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.