National Park Service (NPS) scientists and technicians know real-world problems and see them every day. Their work to help park managers understand and care for park resources in a changing landscape was honored recently by the U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) in Newport, R.I.
The NPS I&M Program received the US-IALE Distinguished Landscape Practitioner Award for its creative applications of landscape ecology to the resolution of practical land management dilemmas in national parks and other protected areas worldwide. Landscape ecology is the interdisciplinary science and study of ecological processes that cover broad spatial scales and often extend well beyond park boundaries.
“It is always an honor to be recognized and know that your day-to-day work has real meaning and makes a difference,” said National Park Service
Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “This award confirms what we know – that our inventory and monitoring efforts are important to park managers and to the people who visit national parks today. But it’s more than that really, we do this so future generations may see, touch and feel the wonder of America’s natural heritage in her national parks.”
Steve Fancy, the NPS I&M Program Leader, said the team’s efforts to bring landscape approaches to the NPS have benefitted greatly from ongoing collaborations with scientists at other agencies and institutions, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, NASA-Ames, USDA Forest Service, Montana State University, Colorado State University, and the Woods Hole Research Center. “Information that continues to emerge from the landscape ecology work being done with our partners will help parks interpret and manage their resources in a landscape context,” he said.
The NPS I&M Program is an ongoing effort of standardized monitoring programs that analyze and interpret landscape-scale changes for parks. Started in 2000, the I&M program has also contributed to the field of landscape ecology by co-sponsoring international meetings and workshops involving resource managers and scientists from Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
NPS I&M also shares data and other products with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey; contributes landscape-scale data and expertise to the DOI Landscape Conservation Cooperatives; and communicates the results of original research through scientific presentations and publications.
An important component of the I&M Program’s landscape dynamics monitoring efforts is NPScape (http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/monitor/npscape/), a project led by Bill Monahan that produces and delivers to parks, a suite of landscape-scale data sets, maps, reports, and other products to inform resource management and planning at local, regional and national scales.
Changes in the composition and configuration of different land cover types within and adjacent to national parks has been shown to greatly affect biological and physical processes within those parks. “We’re talking about habitat availability, animal movements, the potential for invasion by exotic plants, water quality, and in-stream habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms,” Monahan said. “The information about changes and trends in landscape-scale indicators in and around parks can help park managers anticipate, plan for and manage associated effects to park resources.”
I&M efforts are also underway with landscape-level analyses to better understand and forecast the combined influences of landscape and climate changes on park resources. The Landscape Climate Change Vulnerability Project (http://www.montana.edu/lccvp/) is a multi-year project funded by ASA and the NPS that involves working with resource managers to incorporate the results of vulnerability assessments into on-the-ground decisions of how best to manage species important to parks in the face of ongoing climate and land use change.
For more information please visit the I&M website at http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/.