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What is System-Wide Monitoring?

The National Marine Sanctuary Program manages marine areas in both nearshore and open ocean waters that range in size from less than one to almost 140,000 square miles. Each area has its own concerns and requirements for environmental monitoring. Nevertheless, ecosystem structure and function in all these areas have similarities and are influenced by common factors that interact in comparable ways. Furthermore, the human influences that affect the structure and function of these sites are similar in a number of ways. For these reasons, in 2001 the program began to implement System-Wide Monitoring (SWiM). The monitoring framework (National Marine Sanctuary Program, 2004 pdf, 1.7MB) facilitates the development of effective, ecosystem-based monitoring programs that address management information needs using a design process that can be applied in a consistent way at multiple spatial scales and to multiple resource types. It identifies four primary components common among marine ecosystems - water, habitats, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources.

Assuming that a common marine ecosystem framework can be applied to all places, it follows that there may be a number of questions that can be posed at all sites and used as evaluation criteria to assess resource condition and trends. The questions, which are shown on page iii and explained in Appendix A of the report are derived from both a generalized ecosystem framework and from the National Marine Sanctuary Program mission. They are widely applicable across the system of areas managed by the sanctuary program and are posed to all sanctuaries in order to provide a tool by which the program can measure its progress toward maintaining or improving natural and archaeological resource quality throughout the system.

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