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Ocean Health Index

Key indicator facts

Indicator type

State

Applicable for national use

Yes

Indicator classification

Operational and included in the CBD's list of indicators

Indicator type

State

Applicable for national use

Yes

Indicator classification

Operational and included in the CBD's list of indicators

Last update

2016

Coverage

Global

Availability

Freely available

Partners

Nc logoalt 4c

National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Contact point

Indicator description

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is a scientific method to assess the benefits the ocean provides to people, and was developed because of the need for a quantifiable and easily communicated method to define, measure, and evaluate ‘ocean health’. The OHI method can be tailored to different geographies with different contexts, data, and priorities, and can be used to inform policy - particularly when assessments are repeated to track changes through time.

Related Aichi Targets

Primary target

10

Target 10:

By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.

Secondary targets

Target 1:

By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.

Target 4:

By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.

Target 5:

By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.

Target 6:

By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

Target 7:

By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.

Target 12:

By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

Target 15:

By 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.

Primary target

10

Target 10:

By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.

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5
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10
12
15
7
6

Related SDGs

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GOAL 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Target 2.4| Relevant indicator

By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.

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GOAL 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Target 8.4| Relevant indicator

Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead

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GOAL 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Target 12.2| Relevant indicator

By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources.

Target 12.8| Relevant indicator

By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.

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GOAL 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Target 14.2| Relevant indicator

By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans.

Target 14.3| Relevant indicator

Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels.

Target 14.4| Relevant indicator

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics.

Target 14.6| Relevant indicator

By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation.

Target 14.7| Relevant indicator

By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.

Target 14.c| Relevant indicator

Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want.

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GOAL 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Target 15.5| Relevant indicator

Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.

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GOAL 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

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GOAL 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

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GOAL 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

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GOAL 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

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GOAL 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

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Other related MEAs and processes

Indicator icon

IPBES Global Assessment Chapters

Chapter 2| Relevant indicator

Status and trends; indirect and direct drivers of change

Chapter 3| Relevant indicator

Progress towards meeting major international objectives related to biodiversity and ecosystem services

Indicator icon

IPBES Regional Assessment Chapters

Chapter 3| Relevant indicator

Status, trends and future dynamics of biodiversity and ecosystems underpinning nature’s benefits to people

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Ramsar

Target 2| Relevant indicator

Water use respects wetland ecosystem needs for them to fulfil their functions and provide services at the appropriate scale inter alia at the basin level or along a coastal zone.

Target 3| Relevant indicator

The public and private sectors have increased their efforts to apply guidelines and good practices for the wise use of water and wetlands.

Target 5| Relevant indicator

The ecological character of Ramsar Sites is maintained or restored, through effective planning and integrated management

Target 9| Relevant indicator

The wise use of wetlands is strengthened through integrated resource management at the appropriate scale, inter alia, within a river basin or along a coastal zone.

Indicator icon

IPBES Global Assessment Chapters

Indicator icon

IPBES Regional Assessment Chapters

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Ramsar

Indicator icon
Indicator icon
Ramsar.logo

Themes

Marine

Marine & freshwater habitats

View related indicators >
Marine

Partners

Nc logoalt 4c

Key indicator facts

Indicator type

State

Applicable for national use

Yes

Indicator classification

Operational and included in the CBD's list of indicators

Indicator type

State

Applicable for national use

Yes

Indicator classification

Operational and included in the CBD's list of indicators

Last update

2016

Coverage

Global

Availability

Freely available

Indicator description

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is a scientific method to assess the benefits the ocean provides to people, and was developed because of the need for a quantifiable and easily communicated method to define, measure, and evaluate ‘ocean health’. The OHI method can be tailored to different geographies with different contexts, data, and priorities, and can be used to inform policy - particularly when assessments are repeated to track changes through time.

Contact point

Graphs / Diagrams

Figure 1. The Ocean Health Index (OHI).

Current storyline

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is an assessment framework that comprehensively evaluates marine environments in a way that is standardized yet tailorable to different contexts and spatial scales (Halpern et al., 2012; Halpern et al. 2015; Lowndes et al. 2015). Five annual global OHI assessments have been completed from 2012-2016, assessing the EEZ boundaries of all coastal nations and territories. These assessments use available data to model and score ten goals (‘goals’ are the benefits the ocean provides to people in the OHI framework) and sub-goals that together represent ocean health. Newly available data have been included in each annual assessment, with analytical approaches incrementally improving with increased understanding and better data availability through internal and external feedback.

Global assessments have enabled deliberate focus on reproducibility, transparency, and communication in applied environmental science. Development of the Ocean Health Index Toolbox software has enabled global assessments to be repeated annually in less time, and has also enabled independent groups to lead their own OHI assessments at smaller geographies (Lowndes et al. 2015). With over twenty OHI assessments underway or completed, the OHI is a tool that can used to improve the ways marine systems are represented, understood, and managed (http://ohi-science.org).


