About the Vital Signs

The Puget Sound Vital Signs are measures of ecosystem health. They help to more specifically describe each of the Puget Sound recovery goals for healthy human populations, quality of life, species and food webs, habitat, water quality and water quantity. The Vital Signs themselves represent the components of the ecosystem important to the Puget Sound recovery community like streams, birds and cultural wellbeing. Each component, in turn, is measured with one or more indicators. While the indicators measure ecosystem conditions and how conditions are changing, targets help to articulate the desired future condition, particularly in 30 to 50 years from now.

View all the Vital Sign indicators and their status here

The second generation of Vital Signs and indicators is here, setting off a new chapter for Puget Sound recovery efforts!

In June of 2020, the Leadership Council unanimously approved revisions to the first generation of Vital Signs and indicators that had been adopted back in 2010 and 2011. The approval affirmed the Vital Signs and indicators as the measures of ultimate outcomes that reflect the condition of Puget Sound relative to the goals established in the Puget Sound Partnership statute. The new and revised Vital Signs help set a new course for the new Action Agenda adopted in 2022

Why are the Vital Signs important?

The Vital Signs and their indicators are important because they are well grounded in the latest science and they reflect what people in the Puget Sound recovery community care about and think is most important to measure. The indicators were selected by the Puget Sound Partnership based on recommendations resulting from input of hundreds of scientists and recovery practicioners. They are viewed as long-term measures of environmental health. It is important to remember that Vital Signs integrate signals from across the environment; they respond to the collective effects of the Action Agenda and other benefitial human activities, the impacts of harmful human activities as well as the forces and natural drivers outside of human control.

What are the Puget Sound Indicators and targets?

The Puget Sound indicators are the collection of interconnected measures and that together can tell the story about progress. In that context, the Vital Signs and their indicators are used to:

  • describe ecosystem conditions;
  • articulate shared statutory recovery goals and understand progress toward goals;
  • inspire focused action to drive progress towards meeting shared goals.

The Action Agenda progress indicators are also part of the Puget Sound Indicators and they describe the actions that the Puget Sound recovery community needs to achieve in order to realize progress. 

The role of targets is to articulate our desired future and define what success looks like for different aspects of our Puget Sound recovery effort. The Partnership uses targets to assess the effectiveness of our collective efforts and motivate ourselves and others to pursue the necessary transformational actions to recover and protect Puget Sound. When targets are developed collectively and with justification, they serve as a tool to hold ourselves accountable and deliver results.

What are the Puget Sound recovery goals?

The Washington State statute that created the Puget Sound Partnership defines recovery goals paraphrased as: healthy human population, vibrant quality of life, thriving species and food web, functioning habitat (which includes aspects of water quantity), and healthy water quality. The Puget Sound Partnership is the state agency leading the region’s collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound in order to meet these goals.

What is the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program?

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is a collaborative network of topic experts and practitioners who collect, share, analyze, and synthesize data and information about the status of the Puget Sound ecosystem and the effectiveness of recovery actions.

Who are the contributing partners?

The Vital Signs are a core element of PSEMP. Thanks to both long-standing and new monitoring programs from throughout PSEMP, we are able to report data contributed by dozens of people from state and federal agencies, local jurisdictions, tribes, not-for-profit environmental organizations, academia, and consultants. Technical and scientific experts referred to as “indicator reporters” provide the indicator data and oversee the interpretation of the results. Data quality assurance and documentation remain the primary responsibility of the indicator reporters.

The Partnership coordinates with topical work groups in PSEMP and other expert teams as venues to review the indicators and synthesize information to produce high-level messaging for each Vital Sign. In the case of work groups, they are not responsible for collecting and managing data for indicators or Vital Signs. Instead, participants in a work group work together to integrate information across indicators to develop key messages for Vital Signs that relate to their work group's topic.

The following organizations are currently serving as indicator reporters:

  • Green Economics, LLC
  • King County
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Oregon State University
  • Puget Sound Partnership
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Washington Department of Ecology
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Washington Department of Health
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources

Where do I find Vital Sign information?

The primary venue for reporting on the Puget Sound Vital Signs and the status and progress of their indicators is the Puget Sound Info web platform. The Vital Signs also inform the Puget Sound Partnership’s State of the Sound report, published every two years. The report provides a summary of progress toward ecosystem recovery, as evidenced by implementation of actions and programs included in the Action Agenda and by analysis of data provided by the Puget Sound Vital Signs and effectiveness monitoring. Details about information and data contributing to the Vital Signs may be found by visiting websites of the contributing monitoring programs and data sources, or by contacting the indicator reporters directly.

What actions are being taken to improve Puget Sound health?

Actions happening throughout Puget Sound are designed to improve Vital Signs in the short-term and down the road. The Action Agenda charts the course to recovery and contains the region’s overarching strategies. Implementation Strategies are plans for achieving specific recovery targets. Find out more about the strategies and which ones connect to Vital Signs in the Puget Sound Info platform as well as the home pages of each Vital Signs (see section "Related Strategies").

How to cite the Vital Sign website?

Vital Sign pages: Puget Sound Partnership. Year. Vital Sign name Vital Sign. Vital Sign Reporter name, affiliation. Last updated month day, yyyyWeb address.  Example: Puget Sound Partnership. 2021. Beaches and Marine Vegetation Vital Sign. Vital Sign Reporter PSEMP Nearshore Work Group. Last updated May 30, 2023. Vital Signs | Beaches and Marine Vegetation (wa.gov)

Indicator pages: Puget Sound Partnership. YearIndicator name Vital Sign Indicator. Lead Reporter name, affiliation. Last updated month day, yyyyWeb address.  Example: Puget Sound Partnership. 2020. Eelgrass area Vital Sign Indicator. Lead Reporter Bart Christiaen, DNR. Last updated November 28, 2022. Vital Signs | Eelgrass Area (wa.gov)

Who maintains the Vital Sign website?

The Vital Sign website is part of the Puget Sound Info platform. The website is a shared communication product. It is shared because many organizations contribute to and share the work of providing and curating content throughout the website. It is shared because the indicators are “shared measures” in collective impact speak. While Puget Sound Partnership staff manage the development and maintenance of the website (with financial support from the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Washington) various organizations contribute content and ensure data quality.