  1. Forming the monitoring team

Should include manager, ecologist, consultant, local experts and if possible local community member/members)

2.Classifying and mapping main habitat types

Use simple classification as per example below

 

Example of simplified habitat classification and hierarchy

Ist Order 2nd Order 3rd Order 4th Order
Water bodies Natural Fresh Lakes Open Lake
water Shallows
Small Lake
Rivers Large River
Small River
Artificial Ponds Reservoir
Small Pond
Terrestrial Barren Sparse vegetation Beach
Mudflats
No natural vegetation Bare Land
Urban area
Arbour Woodlands Willows
Poplar plantation
Mixed plantations
Natural mixed forest
Scrub Scrub
Herbaceous Marshes Reed-beds
Lotus-beds
Grasslands Miscanthus meadow
Phalaris meadow
Carex meadow
Artemesia meadow

 

 

3.Identify main threats to be monitored

  • Key threats have already been identified for each project area at the PIF stage. These can be reviewed at PPG stage.
  • Additional threats can be tagged for attention when local teams are assembled or if unpredicted changes occur during the project cycle. There should be a good match between indicator species selected and the specific threats they indicate.

4.Identifying suitable indicator species to be monitored

  • Conservation target species (n.b. rarely seen species give little data)
  • Commoner species that are sensitive to habitat quality – amphibia, dragonflies, birds
  • Easily identified – large mammals
  • Easily quantified (harvest levels of fish, crabs etc. or plants)
  • Alien species of concern

5.Undertake baseline measurements

This will involve checking in the field, examining plans, maps and other documents, interviewing managers and local community members and undertaking status assessments of selected indicator species (this latter task should be incorporated into routine monitoring activities but baselines need to be established).

6.Calculate baseline indices

Pick the score for each indicator that best meets your observations. Most important is to complete the notes explaining on what basis this score was selected and listing the requirements that should be targeted by the project for improving this score. Identification of areas where improvement can be expected is the key to calculating the target index score that the project can realistically hope to achieve.

7.Periodically repeat measurements (minimum would be mid-term and end of project). Routine monitoring of indicator species should be more often than this and at least twice per year.

8.Analyze observed changes in relation to established targets

Note changes in relation to baseline or previous evaluations

9.Report results and feed into project planning revisions

Append full notes, maps, tables of scored species, or any data on human uses and activities, tourism entries etc. on which the answers were based. This is important as the next team to evaluate may be different and need to see the basis for determining if conditions change or get worse.

(First 6 steps will have expert assistance, local teams can undertake after that)

 

The EHI scorecard

The EHI scorecard is designed for simplicity and robustness

Different teams should reach similar scores

Team members do not require high levels of literacy, biological knowledge or statistical skills!!

The EHI scorecard is designed to match and augment the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) being used in GEF Biodiversity projects and can be filled out at the same time.


Name of Site: Wetland Ecosystem Health Index (EHI) Score sheet

 

Scored by (names): Date completed:
Issue Criteria Score: tick only one box per question Comment/explanation Target for improvement?
  Component 1. Habitat Health Assessment
Habitat connectivity Habitats severely fragmented by inhospitable barriers 0
Habitats fragmented but some connections or corridors remain 1
Habitats partly fragmented 2
Habitats enjoy good connectivity 3
Habitat heterogeneity Site composed of only one major habitat 0
Site contains only a small proportion of full range of regional wetland habitats 1
Site contains most of regional representative habitats 2
Site contains mosaic of all representative habitats of regional wetland type 3
Original habitat diversity retained Range of original habitats severely reduced by habitat losses and changes 0
50-80% of original habitats still well represented 1
>80% of original habitats still well represented 2
Full range of original habitats all well represented 3
Habitats degraded Most habitats severely degraded in structure, composition or productivity 0
Some habitats severely degraded 1
Minor habitat degradation 2
All habitats in healthy natural condition 3
Water pollution Water toxic causing death of fish, mollusks and other biota, presence of toxic algae or plankton 0
Water visibly dirty or smelly, surface scum visible 1
Slight discoloration, smell or cloudiness apparent 2
Water remains clear and potable 3
Sediment load Water seriously loaded with erosion sediments 0
Water opaque, cannot see bottom of ponds, streams 1
Water fairly clear but contains significant sediment 2
Sediment levels entirely normal 3
Oxygen levels Severe hypoxia kills fish and mollusks 0
Some signs of hypoxia, fish gulping at surface 1
Oxygen levels close to natural original figures 2
Oxygen levels remain at natural healthy levels 3
Water supply Water supply and water table seriously modified and damaging ecological functions 0
Water supply modified by major diversions, drainage or extractions 1
Water supply peaks (droughts and floods) changed by regional changes in flow 2
Water supply remains in original seasonal pattern 3
Physical disturbance (construction, fish traps, barrages, noisy activity) Site is transformed by artificial developments, structures or disturbances 0
Site faces much disturbance from construction and disturbance 1
Minor structures or disturbances only 2
Original physical state preserved 3
Disaster damage Ecology irreversibly modified by natural or artificial disaster 0
Serious disasters frequent and ecological recovery period long 1
Severity and frequency of disasters natural or increased through human activities but ecology shows high recovery rate 2
Frequency of disasters remains natural, capacity to recover remains high 3
Design resilience (size,altitude,NS axis,lithology,dynamics,multiple catchments) Site is too small, isolated and homogeneous to offer ecological resilience 0
Site is naturally vulnerable to change 1
Site enjoys moderate resilience design 2
Site enjoys natural high resilience 3
Sub-total of habitat health risks   % of total maximum

