About the Vital Signs

The Puget Sound Vital Signs are measures of ecosystem health that guide the assessment of progress toward Puget Sound recovery goals. Each of the six Puget Sound recovery goals are expressed with one or more Vital Signs. Vital Signs represent an important component of the ecosystem (e.g. marine water, economic vitality). Each component is, in turn, represented by one or more indicators. The indicators are specific measures of Puget Sound conditions, including human wellbeing, while ecosystem recovery targets are policy statements that express desired future conditions for human health and quality of life, species and food webs, habitats, water quantity, and water.

NEW! New Vital Signs and indicators set off a new chapter for Puget Sound recovery effort!

On June 10th, 2020, the Puget Sound Partnership approved revisions to the Puget Sound Vital Signs and indicators. The revisions include 36 biophysical indicators and 17 potential future indicators, and 13 Vital Signs. The adoption of the new indicators also affirms the Vital Signs and indicators as measures of ultimate outcomes part of the overarching progress measure framework. Vital Signs also include human well-being indicators, but those largely remained untouched during the revisions process given their more recent adoption in 2015. The revised Vital Signs and their indicators help set a new course for the new Action Agenda expected in 2022

A big thank you to everyone who participated! This important milestone would not have been possible without the participation of hundreds of technical and policy experts from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program and from throughout the Puget Sound recovery community.

More details on our public information page here.


What are the Puget Sound recovery goals?

The Washington State statute that created the Puget Sound Partnership defines six recovery goals: Healthy human population, Vibrant quality of life, Thriving species and food web, Protected and restored habitat, Abundant 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.

View all the indicators, Vital Signs and goals here

Who are the contributing partners?

The Vital Signs reporting program is a collaboration with lead scientists from the ecosystem monitoring programs to analyze and report the data in the context of the Vital Sign framework. Contributing partners are organizations that contribute indicator data, interpretaton and messages. The following organizations are contributing partners:

  • The Center for Whale Research
  • King County
  • Northern Economics
  • Oregon State University
  • Puget Sound Partnership
  • Washington Department of Ecology
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Washington Department of Health
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources

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. While individual participants in PSEMP provide data and reports for the indicators, PSEMP participants and work groups contribute to the Partnership’s Vital Sign reporting by developing and reviewing key messages about the Vital Signs.

How are the data compiled?

Technical and scientific experts (referred to as “Indicator Leads”) from diverse monitoring programs, including those of state and federal agencies, tribes, local jurisdictions, and non-governmental organizations, collaborate with the Puget Sound Partnership to provide the indicator data and oversee the interpretation of the results. Data quality assurance and documentation remain the primary responsibility of the individual contributors.

The Reporting Leads produce the key messages for Vital Signs. Reporting Leads are either topic-based work groups in the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) or individuals. In the case of work groups, they 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 and other factors to develop key messages for Vital Signs that relate to their work group's topic. Work groups provide review of the key messages provided by individuals.

Why are the Vital Signs important?

The Vital Signs and their indicators are a useful subset as long-term measures of environmental health, with a recognition that their status responds to the collective impacts of the Action Agenda, as well as to the human footprint not accounted for in the Action Agenda, and to forces and natural drivers outside of human control. The indicators were selected by the Puget Sound Partnership based on recommendations by a team of scientists convened by the Partnership in 2010. Ecosystem recovery targets were selected based on recommendations by interdisciplinary teams in 2011. There is widespread recognition that there are many more measures and research that provide an understanding Puget Sound conditions and contribute meaningfully to the body of knowledge of Puget Sound.

How is Vital Sign information used?

The primary venue for reporting on the Puget Sound Vital Signs and the status and progress of their indicators is the Vital Sign website in the Puget Sound Info platform. The Vital Signs are also fundamental to the Puget Sound Partnership’s State of the Sound report, published every two years. The report provides a summary of progress toward 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 leads directly.

What actions are being taken to improve Puget Sound health?

Actions happening throughout Puget Sound are hoped to improve Vital Signs. Implementation Strategies are plans for achieving specific recovery targets, and are created for Puget Sound Vital Signs, while the Action Agenda is the region’s overarching strategic plan that prioritizes needs from throughout the region. Find out more about the actions and their impact in the Puget Sound Info platform.




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 Envitonmental Protection Agency and the State of the Washington) various organizations contribute content and ensure data quality.