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NPS Resource Inventories Brochure (pdf size 1.85MB)
NPS Vital Signs Monitoring Brochure (pdf size 1.58MB)

Vital Signs Networks

A commitment to resource protection

National parks are places of spectacular beauty, encompassing an enormous diversity of landscapes and living things. Imagine a range of natural communities that includes tundra where wolves chase caribou, desert lands forested with majestic saguaro cacti, and seashores where loggerhead turtles come to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, beauty is not a sufficient indication of the condition and health of national parks. Just like a physician monitors a patient’s heartbeat and blood pressure for diagnostic purposes, National Park Service managers need accurate information about the resources in their care. They need to know how and why natural systems change over time, and what amount of change is normal, in order to make sound management decisions. Therefore, the National Park Service has begun natural resource monitoring throughout the National Park System to gather this information as part of the Natural Resource Challenge program.

A key component of this effort, known as Park Vital Signs Monitoring, is the organization of approximately 270 park units into 32 monitoring networks to conduct long-term monitoring for key indicators of change, or “vital signs.” Vital signs are measurable, early warning signals that indicate changes that could impair the long-term health of natural systems. Early detection of potential problems allows park managers to take steps to restore ecological health of park resources before serious damage can happen.

To facilitate collaboration, information sharing, and cost savings, individual networks link parks that share similar geographic and natural resource characteristics. Each network is tasked with designing a single, integrated program to monitor both physical and biological resources, such as air quality, water quality, soils, exotic species, and threatened and endangered species. The list of environmental vital signs selected for monitoring the health of these resources is expected to vary among networks, reflecting the needs and natural resources of the parks. The National Park Service is developing guidelines, reference materials, and information management tools to help networks develop monitoring programs. To ensure quality and accountability, a board of directors guides each monitoring network, making decisions about the development and implementation of its monitoring program. Board members include park superintendents, the regional inventory and monitoring coordinator, and the network monitoring coordinator. By 2005, the National Park Service plans to have initiated monitoring programs for all 32 networks.

Park Vital Signs Monitoring is a cornerstone of effective park management, providing managers with the scientifically sound information needed to safeguard the health and integrity of landscapes and living things that make up our national parks.

Vital Signs

updated on 10/08/2003   I   /protectingrestoring/vitalsignsnetworks.htm   I  Email:Webmaster
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