What IS the ocean Health Index?
The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is the first assessment framework that provides a common platform for scientifically combining and comparing all key elements from all dimensions of the ocean (ecological, social, economic, and physical) to measure how sustainably people are using ocean and coastal resources.
In the OHI framework a healthy ocean is one that sustainably delivers a range of benefits to people now and in the future.
Marine management today requires establishing comprehensive management objectives that maximize the ocean-derived benefits delivered to people while at the same time keeping oceans healthy. This requires a dynamic cycle of understanding current conditions, developing and enacting strategic management, and understanding how conditions have changed in response. OHI was developed to support this growing need by providing a framework that quantifies overall how well ocean-derived benefits are delivered to people now and in the future. The Index provides a common platform to measure how sustainably people are using the ocean. The Index offers various metrics to allow decision-makers to determine the appropriate balance of priorities among multiple uses to ensure that oceans can continue to sustainably deliver a range of benefits and services to people now and in the future. By allowing for a comprehensive and integrated view of marine systems as a way to understand the trade-offs and synergies among various goals, the Index represents a significant advance over conventional single-sector approaches to assessing sustainability as communicated through other kinds of index efforts.
HOW CAN THE OCEAN HEALTH INDEX BE USED FOR DECISION MAKING?
The Index is a tailorable approach that can meet the needs and priorities of stakeholders to help inform decision-making on the sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources. Recognizing that most decisions are made at national and subnational scales, our team developed the Ocean Health Index independent assessment (OHI+) framework, which is intended to empower stakeholders to conduct assessments autonomously at any spatial scale desired.
The OHI+ framework is repeatable, transparent, quantitative, and goal-driven, and the inputs to the OHI+ assessments use the same overarching framework as OHI global, while utilizing data, indicators, reference points, and preferences and priorities specific to the local context. Repeated assessments are valuable because they can be used to tack and monitor the progress of ocean health through time. Even a first effort of OHI+ is valuable because it establishes a baseline against which to monitor change. Such a flexible framework allows OHI+ assessments to adapt to local conditions while still being useful for management. Researchers from around the world have changed the goals models and data in their assessments in an ever-evolving process that characterizes the Index.
The OHI supports the growing need for marine management to establish comprehensive objectives that maximize the ocean-derived benefits delivered to people while at the same time keeping oceans healthy. As a management tool, the Index can inform decision-making by helping stakeholders identify geographic and thematic priorities for management, which increases the cost-effectiveness of actions taken. At the same time, it addresses the desire for policymakers to increase environmental performance in the face of budget constraints for natural resource conservation, and galvanizes efforts towards ecosystem-based management.
Why conduct an OHI+ assessment?
The reasons for conducting an assessment vary from context to context. Perhaps you want to better understand ocean and coastal health in your region, or you are actively engaging in ecosystem-based management, or you are facilitating a multi-stakeholder collaborative planning and target setting process. Regardless of your reasons, you can use this portal so at the end of your assessment, you will have established a baseline estimation of the status of ocean health in your study area, and use that information to determine how well you are meeting, exceeding, goal targets in certain indicators.
Assessments provide opportunity put in place a multi-stakeholder collaborative process. In our experiences engaging with various countries around the world, the most effective assessments are those where the process of conducting the assessment was just as valuable (if not more) than the final results. This is because the assessment process serves as a forum to engage stakeholders from multiple backgrounds (scientific, civil society, government, private sector, NGOs, etc.) to discuss local preferences and priorities, understand the interactions between various activities, and collaboratively establish management targets.
On the technical side, the process is also valuable because it allows the users to synthesize collections of data, scientific findings, and management efforts. An important theme throughout this process it to find metrics that are meaningful your area.