Improving management of a mid-Atlantic coastal barrier island through assessment of habitat condition
To achieve desired environmental outcomes, environmental condition and trends need to be rigorously measured and communicated to resource managers, scientists, and a broader general audience. However, there is often a disconnect between responsive ecosystem monitoring and decision making for strategic long-term management. This project demonstrates how historical monitoring data can be synthesized and used for future planning and decision making, thereby closing the management feedback cycle. This study linked disparate datasets, collected for a variety of purposes and across multiple temporal and spatial scales, in order to assess and quantify current habitat conditions. The results inform integrated resource management decision-making at Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland and Virginia, USA) by using ecological reference conditions to identify monitoring needs, areas of high vulnerability, and areas with potential for improved management. The approach also provides a framework that can be applied in the future to assess the effectiveness of these management decisions on the condition of island habitats, and is a replicable demonstration of incorporating diverse monitoring datasets into an adaptive management cycle.
Keywords: Barrier islands, coastal zone management, ecosystem management, integrated assessment, natural resources, nature conservation