At its most basic level, monitoring functions to observe and assess the progress or quality of something over time. The nature of the characteristic or phenomenon being monitored helps to determine the duration of monitoring. This duration can vary from very short periods, for something like a colony of bacteria, to very long periods for long-lived animals and plant communities. The complexity of wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems means that there are countless combinations of species, interactions, and communities that could be observed and documented through monitoring. In addition to the range of subjects to be monitored, the purpose of monitoring helps to define and determine the monitoring approach. Lindenmayer and Likens (2010) categorize monitoring into three types: passive, mandated, and question-driven. Passive monitoring is that which is stimulated by curiosity or the love of learning. Mandated monitoring is required by statute or policy and typically tries to identify trends. Finally, questiondriven monitoring is based on a conceptual model and can lead to testing predictions.
The State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) must incorporate three levels of monitoring to meet the requirements of the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program. These levels include: species and habitats, effectiveness of conservation actions, and adaptive management. Species and habitats and effectiveness of conservation actions both could be categorized as passive, mandated, or question-driven, depending on the context in which monitoring takes place. In contrast, adaptive management depends on question-driven monitoring to provide information that can lead to changes in management. Monitoring in this context is defined as “the collection and analysis of repeated observations or measurements to evaluate changes in condition and progress toward meeting a management objective.” In this chapter, we discuss the importance of monitoring in species and habitat conservation, identify some accepted approaches, and discuss data access and dissemination considerations for each level identified. The treatment will not be exhaustive but rather designed to provide a solid understanding of what and how monitoring needs to be done and an overview of how it can be most efficiently organized and presented. Appropriate citations will direct the reader to sources of more detailed information.