Figure 1. The Ocean Health Index (OHI). The OHI combines key benefits, called ‘goals’, that a healthy ocean provides to people. Only goals that are relevant to a study area are assessed; these may include the food and natural products the ocean provides, protection and carbon storage that certain habitats provide, and cultural benefits including tourism & recreation, sense of place, coastal livelihoods & economies, artisanal fishing opportunities and values from clean waters and biodiversity. Flower plots, as shown above, are one way to effectively communicate with diverse audiences. Each petal represents an individual goal and the petal length conveys the score of the goal i.e. longer petals are closer to achieving their target.

Figure 2. 2016 Global scores. Overall, the global ocean scored a 71 out of 100 in 2016. This score is a weighted average of all goals and subgoals, each of which are also scored from 0-100. In global assessments all goals are weighted equally except the Food Provision goal, where Fisheries and Mariculture contribute based on tonnes of catch. Global scores have remained relatively stable around 71 for all five years of Global Ocean Health Index assessments from 2012-2016, although there have been significant changes in specific goals or regions through time.

Data and methodology

Coverage: Global time series 2012-2016.

Scale: Data reported at the national scale (e.g. World Bank) or as high resolution spatial data (e.g. AVISO satellite altimetry data).

Time series available: 2012-2016.

Next planned update: Updated annually; most recently 2016.

Possible disaggregations: By region; by nation; see also completed and ongoing OHI assessments at smaller scales (http://ohi-science.org/projects).

Metadata used: Data come from ~100 existing data sources; sources and processing are documented at https://github.com/OHI-Science/ohi-global/releases.

Methodology: The OHI framework has two fundamental attributes for calculating scores. First, it requires information on the status and trend for each goal and a wide range of pressures (negative influences) and resilience (positive influences) measures that will likely affect each goal status in the near term (Halpern et al. 2012). Second, input information and the goals themselves must have an explicit benchmark or ‘reference point’ to which they are compared (Samhouri et al. 2012). These reference points enable goals to be scored on a dimensionless scale from 0 to 100, where a score of 100 represents full delivery of the goal as defined by fully meeting the explicit benchmark. Reference points are set specifically to the local context to capture stakeholder priorities such that goal scores reflect progress towards achieving those targets, and future assessments can serve as a measure of the effectiveness of management and policy interventions. Tailoring assessments to any geography – including at the global scale – requires identifying the suite of goals to be assessed, the unique suite of characteristics and priorities that should be captured within the goals, and how reference points should be set. These decisions should be made before data gathering begins (Lowndes et al. 2015).

Composite indicators are often criticized for being difficult to understand for failing to measure and describe uncertainty. An ongoing priority for the OHI is to improve how we address these issues by 1) having our work scripted, documented, and shared openly online (https://github.com/OHI-science) and 2) improving our approach to dealing with missing data, which is a major source of uncertainty (Frazier et al. 2016). If assumptions and rationales in the planning process and data gathering phases are well documented, completed assessments will not only provide the best possible picture of the current system but can also identify information gaps and highlight areas for improvement. Through leading and supporting twelve completed assessments, the OHI team has identified four best practices for assessing ocean health in multiple contexts using tailorable frameworks: 1) Incorporate key characteristics and priorities into the assessment framework design before gathering information; 2) Strategically define spatial boundaries to balance information availability and decision-making scales; 3) Maintain the key characteristics and priorities of the assessment framework regardless of information limitations; and 4) Document and share the assessment process, methods, and tools (Lowndes et al. 2015).

National use of indicator

The ability of the OHI framework to accommodate different contexts has enabled assessments across many geographies, including in developing and developed countries, in information-limited and -rich areas and in relatively small and very large areas.

To date, twelve OHI assessments have been completed. This includes those led by the National Center for Ecological Assessment and Synthesis (NCEAS) and Conservation International: five annual assessments of the world’s coastal exclusive economic zones (EEZs) (Halpern et al., 2012; Halpern et al., 2015; ohi-science.org), single-year assessments of Brazil (Elfes et al., 2014), the US West Coast (Halpern et al., 2014), and Fiji (Selig et al., 2015). Additionally, independently-led assessments (called ‘OHI+’) have been completed in Israel (Tsemel, Scheinin & Suari, 2014), Canada, Ecuador’s Gulf of Guayaquil, and China, and others are also underway in the Arctic, the Baltic Sea, British Columbia, Chile, Colombia, Hawaʻi, Peru, and several locations within Spain. Several governments have also begun using the OHI as a marine planning tool even before scores have been calculated because tailoring the OHI framework initiated an inventory of any existing information and knowledge that could be useful for the assessment. For more information see http://ohi-science.org.

Further resources

Key indicator facts

Indicator type

State

Applicable for national use

Yes

Indicator classification

Operational and included in the CBD's list of indicators

Indicator type

State

Applicable for national use

Yes

Indicator classification

Operational and included in the CBD's list of indicators

Last update

2016

Coverage

Global

Availability

Freely available

Partners

Nc logoalt 4c

National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Contact point