Office of the Climate Change Advisor

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Performance Scorecard
Starting this year, each national forest and grassland will be tracking progress using a new 10-point scorecard. The Forest Service's research branch along with regional and national programs will provide support for this agency-wide effort.

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The Roadmap will help to guide the Forest Service as it works to ensure that national forests and private working lands are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change.

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Performance Scorecard: 8- Monitoring

Scorecard Question

Is monitoring being conducted to track climate change impacts and the effectiveness of adaptation actions?

What are other forests doing?

Flathead National Forest


The Flathead National Forest (R1) in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service monitors snow water equivalent (SWE) every winter at several sites. This information is used to track trends in snowpack and associated hydrologic patterns that are directly affected by climate change. Recently, all SWE data on the forest was condensed to identify trends. This information is used in ecosystem assessment and project-level planning.

Coronado National Forest


The Coronado National Forest (R3) has targeted climate change monitoring on the FY2011 program of work that specifically tracks faunal changes due to climate change. This project tracks lizard assemblage dynamics at an ecotone of several major vegetation communities. Lizards are hypothesized to be extremely sensitive to climate change, so they may function as an “early warning system” of changes yet to occur in vegetation communities.

Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests


The Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests (R9) cooperate with the State of Vermont and the US Fish & Wildlife Service in several efforts to monitor long-term population trends in selected species such as Bicknell’s thrush and certain amphibians. Long-term trends data may prove valuable in understanding the effects of climate change. The Vermont Monitoring Cooperative is monitoring several indicators of climate change including at the Lye Brook Wilderness site.



Monitoring programs


Bull Trout Monitoring briefing paper
Rocky Mountain Research Station

Forest Observations and Indicators Needed to Respond to Climate Change
(Marsh; Mawdsley; Negra. 2009.)

Environmental Information: Status of Federal Data Programs that Support Ecological Indicators
Government Accountability Office. 2005.

Filing the Gaps: Priority Data Needs and Key Management Challenges for National Reporting on Ecosystem Condition
Heinz Center. 2006.

Videos & Interactive material

Options for Natural Resource Management under a Changing Climate
Video lecture with several topics including monitoring

GLORIA – Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments
Video lecture about an alpine observation network that includes mountain ranges of the western U.S.


Scorecard questions, concerns or suggestions for
additional resources?

Karen Dante-Wood 850-294-2897

All Scorecard Elements

  1. Employee Education
  2. Climate Change Coordinators
  3. Program Guidance
  4. Science-Management Partnerships
  5. Other Partnerships
  6. Assessing Vulnerability
  7. Adaptation Actions
  8. Monitoring
  9. Carbon Assessment and Stewardship
  10. Sustainable Operations

Getting to YES

To answer “yes,” your Unit should evaluate current monitoring programs to determine how they can be used to track changes in the most highly vulnerable resources and most critical stressors and provide a summary of important trends. There are two ways to approach this:

  1. If a vulnerability assessment has been completed, focus monitoring on the conditions of highly vulnerable resources and critical stressors identified in the assessment. Try to avoid a single emphasis approach (single species for example), but rather focus on systems and major system components. In addition, stressors whose effects are expected to be exacerbated by climate change should also be monitored (e.g. burn severity, insect or disease outbreaks).
  2. If a vulnerability assessment is not yet available, work with scientific and technical experts to identify potentially important, highly vulnerable resources and critical stressors based on current scientific data and publications.

You should work with your Regional Office to ensure that any new monitoring is consistent with regional and national programs.

The narrative for this element asks you to answer the following questions:

  1. What current monitoring programs can be or are being used to track climate change impacts and the effectiveness of adaptation activities on your Unit?
  2. What climate change related trends are you observing on your Unit?
  3. How are you using this information to adjust your management activities?
  4. What additional monitoring might need to be conducted?



Monitoring is both (1) the collection and analysis of resource data to measure the direction, pace, and magnitude of changes over time in the amounts, spatial distribution, or condition of resources; and (2) the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of resource data to evaluate progress toward meeting management objectives. See Appendix E for descriptions of three types of monitoring that are important to consider in the context of climate change.

Effectiveness Monitoring

Effectiveness monitoring is focused on evaluating resilience and adaptation outcomes that result from on-the-ground activities. The aim is to determine the effectiveness of management actions taken to reduce stressors, enhance resilience, or conserve species.

Geographic Scale

Monitoring may take place at the Unit level or larger scale. Discuss with your Regional climate change coordinator how data from your Unit level monitoring programs may relate to climate change issues. Many types of monitoring relevant to climate change are coordinated at regional or national scales. Work with Regional Offices and science partners to interpret data from monitoring programs and examine local, regional, and larger-scale long-term (multi-decade in most cases) trends and how these trends may differ across spatial and temporal scales. These trends should then be interpreted for the Unit level.


Full Guidance Document
PDF, 2.2 MB, 104 pp

Download Appendix E: Monitoring
PDF, 122 K, 3 pp