Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ecological scorecards to help assess status, trends in North America's marine protected areas

New "how-to" guide provides a tool for marine protected area managers


Montreal, 16 March 2011—A new Guide to Ecological Scorecards for Marine Protected Areas in North America from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) aims to provide a standard method for managers to report on the status and trends of marine protected areas (MPAs).

North America's 2,000 MPAs—all of which have been mapped as part of the North American Environmental Atlas—represent an important effort by Canada, Mexico and the United States to safeguard the continent's fragile marine environments.
Ecological condition reports that are based on scorecards are a useful method to summarize information about the status of key ecosystem elements such as water, habitat and living resources. This method is a consensus-building approach that compiles a variety of information provided by experts and stakeholders into one report that can help identify knowledge gaps and serve as an effective communication tool.

Although intended primarily for MPA managers, this guide emphasizes the need to involve local communities in the ecological condition reporting process.

The CEC's marine ecological scorecard was developed in close collaboration with protected area agencies in the three countries and adapted from the "System-Wide Monitoring" approach (SWiM) used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for US Marine Sanctuaries.

Ten MPAs along North America's West Coast were chosen as pilot areas to test and refine the ecological scorecard approach through a series of workshops in Canada, Mexico and the United States that included governmental officials, stakeholders and academics.

Descriptions of the ten areas—ranging from the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to the Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve—can be found on a new North American Marine Protected Areas Network website. The scorecards for each area present textual and visual summaries of the environmental conditions and ecological resources within the MPAs.

An interactive Google Earth map layer and tour offers a way to explore the ten ecological scorecards.

About the MPA scorecard guide

The new book, A Guide to Ecological Scorecards for Marine Protected Areas in North America (pdf), is available online as an e-book at www.cec.org/marine and all of the 10 pilot area scorecards can be viewed at http://www2.cec.org/nampan/mpas .

Copies of the book are available on request. A set of materials, including workshop presentations and other information developed to help MPA managers and other stakeholders, is also available for download.

North American Marine Protected Areas Network website

Scorecards for the 10 pilot areas are available as part of a new CEC website, NAMPAN: The North American Marine Protected Areas Network (http://www.cec.org/nampan). The site also features information from all of CEC's trilateral work on marine conservation, including the ecological region maps and descriptions from the 2009 Marine Ecoregions of North America book, as well as conservation action plans for the Humpback whale, Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle, Pink-footed Shearwater and the Vaquita porpoise.

The North American Environmental Atlas

In addition to maps and data for 2,000 marine protected areas—an unprecedented effort to provide systematic geospatial information on all MPAs in North America—and the 10 pilot scorecard sites, the North American Environmental Atlas interactive Marine Ecosystems viewer features priority conservation areas, marine ecoregions and habitat ranges for 17 marine species of common conservation concern. The interactive viewer can be found at: http://www.cec.org/atlas/marine.

About CEC

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was established by Canada, Mexico and the United States to implement the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the environmental side accord to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The CEC supports cooperation among the NAFTA partners to address environmental issues of continental concern, including the environmental challenges and opportunities presented by continent-wide free trade. www.cec.org