Southern region inventory, monitoring, and assessment census: streamlining science-based decision making

Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment (IMA) on Forest Service land is crucial for science-based decision making. But budget and staff reductions, as well as the increasing complexity of management challenges, translate to a critical need for coordinated efficiency in data collection, storage, and application. Forest Service scientists conducted an IMA census to develop a baseline of data collection activities and identify opportunities for improvement. The Southern Region is currently applying these results through interdisciplinary and program-specific efforts.

Krisha Faw monitoring pitcher plantsThe Forest Service invests significant time and funding in Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment (IMA) activities in the Southern Region, but the data collected are not always accessible, up to standard, coordinated efficiently, or relevant to management decisions. A census was conducted across the Region to determine which monitoring data are extraneous, which are necessary, and which need bolstering to meet scientific standards. The census received 124 responses across 10 program areas, a 98% response rate. Census results identify the value of regional monitoring efforts and inform improvements in efficiency and efficacy of the data being used to inform decision-making. Examples of outcomes include reconvening the Regional Invasive Species Issues Team to collectively address issues identified in the IMA Census, and development of a centralized data storage location for Fire Management Officers in the Region. The research team continues to work with the Region to pursue applications that can improve coordination between program areas and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of monitoring activities in support of efficient and science-based decision making.


Pictured: Krisha Faw collects monitoring data on pitcher plants as a USDA Forest Service intern. Photo by Duke Rankin, USDA Forest Service.

Research Partners: Peter Gaulke and Emrys Treasure, USDA Forest Service Region 8; Stephanie Laseter, USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station/Region 8. 

External Partners/Collaborators: Gwynne Corrigan and Ann Van Zee; Conservation Biology Institute.

Contact: Sarah Wiener, Southeast Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) fellow, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center,

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