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Council monitoring and assessment program (CMAP): A framework for using the monitoring program inventory to conduct gap assessments for the Gulf of Mexico Region

October 31, 2020

Executive Summary Under the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council or Council) is required to report on the progress of funded projects and programs. Systematic monitoring of restoration at the project-specific and programmatic-levels (watershed and Gulf of Mexico) enables consistent reporting and gives the public confidence that the restoration investments selected by the RESTORE Council will be evaluated and adaptively managed accordingly. Monitoring information that has been collected at different spatial and temporal scales can be used as the foundation to illustrate progress towards comprehensive ecosystem restoration goals and objectives that promote holistic Gulf of Mexico recovery (see ‘RESTORE Council Background’ at the beginning of this report for additional Council information).

Currently, federal, state and local agencies, universities, private industry, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are conducting monitoring activities at various scales around the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, each RESTORE Council-funded project will, at a minimum, perform project-specific monitoring. This collection of monitoring activities was inventoried and coordinated into a network of existing programs by the Council-funded RESTORE Council Monitoring and Assessment Program (CMAP), which will suggest opportunities for efficiencies and collaborative cross-program review of performance with other Gulf ecosystem recovery efforts. CMAP was designed and funded to inventory and integrate existing monitoring efforts, improve discovery and accessibility of existing monitoring data, and ensure the collected information supports management decisions.

The fundamental approach to building the CMAP Gulf of Mexico water quality monitoring, habitat monitoring, and mapping network was to: 1. Adopt, or construct as needed, a comprehensive inventory of existing habitat and water quality observation, monitoring, and mapping programs in the Gulf of Mexico (hereafter referred to as the “Inventory”; NOAA and USGS, 2019a); 2. Evaluate the suitability/applicability of each program and its existing and prospective data for use in restoration activities; 3. Develop a process to use the Inventory to conduct gap assessments; 4. Develop a catalog of baseline assessments conducted in the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA and USGS, 2019b); and 5. Develop a searchable monitoring information portal/database to enable access to collected information and products.