Index (HI) =

  HI target =
   
Health of target species All target species show declines 0
Most target species show declines 1
Some target species show declines 2
All target species stable or increasing 3
Health of vertebrate indicator species All indicator species show declines 0
Most indicator species show declines 1
Some indicator species show declines 2
All indicator species stable or increasing 3
Health of invertebrate indicator species All indicator species show declines 0
Most indicator species show declines 1
Some indicator species show declines 2
All indicator species stable or increasing 3
Health of plant indicator species All indicator species show declines 0
Most indicator species show declines 1
Some indicator species show declines 2
All indicator species stable or increasing 3
Species diversity retained Richness of faunal/floral communities irreversibly depleted 0
Significant gaps appearing in reporting of local species 1
Minor reductions in species richness noticed 2
Site retains full original species diversity with high proportion of locally potential species 3
Highest trophic carnivores still present No high trophic carnivores remain at site 0
Few carnivores remain at site 1
Some high trophic carnivores lost from local fauna 2
All high trophic carnivores or original fauna still present 3
AIS resilience AIS out of control and permanently replacing some local species 0
AIS degrading ecosystem functions or displacing local species 1
Some AIS noticed at site but not seriously damaging ecosystem or local species 2
No AIS established in site 3
Breeding/wintering success of target species

 

High mortality on wintering/breeding areas of site 0
Survival of some species a concern 1
Moderate survival 2
Key species all surviving well at site 3
Key new species using site

 

Total species no. dropping over time 0
No new species recorded but species richness stable 1
Some new species (other than AIS) noted 2
No. of new colonizing species exceed local extinctions 3
Economic harvest species (legal and illegal) Uncontrolled overharvesting eliminating some species 0
Harvesting results in serious declines in several species 1
Harvesting results in minor declines of some species 2
No harvesting, or harvesting appears entirely sustainable 3
Mortality/disaster of key species (fires, droughts, floods, diseases)

 

Disasters have caused irreversible or long term declines to important species 0
Disasters have caused serious damage to important species 1
Disasters cause minor damage to some species 2
No diseases, disasters in recent years or species recovery fast and complete 3
Sub-total of species health risks Sum score

 

% of total maximum  

Index (SI) =

  SI target =
  Component 3. Environmental Context Health Assessment
Site boundaries and zones Adequate boundaries not clearly marked or respected 0
Boundaries inadequate or not respected 1
Some boundaries marked, partially respected 2
Effective boundaries, zones in place and marked 3
Legal framework No legal protection for site 0
Weak legal protection or protection for only part of site 1
Legal status assured but some weaknesses remaining 2
Strong legal security and law enforcement procedures in place 3
Tourism impacts Tourism uncontrolled and causing serious damage and disturbance to site 0
Some controls in place but tourism exceeds safe carrying capacity 1
Tourism controlled but causing some negative impacts 2
Tourism absent or well controlled and within safe limits 3
Human resource use pressures Pressure on natural resources of site out of control 0
High levels of collection or use of renewable resources 1
Low levels of pressure for resources or land-use (e.g. grazing) 2
No human pressure on resources, or pressures now contained by alternative livelihood program 3
Additional threats or stresses from external developments (existing or planned)

 

Water diversion plans, dams, drainage would completely change nature of the site 0
External developments negatively affect the ecosystem of site 1
Low risk or low impacts can be absorbed by ecosystem 2
No threats from external developments 3
Local community relations Local community alienated and oppose establishment of protected area on site 0
Local community accept existence of protected area but neutral and mostly not involved 1
Local community enjoy some benefits through employment or alternative livelihoods 2
Local communities strongly supportive; respect protected area and collaborate in protection, reporting work 3
Sub-total of environmental context health risks Sum score   % of total maximum   Index (CI) =   Target CI index =.
Overall EHI score (HI+SI+CI)/3 = Date baseline   EHI Target identified for project  

 


Notes on rationale and scoring of different indices

Habitat health Section

Habitat connectivity

Make a map of major habitats of the wetland including forests, grasslands, riparian/beach fringes, marshes, and water bodies. Consider the connectivity requirements of each and make a list scoring each. Barriers in stream and river flows such as dams (even a 1 metre high barrier can prevent fish and amphibian dispersal). Have formerly connected lakes or pods been cut off from the river system? Are forest patches natural or fragments of a former more extensive and connected system? Are open vegetation areas becoming isolated by roads, other developments, new forests? Consider connectivity in the wide landscape sense not just within protected area boundaries. Do surrounding lands act as adequate corridors for dispersal of key species? Are there adequate corridors to link to other relates protected areas. Can habitat connectivity be repaired or improved through habitat management?

