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Moving beyond the minimum: The addition of nonvascular plant inventories to vegetation research in Alaska’s national parks (Jan 5, 2015)

Alaska’s national parks encompass a wide range of habitat types and climate gradients known to support a rich and diverse flora. At such northern latitudes, nonvascular plants, particularly bryophytes and lichens, contribute a significant portion to overall biomass andbiodiversity, provide a wide range of ecosystem functions, and can serve as important indicators of air quality and climate change. A number of Alaskan parks have recently completed or are conducting comprehensive inventories that are documenting extraordinary nonvascular plant diversity. Alaska’s Inventory and Monitoring networks have also developed vegetation and air quality vital-sign monitoring programs that include nonvascular plant communities in their baseline sampling. University partnerships have played an important role in contributing to our understanding of nonvascular vegetation communities in Alaska’snational parks. Such collaboration has provided a strong foundation for future studies and has enhanced NPS efforts toward resource management goals.

Walton J and Stehn S. 2014. Moving beyond the minimum: The addition of nonvascular plant inventories to vegetation research in Alaska’s national parks. Park Science. 31(1):62-69.

Climate Exposure of US National Parks in a New Era of Change (Nov 20, 2014)

US national parks are challenged by climate and other forms of broad-scale environmental change that operate beyond administrative boundaries and in some instances are occurring at especially rapid rates. Here, we evaluate the climate change exposure of 289 natural resource parks administered by the US National Park Service (NPS), and ask which are presently (past 10 to 30 years) experiencing extreme (<5th percentile or >95th percentile) climates relative to their 1901–2012 historical range of variability (HRV). We consider parks in a landscape context (including surrounding 30 km) and evaluate both mean and inter-annual variation in 25 biologically relevant climate variables related to temperature, precipitation, frost and wet day frequencies, vapor pressure, cloud cover, and seasonality. We also consider sensitivity of findings to the moving time window of analysis (10, 20, and 30 year windows). Results show that parks are overwhelmingly at the extreme warm end of historical temperature distributions and this is true for several variables (e.g., annual mean temperature, minimum temperature of the coldest month, mean temperature of the warmest quarter). Precipitation and other moisture patterns are geographically more heterogeneous across parks and show greater variation among variables. Across climate variables, recent inter-annual variation is generally well within the range of variability observed since 1901. Moving window size has a measureable effect on these estimates, but parks with extreme climates also tend to exhibit low sensitivity to the time window of analysis. We highlight particular parks that illustrate different extremes and may facilitate understanding responses of park resources to ongoing climate change. We conclude with discussion of how results relate to anticipated future changes in climate, as well as how they can inform NPS and neighboring land management and planning in a new era of change.

Coastal Lagoon Community and Ecological Monitoring in the Southern Chukchi Sea National Park Units over Five Decades (Oct 21, 2014)

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) provided their first year of assistance to the National Park Service with the design and implementation of the Coastal Lagoon Vital Sign component of the Inventory and Monitoring Program. Our 2012 field effort assessed a) the feasibility of implementing a focused portion of the recommendations from the 2010 Draft Protocol for the Arctic Coastal Lagoon Vital Sign Monitoring Protocol at Cape Krusenstern National Monument (Reynolds and Clough, 2010), and b) adding coverage of the Lagoon Vital Sign to Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. The 2012 Coastal Lagoon Vital Sign monitoring effort explicitly addressed the logistical issues raised in the draft protocol. Earlier Vital Sign efforts were challenged using ground access (4-wheelers) due to impassable outflow channels, leading to underachievement on protocol implementation, and the suggestion that floatplane access may be a more viable way of supporting long-term monitoring.
Between July 21st and July 29th 2012, a four-person crew from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Park Service successfully utilized a Cessna 185 on floats to access Ikpek and Cowpack lagoons in Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, and Kotlik, Krusenstern, and Aqulaaq lagoons in Cape Krusenstern National Monument. Over two days at each lagoon (one day at Aqalaaq Lagoon), we used a small inflatable boat equipped with a 9 horsepower motor to visit four long-term (Center, Outflow, Inflow, and Adjacent-to-the-Ocean stations) and three Random stations in each lagoon. At each station, we collected (or attempted to collect) data on physical water parameters (sonde instrumentation), chorophyll a (filtered samples and lab spectrographic analysis), benthic invertebrates (Ponar grab), nearshore fish (beach seine), pelagic fish (gillnet), and opportunistic observations of the avian community.
Results from prior sampling efforts in 1979/1980 (Raymond et al., 1984); 1982/1983 (Dames and Moore, 1983 ... [Read full article]

