State of the Preserve

How Healthy is the Regional Preserve System?

The health of the regional preserve system is assessed by combining information on the environmental conditions and status of species in natural ecosystems with information on impacts from anthropogenic (human caused) threats. The ecological integrity of the ecosystem is used to assess ecosystem health and is defined as the ecosystem's ability to “to support and maintain a community of organisms that has species composition, diversity, and functional organization comparable to those of natural habitats within a region.” (taken from Karr & Dudley 1981 and Parrish et al. 2003). An understanding of the health of the regional preserve system is necessary for identifying and prioritizing management strategies to effectively and efficiently manage natural resources within the preserve system. To measure this system, a set of indicators were chosen to represent the major components of the system and to assess achievement of conservation and management objectives. Within each indicator, one or more measurable metrics were chosen to represent the indicator's ability to maintain a functional community and to meet conservation and management objectives.

Overall, the regional preserve system was determined to be a condition of Concern. Out of 19 indicators, 12 were either Concern or Significant Concern. Regional threats have increased in the last several decades and often interact to negatively impact the health of the regional preserve system.

What are the indicators?

The indicators fell into 3 categories: Species, Vegetation Communities, and Landscape Processes/Threats. Within Species, indicators represented 3 different types of species: Landscape Species, Rare and Specialist Species, and Vegetation Community Species. Landscape Species represent species that inhabit a variety of vegetation communities and are wide-ranging across the county. These species help to assess connectivity within the regional preserve system. Vegetation Community Species are species that are associated with a specific vegetation community and are representative of that habitat's health. Rare and Specialist species are species with specialized habitat requirements that are more restrictive than an association with a particular vegetation community and are limited to a specific environmental condition. Most of the selected Species Indicators in this first assessment are of high conservation priority, often have small and declining populations, and are facing multiple increasing threats. This allows an assessment of how the regional preserve system is conserving and managing the resources it was designed to protect and helps to identify future management and monitoring needs. For a full list of indicators, view the Indicator Chart or Dashboard. For an example of why each indicator was chosen, download the main report PDF.

How were the metrics chosen?

Metrics were chosen by a diverse group of experts through multiple workshops and meetings, rounds of editing, and input from individual topic experts. Metrics were chosen to be measurable, available across the study area with reliable data, and represent an important aspect of the indicator. Metrics are a measurable value that can be assessed over time. Together, all the metrics for an indicator represent important aspects of an individual indicator's status. In some cases, the data for a metric was not available for this report but will be included in future editions.

How does this document relate to future and existing legal conservation plans?

The information in this report does not supersede existing or future conservation plans. The information in this report is used to guide management and monitoring priorities for SANDAG Transnet funding and does not alter existing or future permittee agreements with the wildlife agencies.

When will this information be updated?

Information will be updated at least every 5 years. Data from this report informs updates to SDMMP's Management and Monitoring Strategic Plan which is also updated on a 5-year cycle. Updates to the metrics will be posted on the website through the Metrics Dashboard. Additional metrics or indicators may be added at that time if information is available.

How should this information be used?

Information in this report should be used as a guide to prioritize future management and monitoring actions. Condition values will be one way to prioritize objectives and actions in the MSP Roadmap as well as SANDAG's two-year planning cycle. Data gaps may also be used to identify priorities for new monitoring projects. Data that is already being collected will continue in a way that aids in the updating of this report.

How is this information structured?

There are currently 19 indicators and a total of 48 metrics. Each metric is given a Condition, Trend, and Confidence. Based on the values assigned to each metric, an overall Condition, Trend, and Confidence is assigned to the Indicator. Definitions for each option under the Condition, Trend, and Confidence are listed below. Metrics area measurable and based on the value of the metric, a condition is assigned based on how it compares to the desired condition. For instance, a metric that meets goals and falls within an acceptable range would be given a Condition of Good. As the metric value moves away from the desired conditions, the condition drops to either Caution, Concern, or Significant Concern.

When previous years of data are available, a trend can be calculated. The trend indicates whether the condition is moving towards the desired conditions (improving) or away from the desired conditions (declining). This does not necessarily indicate a metric value is getting bigger or smaller. In some cases, a larger number (i.e. number of fires) represents a declining condition.

The confidence is based on the data used to calculate the metric. The highest confidence is given to data that is recent, spatially comprehensive, and reliable.

Term Definitions

Indicator Category: A group of similar indicators that act to organize interconnected or like concepts. Categories include Species Indicators, Vegetation Community Indicators, and Ecosystem Processes and Landscape-scale Threat Indicators.

Indicator: A thing, trend, or fact that describes the state or level of something. Ecological indicators communicate information about the status or health of a complex ecosystem in a manner understood by the public or policy makers (Angermeier and Karr 2019). In this report, Species, Vegetation Community, and Ecosystem Processes and Landscape-scale Threat Indicators represent the status or health of the regional preserve system. Indicators were chosen to represent ecological functions and habitat characteristics considered important for priority species, to serve as a gauge for a larger process or group of species, and to represent how well the regional preserve system supports rare and specialist species targeted for conservation. Examples include coastal sage scrub (CSS), southwestern pond turtle, San Diego thornmint, and connectivity.

Metric: A biologically based value that is measured or assessed and serves to identify the status or health of one aspect of the associated indicator.

Condition: The condition or health status category for an individual metric or the overall metrics value for an indicator. The current condition is based upon the most recent, reliable data available and differs by metric. Metric condition values are determined using thresholds developed for each metric. Threshold values are based on an evaluation of available data, published research results and scientific recommendations, best management practices, conservation plan and MSP Roadmap objectives, and expert opinion. The overall condition for an indicator is determined by looking at the condition values across metrics and may include weighting metric values considered most important and then combining the results into an overall condition value.

Condition values are categorized as either Good, Caution, Concern, or Significant Concern. These categories and the thresholds associated with each category were designed for each metric to indicate an ecologically relevant status of the metric.

Trend information is provided, where available, based on changes in the metric or indicator condition values over time. Trend refers to whether the condition of the metric or the overall condition of the indicator is stable or getting better or worse compared to the desired condition. Sometimes the condition trend might not align with the trend in metric values. For example, the number of fires in an area may increase, but the metric is declining because an increase in fire frequency is not the desired condition. In other cases, the trend may be independent of the current condition if, for example, values for the metric are declining, but the condition is still in the Good category.

Improving: Condition of a metric or overall condition for an indicator is getting closer to the desired condition compared with baseline data.

No Change: Condition of the metric or overall condition for an indicator is unchanging. There may be fluctuations in metric values over time, but there is no clear Improving or Declining trajectory.

Declining: Condition of a metric or overall condition of an indicator is getting farther from the desired condition compared with baseline data.

Unknown: Not enough information is available to state a trend (at least three repeated measurements over time are typically needed to determine the trend).

Confidence is an indication of the quality of data available for assessing the condition and trend. Confidence is categorized as:

  • High: Monitoring data used to measure a metric are recent, reliable, and comprehensive.
  • Moderate: Monitoring data used to measure a metric lack some aspect of being recent, reliable, or comprehensive.
  • Low: Data are not sufficiently recent, reliable, or comprehensive, although some data are available based on an expert or scientific opinion evaluation.


View data and detailed information in the Metrics Dashboard

View Dashboard
Indicator Chart

View a list of all indicators with the status, trend, and confidence

View All Indicators
Metrics Report

Download the full report with detailed appendices for each indicator

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