  • Relatively simple habitat classification, mapped and measured from satellite or aerial imagery with some ground truthing
  • Resampled at minimum yearly intervals (maybe in 2 different seasons)
  • Routine ground monitoring can record condition details (see model report form)

 

Habitat heterogeneity

Heterogeneity or diversity of habitats supports high biodiversity, is indicative of good ecosystem health and provides high resilience to change. Does your site contain a high proportion of the expected diversity of habitats associated with your wetland type in your given ecological region? Does your site provide habitat for a high proportion of the representative wetland species of your ecological region?

 

%age major habitat types at baseline still well represented

What proportion of major habitat types remain well represented? Have new important habitats emerged as significant? Have some original habitats types been lost or significantly reduced?

 

Change since baseline of primary habitat area

Where earlier maps are available (Landsat imagery is available since 1980s) map previous habitat distribution and compare to current distribution to evaluate degree of change. Accurate maps at beginning of project cycle will be used as a baseline for short-term changes during project life. Consider whether the observed levels of change constitute a threat to the health of the ecosystem within the site. Does the site still represent the habitat types originally protected?

 

Water pollution

Toxic pollutants severely threaten wetland ecosystems. These could include agricultural fertilizers, insecticides, heavy metals, oil, solvents or other organic compounds, untreated sewage, acids, and acid sulphates from oxidized wetland soils. Pollution may be persistent or due to occasional industrial leaks or oil spills. Consider the pollution history over several years and the risk (nearby refinery or industry) even if no leakage has yet been reported. Pollution can be assessed by chemical analysis of water samples but can also be inferred by sudden death of indicative organisms. MEP are responsible for monitoring water pollution. Develop data sharing arrangements with local MEP bureau.

 

Sediment load

Sediment load is a physical measure. Water can be collected allowed to stand and settle and the proportion of sediment material can be calculated. This can be compared to baseline data. However natural water systems do carry still loads especially in turbulent rivers. Peaty wetlands naturally contain red or black stain from tannins in peat. In most healthy natural wetlands the sediment load is almost zero because the dense vegetation filters out this material resulting in clear water.

 

Oxygen level

Oxygen is essential for most aquatic animal life. Oxygen he is a product of aquatic vegetation. It is also a product of the turbulence of flowing water and falling water. Hypoxia, the condition of lack of oxygen, is a dangerous condition in some water systems and is exaggerated when fertilizers allow certain dinoflagellates to remove too much oxygen from the system. Oxygen levels can be measured directly or inferred from the presence of microorganisms, algae and the response of animals like fish which may show die off in conditions of low oxygen. This score can be based on physical measurements or indirect signs of hypoxia.

 

Water supply

Water supply is critical to wetland health. Normal natural supply may vary between seasons. In dry seasons or in winter when water is frozen, water supply may be naturally scarce. In flood seasons water supply may be in excess. Compare the current situation with the natural healthy condition. Does the area currently face atypical droughts or atypical flooding conditions? Or is the supply normal? Is the supply safe or has the supply been jeopardized by a water diversions, by drainage, by pumping of deep water for industrial or agricultural uses or by disruptions to the water connectivity.

 

Physical disturbance

Wetlands may be negatively affected by physical disturbance. This may be in the form of noise. The disturbance of people, smells, domestic animals or new constructions, walls, artificial riverbanks, roads, culverts, bridges, fish traps and nets. Consider if such physical disturbances reduce the health of the particular wetland in terms of its ability to support the biota for which it is protected. Birds and mammals are particularly sensitive to human disturbance, noise, domestic animals, barking dogs etc. Fish and amphibians may be less disturbed. Plants least of all but may be affected by dust from physical works.

 

Disasters

Assess the risk of disasters both natural and man induced. These may be extreme weather events, forest fires, chemical leaks or spills, disease outbreaks, forest clearance or drainage or other forms of disaster. Consider whether the ecosystem is susceptible to disaster damage and whether the frequency of disasters is at a natural level or has been increased by human activities or is increasing due to climate change. Does the site have a history of disasters and what is its rebound level ? Does it recover quickly from such disasters in the past or do disasters cause long-term or irreversible deterioration to the ecosystem health.

 

Species health section

% globally significant species viable

The PIF and PPG have identified a number of globally significant species at the site. These may be only occasional visitors or may be present in viable populations. What proportion of the list of significant species is present in viable numbers. These species may be wintering populations or may be resident or seasonal breeding populations. Consider whether the numbers are large enough to constitute a viable population and whether the numbers remain stable, rise or some of the species are showing declines.

 

% indicator species stable/increasing/declining

Select a few indicator species carefully to reflect different aspects of ecosystem health; aquatic, terrestrial, vertebrate, invertebrates and plants. Selected species should reflect good health and be sensitive to the threats identified for the site. They should not be species that thrive in disturbed and degraded habitats. A list of the bout 10 such species is adequate for each site. These should be readily visible species which can be monitored over time without too much difficulty. Rare or inconspicuous species are not suitable indicators as data collection is too tedious, and numerical data is low with low statistical significance. For example, birds are generally preferred over mammals. They can be more readily seen and identify in daytime and at a distance. Mammals are more sleep nocturnal and require capture, handling and measurement for accurate identification. The table below suggests some possible indicator species for the seven different sites of the Main Streams for Life program. A list of suitable methodologies for accessing different species is appended to these notes.

