Introduction: Interrelated social and ecological challenges demand an understanding of how environmental change and management decisions affect human well-being. This paper outlines a framework for measuring human well-being for ecosystem-based management (EBM). We present a prototype that can be adapted and developed for various scales and contexts. Scientists and managers use indicators to assess status and trends in integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs). To improve the social science rigor and success of EBM, we developed a systematic and transparent approach for evaluating indicators of human well-being for an IEA.
Methods: Our process is based on a comprehensive conceptualization of human well-being, a scalable analysis of management priorities, and a set of indicator screening criteria tailored to the needs of EBM. We tested our approach by evaluating more than 2000 existing social indicators related to ocean and coastal management of the US West Coast. We focused on two foundational attributes of human well-being: resource access and self-determination.
Outcomes and Discussion: Our results suggest that existing indicators and data are limited in their ability to reflect linkages between environmental change and human well-being, and extremely limited in their ability to assess social equity and justice. We reveal a critical need for new social indicators tailored to answer environmental questions and new data that are disaggregated by social variables to measure equity. In both, we stress the importance of collaborating with the people whose well-being is to be assessed.
Conclusion: Our framework is designed to encourage governments and communities to carefully assess the complex tradeoffs inherent in environmental decision-making.