Ecological Integrity Monitoring of Wildlife Areas in Washington State: Pilot Study Report for the 2011-2013 Biennium
 
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Ecological Integrity Monitoring of Wildlife Areas in Washington State: Pilot Study Report for the 2011-2013 Biennium

Category: Habitat - Research

Date Published: November 2013

Number of Pages: 38

Author(s): Michael A. Schroeder, Janet Gorrell, Matt Vander Haegen, Janet Anthony, Andrew Duff, Jeff Foisy, Chuck Gibilisco, and Brian Cosentino

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Ecological integrity can be defined as the ability of an ecosystem to support and maintain a community of organisms comparable to those of natural and/or undisturbed habitats. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) initiated a project to monitor ecological integrity on wildlife areas in Washington State. The Ecological Integrity Monitoring project (EIM) has been designed to be implemented on three levels: Level 1 (remote, using existing GIS data layers), Level 2 (rapid, field-based), and Level 3 (intensive, field-based). Metrics used in each of these 3 levels are designed to be useful at multiple spatial scales, relevant across ecosystems, grounded in natural history, and applicable to management.

During the 2011-13 biennium we completed a Level 1 assessment of a pilot project area (Kittitas County) and used these data to generate a simple comparison table of ecological integrity for each wildlife area unit in the project area. We also initiated field-base (Level 2) EIM work, focusing on 3 pilot wildlife areas: Swanson Lakes, Sinlahekin, and Scatter Creek. This effort involved refining ecosystem maps and developing Level 2 protocols for a set of common ecosystems on each wildlife area. We also developed protocols for collection of photo point data (repeat photography from standard locations and aspects) that will be an important component of ecosystem monitoring. We established 652 Level 2 sampling points and 148 permanent photo points on the 3 pilot wildlife areas. We also developed a spatial database (ArcGIS Geodatabase), web services, and web maps to capture EIM project data and photos and to support mission planning and site identification for EIM volunteers and teachers.

Due to the lack of capacity within WDFW to collect monitoring data, WDFW engaged volunteers and teachers under a citizen science model in the collection of Level 2 EIM data by conducting photo-point monitoring and collecting measurements at randomized vegetation plots. Substantial effort was employed to recruit, train, and retain citizen volunteers to collect data in the field and upload it to the project website. We trained 59 volunteers during 5 separate training sessions in eastern and in western Washington. The overall effort for all aspects of the EIM project included the equivalent of approximately 2 WDFW Biennium-FTEs.

Plans for the 2013-15 biennium include: a state-wide Level 1 assessment, including depiction of current ecological integrity and a tool that will allow the Lands Division to evaluate relative contributions of each stressor to integrity ranks; initiation or continuation of EIM monitoring on 8 wildlife areas; incorporation of ecological integrity goals and objectives in 4-6 wildlife area management plans; additional training of volunteers and volunteer mentors; and development of a structured communication plan to keep volunteers and educators engaged and active along with site-specific outreach plans for wildlife areas where EIM has been implemented.

Summary of primary activities and staff hours spent during the 2011-2013 Biennium.

Activity Key Divisions Hours
Level 1 Pilot StudyScience200
Project managementScience, Lands, Outreach997
Map development Science 216
EIM Design and implementation Science 1306
Data management and evaluation Science 1092
Citizen Science Network Outreach, Science 4365

Suggested Citation:
Schroeder, M. A., J. Gorrell, M. Vander Haegen, J.Anthony, A. Duff, J. Foisy, C. Gibilisco, and B. Cosen- tino. 2013. Ecological Integrity Monitoring of Wildlife Areas in Washington State: Pilot Study for the 2011-2013 Biennium. Lands Division, Wildlife Program. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 33 pp.