 

Determine the proportion of all species seen in the area that can be regarded as generalists or able to survive in degraded habitats. This proportion increases with habitat degradation. The proportion of habitat specialists will decrease. This provides a reasonable index of habitat health.

 

AIS status

Globally, the threat of alien invasive species is increasing and serious. Many wetland ecosystems have become greatly changed and degraded through such invasions. These may be plants, fish, vertebrates or invertebrates. Lists of regional identified alien invasive species may be found on the CSIS website. Identify those known invasive species that are already recorded in your wetland. Where possible, note the year in which they were first noticed; their current status; their trend. Also record any negative impacts associated with their spread in terms of loss of original native biota or reduction of ecosystem services. Distinguish between invasions of species from widely separate parts of the world from natural colonization or re-colonisation from adjacent Chinese bio-regions which may be natural adaptive responses to changing climate.

 

Breeding/wintering success of key species

Project routine monitoring program should regularly check on the survival and breeding success of targets species. These data can also form an important part of the overall ecosystem health assessment. List key targets species of the project and note whether these species are stable increasing or declining with percentile values against timeframe.

 

Key new species using site

Wetland sites are dynamic the boundaries between land and water constantly change. You must expect species distributions to change also. Some species will disappear from the site in response to these changes and other species may colonise or re-colonise the site. The rate of such colonization is an important indicator of stability and resilience of the site. New natural colonizing species should be distinguished from alien invasives. The former is healthy the latter unhealthy.

 

Economic harvest species

Where the site provides a source for economic legally harvested species, records of such harvest are valuable for assessing the ecosystem health. Ideally the harvest should be sustainable without requiring the increase in harvesting effort. Record data on collection of firewood, mushrooms medicinal plants, fish, crustaceans or other legitimate products may be recorded over time and note the trends or stability of supplying. Try to record both total harvest and harvest in terms of unit search effort. Both measures are valuable in assessing ecosystem health.

 

Mortality/disaster of key species

Collect information on mortality of key species, especially in the event of any natural or man-induced disasters. Access mortality against expected natural background. Are there any unusual diseases, new forms of predation, excessive over collection by humans or responses to extreme weather: drought, fire, cold spells, floods, etc. Consider long-term impacts on populations. Do these mortality is constitute a severe threat? Or do population numbers rebound quickly?

 

Illegal hunting/harvesting

Consider levels of illegal hunting or harvesting of either terrestrial or aquatic species. Assess illegal cutting of wood or collecting reeds or other plants materials. Do these constitute a threat to the status of those populations? Have levels of harvesting increased.?

 

Environmental context section

Site boundaries and zones

Examine map and management plan of the site. Does the core and internal buffer zone contain the essential parts of the area and subjects of protection. Does the experimental zone provide additional protection or constitute a source of environmental damage inside the PA. Is there an external buffer zone? Is the area large enough to function as an isolated ecological entity? Is there adequate connectivity or corridors to additional similar habitats allowing wider exchange and dispersal.

Legal framework

Is the legal status of the site firmly guaranteed in law? Or only under ministerial or provincial regulations? Is the sytatus clear ? Does this status exclude activities of other agencies – mining, communications, agriculture, etc.? Is the legal status enforceable ? Ids law enforcement in fact strong enough ?

 

Tourism impacts

Does the site face heavy tourism impacts ? Has there been any formal attempt to calculate tourism carrying capacity? How does the site limit tourism impacts ? Are there efforts to zone tourist use to specific areas or footpaths? Note other efforts such as limits to traffic, disposal of litter, environmental friendly toilets, limits on tourist and tour guide noise (e.g. ban on loudspeakers), use of fireworks, smoking? Is there any evidence that tourism is damaging the property or disturbing wildlife? Are there adequate notice-boards, information, maps and guidance so that visitors know how to behave?

 

Human resource use pressures

Determine levels of extractive use by local people. Is this legal or illegal? Are these levels stable, increasing or decreasing? Are these levels sustainable or controlled? Are there efforts to provide alternative livelihoods? Are such efforts adequate or working? Remember use by domestic animals constitutes an indirect human use!

 

Additional threats or stresses from external developments (existing or planned)

Examine wider landuse maps and regional plans to identify if there are external developments that will have negative impacts on the site. In particular look upstream at water system. Are there dams, diversions, impoundments or water extraction activities that will change the annual water flow pattern, water table level or water quality?

 

Local community relations

Meet with local leaders to ask about attitudes towards the protected area and the PA management. They usually give a very different answer to that given by management about such relationships. Examine any documentary evidence of levels of offence, legal violations or complaints. During field inspection, note evidence of human activities or presence of domestic animals inside PA.

 


Suggested Indicator Species for use at different project sites. Local experts should complete or revise selection.

