Much information that would be invaluable for management of the region’s habitats is not available because of a lack of habitat monitoring. This situation is beginning to change as the importance of monitoring is more widely recognized. Since the early 1990s, habitat restoration projects have become increasingly common in the Gulf of Maine and its watershed. Most experts consider ecological monitoring to be an integral component of habitat restoration. Every habitat restoration project should include pre- and post-restoration monitoring of the project site along with nearby intact habitat areas. Pre-restoration monitoring provides baseline data about the site’s condition, which is invaluable for planning project goals, objectives, and performance indicators.
A combination of pre- and post-restoration monitoring allows accurate assessment of a project’s success. Post-restoration monitoring documents any ecological changes at the site after restoration is completed. Analysis of pre- and post-restoration data is necessary to determine progress toward meeting the project’s goals. The project may be adjusted or augmented if performance targets are not met. If the targets are met, then the monitoring data provide clear evidence of the project’s success. By monitoring similar non-impacted sites over the same timeframe, restoration practitioners can distinguish whether changes at the restored site are due to restoration activity or other causes. Monitoring data from different projects in the same habitat type can be analyzed together to evaluate the effectiveness of specific restoration techniques and to understand the condition and recovery process of the habitat.