Environmental benchmarks are widely used in Canadian environmental assessment as a standard against which to monitor air or water quality in response to human activities in the environment. Recent work in Canada has developed the concept of ecological benchmarks as a complement to environmental benchmarks. However, implementation of ecological benchmarks may be challenging. This paper presents an analogy between ecological benchmarks and the more commonly used environmental benchmarks, as an attempt to increase understanding and use of ecological benchmarks in resource management, assessment, and monitoring. Ecological benchmarks, and their corresponding indicators, will be challenging to identify and use. However, through the use of the principles of adaptive management, effective ecological indicators and benchmarks can be established. Although it is essential that ecological benchmarks are site-specific, the analogy and general principles outlined here are applicable to assessment and monitoring in any part of the world.