Hainan mangroves Poyang lake Honghu Lake Anhui lakes Altai rivers Nei Menggu Heilongjiang
Target species
Spoonbill sandpiper White crane White stork Tundra swan Beaver Hooded crane Moose
Nordman’s greenshank Lesser White-front goose Swan goose Swan goose Golden Eagle Demoiselle crane Otter
Black-faced spoonbill Finless porpoise Clawless otter Chinese egret Osprey Tundra swan Black bear
Red deer Black bear Sturgeon fry
Vertebrate indicators
Grey heron Common kingfisher Common kingfisher Pintail Red squirrel Red squirrel Red squirrel
Black capped kingfisher Coot Little grebe Whooper swan Red deer Pallas’s sandgrouse Sable
Stork-billed kingfisher Black drongo White-winged tern Shoveller Common otter Common kingfisher Wolverine
Wintering eastern curlew Grey heron Common otter Mallard European Roller Great crested grebe Great grey owl
Tufted duck Wild boar Wild boar Wild boar
Myxocyprinus
Fish catch Fish catch Fish catch Fish catch Fish catch
Invertebrates
Shrimps Dragonflies Crayfish Crayfish Moths Moths Moths
Crabs Moths Crabs Dragonflies Dragonflies Dragonflies Dragonflies
Mollusks crayfish Worms Moths
Worms dragonflies Plankton
Dragonflies Dragonflies
Plants
mangroves Willow Water weeds Riparian trees
Reeds Reeds
Algae
Euryle ferox
Trapa incisa
Alien Invasive species
Bengal mangrove Crayfish Crayfish Water hyacinth
Tilapia Water hyacinth Apple snail Alligator grass
Zebra mussels Hairy crabs Crayfish

 

Example of a completed EHI scorecard

Name of Site: Dongzhaigang NNR Wetland Ecosystem Health Index (EHI) Score sheet

 

Scored by (names): Cairong + others Date completed: April 2014
Issue Criteria Score: tick only one box per question Comment/explanation Target for improvement?
  Component 1. Habitat Health Assessment
Habitat connectivity Habitats severely fragmented by inhospitable barriers 0 Sea connects but land ward forests lost and fringe mangroves round coast destroyed Restore network of fringe mangroves
Habitats fragmented but some connections or corridors remain 1 1 1.5
Habitats partly fragmented 2
Habitats enjoy good connectivity 3
Habitat heterogeneity Site composed of only one major habitat 0 Less habitat types, mangrove patches degraded

 

Encourage further natural restoration; artificial restoration introduced at certain areas if needed, e.g., Luofudun Island
Site contains only a small proportion of full range of regional wetland habitats 1 1
Site contains most of regional representative habitats 2 1.5
Site contains mosaic of all representative habitats of regional wetland type 3
Original habitat diversity retained Range of original habitats severely reduced by habitat losses and changes 0 Original habitats well represented but formations disturbed; fringe habitats destroyed, habitats for wild boars almost disappeared Allow nature to restore zonal bands; if necessary, artificially restore destroyed landward forests
50-80% of original habitats still well represented 1
>80% of original habitats still well represented 2 2 2.5
Full range of original habitats all well represented 3
Habitats degraded Most habitats severely degraded in structure, composition or productivity 0 Site has history of serious degradation (large-scale tree-cutting for fuel woods, foreshore reclamation. Not yet restored to original conditions. Mangroves by tidal creeks are degrading due to disease and insects. Reduce natural and artificial disturbances (in particular pollution, disease and insects) to allow natural regeneration and extension of surviving mangroves
Some habitats severely degraded 1 1
Minor habitat degradation 2 2
All habitats in healthy natural condition 3
Water pollution Water toxic causing death of fish, mollusks and other biota, presence of toxic algae or plankton 0 Marine seas polluted by leakage of waste from aquaculture farms, state farms as well as domestic sewage. Promote environmentally-friendly aquaculture and halt landward sources of pollution
Water visibly dirty or smelly, surface scum visible 1
Slight discoloration, smell or cloudiness apparent 2 2 2.5
Water remains clear and potable 3
Sediment load Water seriously loaded with erosion sediments 0 Sea is cloudy with landborne sediments, contaminants from aquaculture, agriculture and sanitary sewage Encourage reforestation to reduce soil erosion and promote environmentally-friendly aquaculture to reduce pollution
Water opaque, cannot see bottom of ponds, streams 1 1 1.5
Water fairly clear but contains significant sediment 2
Sediment levels entirely normal 3
Oxygen levels Severe hypoxia kills fish and mollusks 0 Eutrophication of sea caused by surrounding fishing farms potentially contributes to lower oxygen levels Promote environmentally-friendly aquaculture to reduce pollution
Some signs of hypoxia, fish gulping at surface 1
Oxygen levels close to natural original figures 2 2 2.5
Oxygen levels remain at natural healthy levels 3
Water supply Water supply and water table seriously modified and damaging ecological functions 0 Overuse of underground water for daily life and aquaculture use and climate change influence water supply Adequately use of surface water to save underground water resources
Water supply modified by major diversions, drainage or extractions 1 1 1.5
Water supply peaks (droughts and floods) changed by regional changes in flow 2
Water supply remains in original seasonal pattern 3
Physical disturbance (construction, fish traps, barrages, noisy activity) Site is transformed by artificial developments, structures or disturbances 0 Extensive erection of nets and traps, former construction of dam (established by water resources management bureau to prevent tide), sound pollution of boats, tourist activities, as well as intensive fishing ponds Strengthen management to reduce assorted physical disturbance, develop alternative livelihood, e.g., eco-tourism to reduce local communities’ reliance on the resources in the reserve
Site faces much disturbance from construction and disturbance 1 1
Minor structures or disturbances only 2 2
Original physical state preserved 3
Disaster damage Ecology irreversibly modified by natural or artificial disaster 0 Mangroves are quite dynamic so recovery rate to any natural and human-induced disasters should be quick. Although typhoons have not influenced the mangroves in the site seriously, typhoons would pose a significant and increasing risk of natural damage under climate change, coupled with rising sea levels. Maintaining wide range of habitats and species will increase resilience accordingly
Serious disasters frequent and ecological recovery period long 1
Severity and frequency of disasters natural or increased through human activities but ecology shows high recovery rate 2 2 2.5
Frequency of disasters remains natural, capacity to recover remains high 3
Design resilience (size,altitude,NS axis,lithology,dynamics,multiple catchments) Site is too small, isolated and homogeneous to offer ecological resilience 0 Site is small and mangroves are fragmented as well as far away from other mangrove forests, will be vulnerable to defending environmental changes and disasters. Reestablish mangrove network by restoring destroyed or disappeared mangroves around Hainan
Site is naturally vulnerable to change 1 1
Site enjoys moderate resilience design 2 2
Site enjoys natural high resilience 3
Sub-total of habitat health risks Sum score

