Ocean and Coastal Indicators


Khan, A.S. 2007. A review and assessment of indicators relevant to integrated coastal zone management. A paper prepared for the Ocean Management Research Network Annual Conference, Oct. 24th -27th 2007.  Ottawa, Canada.

Coastal zones are often regions of high biodiversity and invaluable resources that provide ecosystem goods and services for multiple stakeholders such as fishing, ecotourism, oil and gas, farming, storm protection, to name but a few. Human wellbeing in coastal communities therefore depends directly or indirectly on coastal and ocean ecosystem functions. Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) seeks to maximize the economic, social and cultural benefits that can be derived from these ecosystems without compromising their health and productivity. Generally, indicators are useful for monitoring resource use activities, as a communication tool and often contribute to performance management. However, very little indicator development has been done on the interaction and inter-linkages of natural and social human systems and the uses of ecosystem goods and services within coastal zones. 

A database of sustainability indicators was compiled, ranging from ecological, economic, social and governance issues that are applicable in ocean and coastal systems. Preliminary review and analysis suggests that most of the indicators are used as policy tools for environmental reporting and fisheries management issues. Furthermore, there seems to be a recent trend for the need to apply indicators in understanding socio-economic issues, vulnerability and resiliency analysis and for better governance of common property resources.

In order to improve our understanding between coastal system dynamics and human wellbeing whilst maintaining ecosystem integrity; the following research questions are provided to shed insight into indicator development for ICZM:

  • What types of indicators are relevant to ICZM?
  • What approaches should be taken and at what spatial and temporal scale?
  • What type of framework(s) is needed to integrate ecological, social, economic and governance indicators into ICZM?
  • What are the challenges in indicator usage in ICZM?

Key wordsICZM, sustainable development indicators, indicator frameworks, governance.