Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 186, Issue 6, pp 3605–3617 | Cite as

A framework for adaptive monitoring of the cumulative effects of human footprint on biodiversity

  • A. Cole BurtonEmail author
  • David Huggard
  • Erin Bayne
  • Jim Schieck
  • Péter Sólymos
  • Tyler Muhly
  • Dan Farr
  • Stan Boutin


Effective ecological monitoring is imperative in a human-dominated world, as our ability to manage functioning ecosystems will depend on understanding biodiversity responses to anthropogenic impacts. Yet, most monitoring efforts have either been narrowly focused on particular sites, species and stressors — thus inadequately considering the cumulative effects of multiple, interacting impacts at scales of management relevance — or too unfocused to provide specific guidance. We propose a cumulative effects monitoring framework that integrates multi-scaled surveillance of trends in biodiversity and land cover with targeted evaluation of hypothesized drivers of change. The framework is grounded in a flexible conceptual model and uses monitoring to generate and test empirical models that relate the status of diverse taxonomic groups to the nature and extent of human “footprint” and other landscape attributes. An adaptive cycle of standardized sampling, model development, and model evaluation provides a means to learn about the system and guide management. Additional benefits of the framework include standardized data on status and trend for a wide variety of biodiversity elements, spatially explicit models for regional planning and scenario evaluation, and identification of knowledge gaps for complementary research. We describe efforts to implement the framework in Alberta, Canada, through the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, and identify key challenges to be addressed.


Cumulative effects Ecological monitoring Human footprint Biodiversity conservation Adaptive monitoring Impact assessment 



We thank D. Stralberg, R. Serrouya, J. Nichols, three anonymous reviewers and members of the Boutin-Bayne laboratory at the University of Alberta for comments on previous drafts of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cole Burton
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • David Huggard
    • 1
    • 4
  • Erin Bayne
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jim Schieck
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  • Péter Sólymos
    • 1
  • Tyler Muhly
    • 1
    • 6
    • 7
  • Dan Farr
    • 1
  • Stan Boutin
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring InstituteEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Alberta Innovates - Technology FuturesVictoriaCanada,
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  4. 4.Apophenia ConsultingVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  6. 6.Alberta Innovates - Technology FuturesVegrevilleCanada
  7. 7.StantecVictoriaCanada

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