15

% of total maximum 45.5%

Index (HI) = 0.45

22 Target = 0.67
  Component 2. Species Health Assessment
Health of target species All target species show declines 0 Monitoring indicates general declines and a few of species are locally extinct, e.g., otter. Good protection will reverse this trend. For instance, to strengthen management to facilitate regeneration and to create more suitable habitats, if appropriate, and to improve water quality
Most target species show declines 1 1 1.5
Some target species show declines 2
All target species stable or increasing 3
Health of vertebrate indicator species All indicator species show declines 0 Monitoring indicates majority species declines Same as above
Most indicator species show declines 1 1 1.5
Some indicator species show declines 2
All indicator species stable or increasing 3
Health of invertebrate/plant indicator species All indicator species show declines 0 Monitoring indicates general declines and some species, Barringtonis racemosa, is hard to find in the reserve. Same as above
Most indicator species show declines 1
Some indicator species show declines 2 2 2.5
All indicator species stable or increasing 3
Species diversity retained Richness of faunal/floral communities irreversibly depleted 0 Human-induced disturbance, overexploitation and habitat change contribute to the declines of some species, e.g., richness of bird species decreased from 78 in 1998 to 65 in 2010, and richness of mangrove species declined from 35 in 1998 to 33 in 2010. Same as above
Significant gaps appearing in reporting of local species 1 1 1.5
Minor reductions in species richness noticed 2
Site retains full original species diversity with high proportion of locally potential species 3
Highest trophic carnivores still present No high trophic carnivores remain at site 0 Only few carnivorous mammals exist, e.g., large raptors (rare), scavenger (kites) (common), junior sharks (species need to beidentified) To attract return of large raptors by reinforcing management as well as creating suitable habitats
Few carnivores remain at site 1 1 1.5
Some high trophic carnivores lost from local fauna 2
All high trophic carnivores or original fauna still present 3
AIS resilience AIS out of control and permanently replacing some local species 0 Some AIS are recorded and have not seriously jeopardized local species To reduce expansion of exotic mangrove species deliberately introduced and conduct monitoring on existing AIS
AIS degrading ecosystem functions or displacing local species 1 2
Some AIS noticed at site but not seriously damaging ecosystem or local species 2 2
No AIS established in site 3
Breeding/wintering success of target species

 

High mortality on wintering/breeding areas of site 0 The survival of some species worries the reserve due to serious human disturbance and food shortage Good protection will provide a safer and resourceful habitat for target species. The reserve will erect nets surrounding main breeding sites to prevent local villagers from these habitats.
Survival of some species a concern 1 1 1.5
Moderate survival 2
Key species all surviving well at site 3
Key new species using site

 

Total species no. dropping over time 0 Species richness stable. Few new species added, e.g., Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus, greylag goose (Anser anser). Good protection is to provide suitable environment for new species. Missing mangroves can be replaced from Qinlanggang
No new species recorded but species richness stable 1 1
Some new species (other than AIS) noted 2 2
No. of new colonizing species exceed local extinctions 3
Economic harvest species (legal and illegal) Uncontrolled overharvesting eliminating some species 0 Species with economic values all shows reduced abundance due to overharvesting To promote sustainable harvest by conducting co-management to develop alternative livelihood (e.g., ecotourism), prohibiting using net with fine mesh size
Harvesting results in serious declines in several species 1 1
Harvesting results in minor declines of some species 2 2
No harvesting, or harvesting appears entirely sustainable 3
Mortality/disaster of key species (fires, droughts, floods, diseases)

 

Disasters have caused irreversible or long term declines to important species 0 Some disasters seriously damaged some species, e.g., large-scale death of mangrove along tidal creeks due to outbreak of disease and insects. In addition, cold wave in 2008 caused patchy death of few mangrove species To improve capacity for responding to disasters, reinforce conservation of rare and endangered species to avoid extinction of these species and to establish a in-situ garden to reserve rare and endangered species at Daoxue Protection Station
Disasters have caused serious damage to important species 1 1 1.5
Disasters cause minor damage to some species 2
No diseases, disasters in recent years or species recovery fast and complete 3
Sub-total of species health risks Sum score

