ECOLOGICAL MONITORING: General Definition and Training Overview

In general, ecological monitoring can be understood as the collection, analysis and interpretation of data on the natural environment, above all on changes that occur in a certain ecosystem. It attempts to observe living and non-living aspects of the biosphere, the response of the environment to human interventions and to predict the actual or likely impacts. Accordingly, it helps understanding processes in the environment and can serve as an “early warning” system. It enables project implementers and target groups, e. g. villagers, to recognize negative ecological effects of their activities at an early stage and to adapt their action. Ecological monitoring is very flexible and can be designed according to the specific needs of the context. It can focus on single factors, such as soil quality, plants or animals, or it can look at the environment as a complex system.

At the request of USAID-India and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the US Forest Service International Programs office organized a team of specialists from our agency to travel to India and conduct a training workshop on the topic of Ecological Monitoring. This particular training course on Ecological Monitoring focused on efforts by the US Forest Service over the past decade to conduct effective and efficient monitoring, and highlighted examples of regional and national monitoring systems that are working and yielding important and useful findings. The case studies presented included large-scale ecosystem status and trend monitoring, watershed condition monitoring, best practices for watershed management performance monitoring, wildland roads infrastructure monitoring, and climate change impacts and forest carbon monitoring. The course examined the elements of successful and unsuccessful monitoring programs based on long experience in the USA, and explored applicability of these principles to monitoring needs in India.

The workshop was designed to be "results oriented," starting with contemporary monitoring principles, and focusing on practical methods that produce useful, relevant findings. The trainers introduced concepts, principles, and practices, which are essential to planning, designing, conducting, and analyzing the natural environment and how human uses are affecting resource values and ecological services. The presenters shared the full spectrum of monitoring contexts, from large to small scales, and long- and short-timeframes. The course emphasized monitoring designs that are both effective and efficient in providing needed knowledge to improve natural resources management. Important relations between inventory, assessment, monitoring, and research were covered. 

Overview of the Training Workshop Schedule
(the full schedule is available below as a PDF)

Day 1- Monday
  • Welcome Remarks from US Forest Service, USAID India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, and Forest Research Institute.
    • Introduction to the training workshop by Jennifer Smith, USFS
    • Introductory remarks by Varghese Paul, USAID
    • Welcome remarks by Subhash Chandra, DIG, MoEF
    • Inaugural address by Dr P P Bhojvaid, Director, FRI
  • Brief Overview of USFS - History, Mission, and Water Resources (K. Roby)
  • Participant Introductions
  • Introduction to Principles of Effective Monitoring (M. Furniss)
  • Ecosystem Services and Monitoring (N. Smith)
  • Group Exercise #1- Natural Resource Values
Day 2- Tuesday

Day 3- Wednesday
Day 4- Thursday

Day 5-Friday

Jennifer Smith,
Apr 7, 2014, 8:03 AM