Monitoring Change

Robust monitoring is essential to demonstrate the impact of projects and provide evidence of what does and doesn’t work to practitioners, programme managers, policy makers and the wider public.

In order to understand and measure the benefits of restoring natural processes and landscapes, we need to record the changes that occur, and attribute them to the actions taken. To guide this, the ELP has developed a bespoke rigorous monitoring framework, which is being used by all ELP Implementation Projects. Through the monitoring framework, each project is collecting data on indicators in three themes, describing the ecological, ecosystem service, and societal changes caused by landscape restoration. Each project selects at least nine indicators to monitor across the three indicator themes.

The chosen indicators need to be informative about progress towards each project’s outcomes within the five-year period covered by the ELP grants. In most cases it will take much longer than this for a landscape to reach its target state, so we encourage projects to continue to monitor a smaller set of indicators in the longer term. To see the range of indicators being used across current ELP projects, please see our full list of project indicators.

1. Ecological Indicators

Ecological indicators, or indicators of natural capital, measure the changes in biotic and abiotic factors in response to restoration interventions. There are four sub-themes within the suite of ecological indicators:

(i) Species, for example the change in abundance of a plant or animal population

(ii) Habitats, such as an increase in the area of native forest planted

(iii) Physical condition, such as a change in water levels after blocking drainage ditches in a peatland

(iv) Ecological function, for example length of connected waterbodies allowing free movement of fish.

Across the ELP implementation projects, the most frequently monitored species indicators are birds, plants and large mammals (both carnivores and herbivores). The most commonly selected habitat indicators include the area of habitat restored and indices of vegetation structure and habitat diversity. Physical ecological indicators being monitored across the projects mostly relate to hydrology, either by measuring changes in water levels and discharge rates or length of connected water bodies. Several projects are assessing ecological function via movement of species (ecological connectivity) or diversity of invertebrates.

2. Ecosystem Service Indicators

Indicators within the ecosystem services theme measure changes in the services that are provided to people as a result of the restoration of landscapes. Such indicators may be particularly suitable for measuring the benefits of large-scale, long-term restoration projects, and tie in closely with the ambitions of many projects to restore natural processes.

The ecosystem service indicators are split into four sub-themes, describing the direct and indirect benefits of restoration. The direct sub-themes are:

(i) Provisioning services, such as production of food and water

(ii) Regulating services, for example regulation of floods, improvements in water quality or carbon sequestration.

The two indirect sub-themes are:

(iii) Supporting services, such as soil formation, nutrient cycling, and photosynthesis

(iv) Cultural services, which describes the non-material benefits provided by ecosystems including aesthetic pleasure, recreational opportunities, and spiritual and cultural sustenance.

The ecosystem service indicators most frequently monitored across ELP projects measure the changes in regulation of water flow and flood risk attenuation (a regulating service). Other indicators being recorded include the complexity of trophic food webs (a supporting ecosystem service), changes in fish yield (a provisioning service), the risk of fire and carbon sequestration (both regulating services) and changes in creative artistic outputs and visitor motivations that accrue as a result of restoration (cultural services).

3. Societal Indicators

Societal indicators aim to measure the social impacts of landscape restoration. Landscape-scale projects are likely to include a mosaic of different land uses and human needs, involving many different stakeholders and institutions. Therefore, many of the desired outcomes relate to changes in institutional processes and stakeholder engagement, as well as in the distribution of resources and responsibilities. Societal indicators are designed to capture these changes.

Societal indicators have been split into the following four sub-themes:

(i) Well-being, which includes change in individual measures such as body-mass index or quality of education and also community-level metrics such as availability of healthcare

(ii) Economic indicators which relate to financial changes, such as income from employment, community-level revenue-generating activities, and access to markets

(iii) Capacity indicators include community empowerment, strengthening local networks and the transfer of knowledge

(iv) Institutional indicators, which measure changes at the institutional or political level, for example the number of partnerships established through a project, or the financial sustainability of these institutions.

Changes in the number and/or income of nature-based businesses and changes in the number of jobs are economic indicators commonly being used by ELP projects. Examples of institutional indicators being measured are changes in local attitudes, support for restoration projects, and engagement of stakeholders in governance and decision making.