12

% of total maximum   40%

Index (SI) = 0.40

17.5 Target = 0.58
  Component 3. Environmental Context Health Assessment
Site boundaries and zones Adequate boundaries not clearly marked or respected 0 Boundaries delineated clearly on map and part of boundaries marked in field and some boundaries unmarked. Unluckily, villagers usually ignore the existence of boundary markers in field Lay more boundaries markers with notice boards and publicize local villagers by conduction special campaigns
Boundaries inadequate or not respected 1
Some boundaries marked, partially respected 2 2 2.5
Effective boundaries, zones in place and marked 3
Legal framework No legal protection for site 0 Suffer from general weakness of applicable regulations and bylaws, e.g., Regulations on Nature Reserve in China and Hainan Mangrove Protection Regulations, in particular prevent various resources extraction exploited by local governmental agencies and local communities from the site To strengthen regulations by introduction of specific site level regulations for protection of site and strengthen law enforcement
Weak legal protection or protection for only part of site 1 1
Legal status assured but some weaknesses remaining 2 2
Strong legal security and law enforcement procedures in place 3
Tourism impacts Tourism uncontrolled and causing serious damage and disturbance to site 0 Tourism confines to the experimental zone of the site but tourism levels make some negative impacts in terms of littering, boat spilling, and noise disturbance To develop a good tourism plan and confine tourism to the peripheral and/or experimental zone of the site; to reinforce supervision and management of tourist numbers
Some controls in place but tourism exceeds safe carrying capacity 1
Tourism controlled but causing some negative impacts 2 2 2.5
Tourism absent or well controlled and within safe limits 3
Human resource use pressures Pressure on natural resources of site out of control 0 Pressure from local communities’ activities are very high in the site To mitigate pressure by demonstrating and promoting alternative livelihoods
High levels of collection or use of renewable resources 1 1
Low levels of pressure for resources or land-use (e.g. grazing) 2 2
No human pressure on resources, or pressures now contained by alternative livelihood program 3
Additional threats or stresses from external developments (existing or planned)

 

Water diversion plans, dams, drainage would completely change nature of the site 0 Health affected by coastal developments, reclamation, dam construction, aquaculture (including but not limited to fishing farms), and human settlements. Bridge planned across bay mouth To guide local communities to develop environmentally friendly aquaculture and to set specific zones to buffer external threats. Make wetland park
External developments negatively affect the ecosystem of site 1 1
Low risk or low impacts can be absorbed by ecosystem 2 2
No threats from external developments 3
Local community relations Local community alienated and oppose establishment of protected area on site 0 There is a rather high level of conflict between local communities wishes to utilize site and management wish to protect it To establish a harmony relationship with local communities through co-management and demonstration of alternative livelihoods
Local community accept existence of protected area but neutral and mostly not involved 1 1
Local community enjoy some benefits through employment or alternative livelihoods 2 2
Local communities strongly supportive; respect protected area and collaborate in protection, reporting work 3
Sub-total of environmental context health risks Sum score 8 % of total maximum   44%

Index (CI) = 0.44

13 Target index = 0.72
Overall EHI score (HI+SI+CI)/3 = 0.43 Date baseline July 2012 Target identified for project (0.67 + 0.58 + 0.72)/3 = 0.66

 


Further reading:

Ramsar Handbooks 13 (Inventory, Assessment, Monitoring); 19 (Addressing change in ecological character)

IUCN – An Integrated Wetland Assessment Toolkit

CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook (2010 indicators)

A Manual for an Inventory of Asian Wetlands (Wetlands International Global Series 10)

Ramsar technical report 1 (rapid assessment of BioD; 3 (valuation of services)

 

Appendices:

Appendix 1. Example report form for use in patrolling and monitoring

Station: Date: year: month:         day:
Name of patrollers: Name of reporter:
Method of survey: 1, foot, 2, car   3, boat 4, other Itinerary/route:
Locations: Weather:
Start time; End time; Duration:
Sectors: Habitat description Remarks
Altitude/ Lat. Long.
Name No. Includes No. Includes No. Includes Sex ratio
Adult Young Adult Young Adult Young
Total
Plants
Human activity

 

Appendix 2. Some Recommended Survey methods for monitoring different taxa

 

Point sampling for birds:

Use same fixed point on all surveys. Undertake counts only in 0800-1030 or 15001700 times of day and for each station keep repeated surveys within one hour of each other. i.e. one station may logistically always be an 0800-0900 visit whilst another further away may be always a 0930-1030 visit. Use a tripod mounted spotting scope. Undertake 180 or 360o visual sweep counting and recording all birds of target species within 1km radius. Note visibility if less than this distance is sampled.

Transect sampling for birds.

Use same defined transects on each survey. Again try to keep to similar time of day within main bird active period. Teams should be of two observers once looking left of survey line and one to right. Progress slowly and smoothly. Do not depart from transect line. Keep quiet. Record all birds of target species observed. Record angle from transect line and distance and number of birds when first seen. This can be calculated into right angle distances for analysis of results later. Record very accurately the total distance surveyed. Attach notes to report form on weather conditions and visibility. Visibility may change through the year with degree of leaf on trees, height of herb vegetation, fog, water level etc.

