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Restoration Monitoring

Restoration Monitoring
Sampling using lift nets in Sachuest Point Marsh, Newport County, RI. Photo courtesy of Tom and Louise Kane, NOAA Restoration Center.

What is the Guidance Manual For Monitoring Plans?

Science-Based Restoration Monitoring of Coastal Habitats, a two volume manual, provides technical assistance, outlines necessary steps, and provides useful tools for the development and implementation of sound scientific monitoring of coastal restoration efforts. Information found in these volumes can help practitioners develop monitoring programs that can determine if a restoration project is on track and gauge how well a restoration site is functioning.

Methods and tools are also presented that will help practitioners coordinate monitoring programs and share results with other restoration practitioners leading to increases in the consistency and success of future restoration projects. In addition to post-implementation monitoring, information in these volumes can also be used to help users evaluate the status of specific coastal habitats before restoration projects are implemented.

This manual should not be considered a restoration monitoring "cookbook." It does not provide templates of monitoring plans for specific habitats. Rather, monitoring approaches should be tailored to different habitats and different restoration project goals. The interdependence of site-specific factors causes habitat types to vary in physical and biological structure within and between regions and geographic locations (Kusler and Kentula 1990). Thus, one method may be appropriate for monitoring juvenile fishes in a Great Lakes coastal marsh but, due to differences in hydrodynamics, be inappropriate for use in a marsh on the Atlantic coast.

Habitats Covered in this Manual

The classification of habitats used in this document is loosely based on Cowardin et. al. (1979), Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States, and covers the following:

  • Coastal Marshes (Marine, Brackish and Freshwater)
  • Deepwater Swamps
  • Kelp and Other Macroalgae
  • Mangroves
  • Riverine Forests
  • Rock Bottom
  • Rocky Shore
  • Soft Bottom
  • Soft Shoreline
  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (Marine, Brackish and Freshwater)
  • Oyster Reefs
  • Water Column


  • Cowardin, L. M., V. Carter, F. C. Golet and E. T. LaRoe. 1979. Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States. FWS/OBS-79/31, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.
  • Kusler, J. A. and M. E. Kentula. 1990. Executive summary, pp. xvii-xxv. In Kusler, J. A. and M. E. Kentula (eds.), Wetland Creation and Restoration: the Status of the Science. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Contents of the Manual - Volume One

A Framework for Monitoring Plans Under the Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000 (Public Law 160-457) was released in 2003. It outlines the steps necessary to develop a monitoring plan for any coastal habitat restoration project. This includes:

  • An explanation of the stages of restoration and monitoring
  • The presentation of a process of developing a monitoring plan through twelve steps
  • An explanation for the basic elements that should be considered when writing a restoration monitoring plan, and
  • Three matrices to help practitioners choose which habitat characteristics may be most appropriate to monitor for their project.

Download a summary of the Restoration Monitoring Project, download the entire report, or download the report in sections:

Contents of the Manual - Volume Two

Tools for Monitoring Coastal Habitats expands upon the information in Volume One and provides tools that aid the development and implementation of a plan. Information provided in Volume Two is designed more for practitioners who may not have extensive experience in coastal ecology. More experienced restoration practitioners however, may find the annotated bibliographies, literature review, and other tools provided useful as well. Tools provided include:

  • Detailed treatment of the characteristics of each of the habitats and approaches to monitoring in that habitat
  • A discussion of how to monitor the human dimensions of coastal restoration projects
  • A review of how to select reference sites or conditions
  • A representative index of restoration monitoring programs
  • A list of costs associated with project monitoring, and
  • A review of Federal legislation relevant to restoration monitoring.

Some of the following habitat and human dimension chapters exist as a PDF which contains the: introduction, habitat chapter itself, associated appendices, and glossary. Download the entire report, or download the report in sections: