Multiple Species Conservation Program Biological Monitoring Plan

Janet Franklin, Lauren Hierl, Helen Regan, and Douglas Deutschman


Multiple Species Conservation Program – San Diego’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) intends to conserve the diversity and function of the southwestern San Diego County ecosystem through preservation and adaptive management of habitat. The MSCP also aims to conserve 85 specific “covered” species. The reserve system currently includes over 127,000 acres of land. Monitoring and management responsibility for this large network of land lies with multiple jurisdictions, particularly the County and City of San Diego, and participating wildlife agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. Geological Survey.
Biological Monitoring Plan – The MSCP Biological Monitoring Plan was issued in 1996 and contained prioritized monitoring components and protocols. The plan aimed to determine whether the reserve was achieving the biological goals of conserving ecosystem function and maintaining covered species populations. The plan included monitoring protocols for habitats, corridors, and covered plant and animal species. In 2001, the Conservation Biology Institute was contracted to review and refine the Biological Monitoring Plan. They concluded they had inadequate data to recommend updated protocols at that time, though they did provide a new framework for habitat monitoring. Neither the original monitoring plan nor CBI’s revisions were ever widely implemented, and debate remains on how to meet the monitoring and management needs of the MSCP.

Problem – Though the MSCP partners have made much progress in acquiring land and collecting baseline data through surveys, studies, and initial monitoring efforts, it is still difficult to determine if the MSCP reserve is meeting its biological goals. Implementation of the monitoring protocols has been limited, and different methods and priorities have been used by each monitoring partner.

In 2004, Andrea Atkinson and others compiled and critiqued the diverse literature on biological monitoring and published areport entitled “Designing Monitoring Programs in an Adaptive Management Context for Regional Multiple Species Conservation Plans”. This report included nine steps for designing an effective monitoring program: Step 1: Identify the goals and objectives of the regional conservation plan; Step 2: Identify scope of monitoring program; Step 3: Compile information relevant to monitoring program design; Step 4: Strategically divide the system and prioritize for monitoring program development; Step 5: Develop simple management-oriented conceptual models; Step 6: Identify monitoring recommendations and critical uncertainties; Step 7: Determine strategy for implementing monitoring; Step 8: Develop data quality assurance, data management, analysis, and reporting strategies; Step 9: Complete the adaptive management loop by ensuring effective feedback to decision-making

By carrying out several of these steps for this Local Assistance Grant sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Game, we aim to improve the scientific robustness of the monitoring program and enhance the ability of the monitoring partners to determine if the MSCP Preserve is meeting its biological goals.


Franklin, J., Regan, H. M., Hierl, L. A., Deutchman, D. H. Johnson, B. S. and Winchell, C. S., 2011. Planning, implementing and monitoring multiple species habitat conservation plans. American Journal of Botany 98(3):559-571.

Regan, H. M., Hierl, L. A., Franklin, J., Deutchman, D. H., Schmalbach, H., Winchell, C. S. and Johnson, B. S., 2008, Species prioritisation for monitoring and management in regional multiple species conservation plans, Diversity and Distributions 14: 462-471

Hierl, L. A., Franklin, J., Deutchman, D. H., Regan, H. M., and Johnson, B. S., 2008, Assessing and prioritizing ecological communities for monitoring in a regional habitat conservation plan, Environmental Management 42(1): 165-179. DOI 10.1007/s00267-008-9109-3