Designing a Monitoring and Impact Assessment Framework for the Development and Maintenance of Effective Integrated Landscape Interventions

by Armando Sanchez (ELP 2012)

Community representatives, decision makers and policy officials are currently in need of a reliable and comprehensive monitoring and impact assessment framework that allows them not only to monitor the outcomes of integrated landscape interventions, but also to determine the ecosystem, biodiversity and economic impacts of such projects. The objective of this article is to briefly discuss some difficulties in the design and implementation of an innovative framework that can play the role of an auxiliary tool for landscape management interventions. One of the first things to consider is that the complexity of a monitoring and impact assessment framework will depend on the nature of the intervention. For example, if the goal of the project is to reforest and capture carbon, the measurement system should only take into account the temporal and spatial scales and can consist of a simple follow up of time series trends.  However, if the goal of the intervention follows an integrated approach, the type of system needed should include measurements of changes in biodiversity conservation, ecosystem maintenance, poverty reduction and their interactions. In fact, all of the technical components of the typical monitoring system will become more complex (i.e. objectives, variables, sampling strategy, data collection, data handling and organization). Even more, in the context of an integrated approach, the collected data might be associated to the spatial, temporal and individual scales. Having panel data with three dimensions makes the task more difficult to implement a follow up of the outputs and to infer causal relationships between management actions and outputs. So, some simplifying assumptions would have to be imposed to grasp the statistical patterns and causal effects of interest. Another important aspect in developing a monitoring and impact assessment system in the context of an integrated approach implies the development of a comprehensive framework for describing and analyzing multi-objective and multi-stakeholder projects. To do so, one needs to rely on a team of experts from different knowledge areas capable of understanding the project outcomes from different perspectives and collaboration to disentangle the interactions between the social, biodiversity and ecosystems aspects. This team should also have as a goal not only to monitor, but also to determine the impacts attributable to the project, which might be a useful basis to improve the interventions. For example, the statistical tools typically used to isolate the economic impacts, counterfactuals, might be used in conjunction with monitoring tools, such as remote sensing, that are already in use to follow up reforestation patterns. Therefore, the challenge is to adapt the existing methodologies in a consistent framework that might be used to assess the benefits of an integrated project. In general, a successful approach for the design and implementation of systems to monitor and assess the impacts of effective integrated approaches requires an alliance of experts with different areas of expertise and disciplines. All project stakeholders must be involved in the innovative design and the objective given the type of interventions needed nowadays to adapt to the challenges imposed by climate change.