For the more information about water resources in the National Park Service, please visit

NRCA Study and Indicator Frameworks

A number of natural resource assessment and reporting frameworks exist. Frameworks help guide and organize aspects of study planning and execution as well as final report-out of condition findings. Parks and study investigators are encouraged to read the following discussion and look at completed NRCA reports as a way to help them consider their options.

Indicator Frameworks

Some frameworks simply provide a logical scheme for grouping diverse resources and resource indicators. They assist study planning and condition reporting but do not provide any specific direction on how to conduct the resource assessment. If this is the type of framework used, an important consideration is to look at the upper level reporting categories. Are they a good fit for the topics you want to roll indicator-level findings up to and deliver key condition messages about?

Suitable indicator frameworks for use in NRCAS include, but are not limited to:

NRCA Framework Option, Based on Heinz Framework (PDF - 31KB)
This is a 4-category framework adapted from the Heinz Center's "The State of the Nation's Ecosystems 2008" Report. Top reporting categories: 1) Landscape Condition Context, 2) Supporting Environment (park land, water and air resources), 3) Biological Integrity, 4) optional category—used to report on Ecosystem Services or other specialized topics

NPS Inventory & Monitoring Program's "NPS Ecological Monitoring Framework" (DOC - 135KB)
This is a 6-category framework used to organize and report NPS I&M Program vital signs. Top reporting categories: 1) Air and Climate, 2) Geology and Soils, 3) Water, 4) Biological Integrity, 5) Human Use, 6) Landscapes (ecosystem pattern and processes)

EPA-SAB Framework (PDF - 1.57MB)
This is a 6-category framework developed by the EPA-Science Advisory Board (EPA-SAB). See above link for a good executive summary; the full report (PDF - 1.4MB) is also available. Top reporting categories: 1) Landscape Condition, 2) Biotic Condition, 3) Chemical and Physical Characteristics (water, air, soil, sediment), 4) Ecological Processes, 5) Hydrology and Geomorphology, 6) Natural Disturbance Regimes

Conservation Planning and Assessment Frameworks

In some cases, a particular assessment technique, methodology, or logic model is paired with an indicator framework. Parks and study investigators can optionally choose to use one of these types of frameworks in an NRCA. Suitable conservation planning and assessment frameworks include, but are not limited to:

The NatureServe Ecological Integrity Assessment
A framework developed by NatureServe that provides a systematic approach to conservation planning and management.

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Action Planning (CAP) Process
Similar to the NatureServe-NPS assessment process, a framework that has been developed by the Nature Conservancy for use at multiple ecological system scales.

Decision Support System (DSS) Models
As outlined at the above link, DSS models bring resource data into a structured geospatial framework to assist planning and decision making activities. They are also generically referred to as spatial decision support systems. Additional information is available through the Spatial Decision Support Knowledge Portal.

Last Updated: January 04, 2017