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Recovery Potential Screening

Overview: Selecting and Using Recovery Potential Indicators

Overview for RPS IndicatorsBecause choosing the most relevant indicators is crucial to the quality of RPS Tool results, reading about available indicators is always recommended before any RPS project begins. This section of the website contains reference materials on recovery potential indicators: their use in the RPS Tool, definitions, relevance to restorability, data sources, measurement methods and relevant points from the technical literature. On this page and its tabbed sub-pages, you will find indicator information at different levels of detail. Available options include example lists of indicators in each of the major categories; indicators with definitions, measurement methods and brief descriptions of their relevance to watershed condition; and detailed indicator reference sheets for many of the most frequently used indicators.

Major Categories of Indicators. Restoration research and practice have shown that many diverse factors can affect watershed condition and the prospects for restoration success. These are grouped into three major categories -- Ecological, Stressor and Social – for use in the RPS Tool. A fourth category, called Base Indicators, contains reference metrics such as watershed ID and name, county, watershed size and total stream mileage that are value-neutral in RPS assessments and do not affect RPS index scores. An RPS screening run must have at least one indicator each (preferably more) from the Ecological, Stressor and Social categories in order for the RPS Tool to work properly.

Sub-Categories and their Importance. Selecting indicators in each major category is influenced by the need to choose metrics that provide different 'pieces of the puzzle.' Using different types of indicators that are all related to restorability can provide multiple lines of evidence for estimating relative differences in watershed condition and their implications for management alternatives. Sub-categories of the Ecological, Stressor and Social categories are provided below to encourage a diverse selection of indicators under each category. Although having indicators in every sub-category is not required, an effort should be made to select indicators that include as many sub-categories as possible and are not all related to the same one. For example, ecological indicator selection should include more than just measurements of watershed-wide land cover. 

Clicking on each sub-category below brings up several related indicators as examples. Visit the Ecological, Stressor, and Social Indicators tabs to read about example indicators definition and their relevance to watershed condition and management. More detailed information on indicators is available at the Documents tab.

Key sub-categories for ecological indicator selection include:


Watershed natural structure

Corridor and shorelands stability


Flow and channel dynamics

Biotic community integrity


Aquatic connectivity

Ecological history

Key sub-categories for stressor indicator selection include:


Watershed-level disturbance

Corridor or shorelands disturbance


Hydrologic alteration

Biotic or climatic risks


Severity of pollutant loading

Legacy of past, trajectory of future land use

Key sub-categories for social context indicator selection include:


Leadership, organization and engagement

Protective ownership or regulation


Level of information, certainty and planning

Restoration cost, difficulty or complexity


Socio-economic considerations

Human health, beneficial uses, recognition and incentives