Note that birds are not randomly distributed, they aggregate in flocks or disperse rather evenly on territories. They defy most statistical assumptions. Also in line transects they do not match expected distributions from transect line. There is generally a lack of records in band strips close to transect line because the birds have fled to a safer distance away from you, or where someone already walked before you or where they know people regularly walk (e.g. dyke). This means some correction of data is required and in fact every species covered needs to be calculated separately as they have different behaviour and visibility. It is generally ok to lump all ducks or all geese etc.

Roost counts:

Position well in advance of dusk (1700) on good vantage point to see all angles of sky approach to roost site. Record all flocks of arrival target birds (egrets) record time and number of each arrival. Add notes on weather conditions and visibility. Cease recording when light too dim for identification.

Approaches to monitor other species/factors:

  • Terrestrial mammals -field evidence (footprints, dung, feeding sign) or incidence in local markets.
  • Common birds – Regular counts from representative sampling points or transects
  • Rare birds – Total counts at peak season in their known favourite localities
  • Insects – sweep samples or specialized traps e.g. moth trap (attracts flies, mayflies and other insects)
  • Fish – Fish catch, market availability and prices
  • Aquatic mammals – sighting frequencies from boats patrolling known waters. Accumulated incidental observations.
  • Invasive vegetation such as Salvinia and Eicchornea crassipes – monthly map of surface cover in selected sample plots combined with water measures of eutrophication (oxygen, nitrogen).
  • Invasive crayfish – Procambarus clarkia – weekly monitoring of supply and price in market
  • Habitat Extent – Annual mapping from remote sensed images at lowest water level period.
  • Habitat quality – annual biomass estimate for trees, monthly biomass estimate and height measurement for herbs in small permanent sample plots. Camera technique is available to measure canopy cover of trees in full leaf.
  • Water quality – take samples monthly at selected points and test for oxygen content, nitrogen, phosphorous and coliform bacteria. Take samples in all cases of reported fish die off. Select points in ponds, shallow water, rivers and mid lake. Establish closer links to monitoring by provincial EPA.

 

Appendix 3. Example of selection of indicator species for a Changjiang Lake (Dongting) with rationale

 

Species Indicates Reasons for decline Incidence of sampling
Common Kingfisher Water clarity, small fish density, low human disturbance in shallow water Water turbidity, lack of fish, high disturbance, some seasonal changes expected Monthly counts along sample waterways
Pied Kingfisher Small fish density in deeper water Poor water quality and low fish density Monthly counts along sample transects by boat
Cormorant Large fish density and low human disturbance Low fish stocks and human disturbance, lack of roost trees Monthly counts at known roost sites
Grey heron Large fish density at edges of waterways Reduction of prey and high human disturbance Monthly counts at sample points and transects
Night Heron Ecological health of agricultural fields and wetlands Lack of prey in fields due to overuse of insecticides Monthly estimate at known roost site/sites
Egrets Ecological health of agricultural fields and wetlands Lack of prey in fields due to overuse of insecticides and pollution Monthly counts at sample roosts yearround
Black drongo Ecological health of agricultural lands, seasonality Lack of prey in fields due to overuse of insecticides Weekly counts along sample routes during winter
Long-tailed Shrike Ecological health of agricultural lands yearround Lack of prey in fields due to overuse of insecticides Monthly Counts along sample coutes yearround
Coot Vegetation quality in lake Pollution of lake water Monthly counts yearround
Pintail duck General water fowl suitablility Human disturbance and reduced lake condition Monthly counts through winter
Dragonflies Yearround water quality and ecological health Overuse of insecticides or pollution Weekly counts on sample ponds and banks
Moths Diversity and health of terrestrial flora Low plant diversity and levels of insecticides Moth traps, weekly

 

 

Appendix 4. Selecting a suitable statistical test (adapted from www.graphpad.com)

Type of Data
Reason for testing Measurement (from Normal Population) Rank, Score, or Measurement (from Non-Normal Population) Binomial (Two Possible Outcomes) Survival Time
Describe one group Mean, SD Median, interquartile range Proportion Kaplan Meier survival curve
Compare one group to a hypothetical value One-sample t test Wilcoxon test Chi-square or Binomial test **
Compare two unpaired groups Unpaired t test Mann-Whitney test, Kolomogorov-Smirnov test Fisher’s test (chi-square for large samples) Log-rank test or Mantel-Haenszel*

 

Compare two paired groups Paired t test Wilcoxon test McNemar’s test Conditional proportional hazards regression*
Compare three or more unmatched groups One-way ANOVA Kruskal-Wallis test Chi-square test Cox proportional hazard regression**
Compare three or more matched groups Repeated-measures ANOVA Friedman test Cochrane Q** Conditional proportional hazards regression**
Quantify association between two variables Pearson correlation Spearman correlation Contingency coefficients**
Predict value from another measured variable Simple linear regression or Nonlinear regression Nonparametric regression** Simple logistic regression* Cox proportional hazard regression*
Predict value from several measured or binomial variables Multiple linear regression* or Multiple nonlinear regression** Multiple logistic regression* Cox proportional hazard regression*