Mapping of erosion features related to thaw of permafrost in the NPS Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network, Alaska (Oct 3, 2014)

Arctic Network has published a new report titled 'Mapping of erosion features related to thaw of permafrost in the NPS Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network, Alaska'. The report is available at

Post-breeding shorebird use of salt marsh on the Ikpek and Arctic Lagoon barrier island, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (Sep 23, 2014)

Arctic Network has published a new report titled 'Post-breeding shorebird use of salt marsh on the Ikpek and Arctic Lagoon barrier island, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve'. The report is available at;file=BELA_shorebirds_2014NRDS_final_Mizel.pdf

Low-altitude photographic transects of the Arctic Network of National Park Units and Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, July 2013 (Sep 18, 2014)

During July 16–18, 2013, low-level photography flights were conducted (with a Cessna 185 with floats and a Cessna 206 with tundra tires) over the five administrative units of the National Park Service Arctic Network (Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, and Noatak National Preserve) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Selawik National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Alaska, to provide images of current conditions and prevalence of land-cover types as a baseline for measuring future change, and to complement the existing grid-based sample photography of the region. Total flight time was 17 hours, 46 minutes, and total flight distance was 2,590 kilometers, at a mean altitude of about 300 meters above ground level.

A Collaborative Approach to Yellow-billed Loon Monitoring (Aug 5, 2014)

Last year, two Alaska teenagers interviewed Dr. Angela Matz from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) about Yellow-billed Loons monitoring in Alaska’s northern parks. Youth videographers, Sam Tocktoo of Shishmaref and Sam Bernitz of Anchorage traveled in a float plane to Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and filmed the loons and the story of the science behind long-term monitoring of the species in Alaska. Their videos will help the NPS, USFWS, Bureau of Land Management, and Wildlife Conservation Society bring awareness to the conservation challenges facing Yellowbilled Loons in Alaska. Watch the video Tocktoo helped produce at http://youtube/EbRmNLWNvAc. For more information about NPS monitoring of this species visit
To learn more about the species visit

Looking Closer at Lichens: New insights into an Alaskan lichen (Jul 17, 2014)

Peter Nelson (Oregon State University/University of Maine-Fort Kent) noticed an unfamiliar lichen species collected in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve last year. Although the species had already been described, a key characteristic was overlooked by the authors who described it—namely, that it hosts both green algae and colonies of cyanobacteria. While this may not seem like much to a non-lichenologist, it would be analogous to describing an animal and not noticing some key appendage, such a tail. It turned out that this species, Fuscopannaria viridescens, is the only member of its speciose genus (&amp;gt;40 spp. in North America) with both green algae and cyanobacteria. You can learn more about this lichen by referring to: Nelson, P. R. and T. Wheeler. 2013. Cephalodia found of Fuscopannaria viridescens. The Lichenologist45(5):694-696.

Using IRMA’s Data Store to Preserve Institutional Knowledge (Jul 1, 2014)

What happens to the institutional knowledge of employees who transfer or retire? When an employee moves on, that person’s body of work, including research and collected data, could be lost if not safely stored for future access. Data Store ( is the perfect solution, and our sister agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has put that idea to work. Data Store is the NPS-wide centralized repository for documents, publications, and data sets that are related to NPS natural and cultural resources. In 2010, the co-located USFWS staff requested that the IRMA development team in Ft. Collins modify Data Store so that it could become the central repository for the USFWS Inventory &amp;amp; Monitoring Program. Service Catalog (ServCat), the USFWS version of Data Store, was launched in 2011 and has many enthusiastic users. An article appeared in the current issue of USFWS’ Refuge Update that told the story of using ServCat to preserve legacy data of employees who transfer or retire ( The ServCat article describes how the research conducted by James Maragos, an expert in coral reef ecosystems, was preserved. His research represents baseline data of the conditions of coral reef ecosystems the first time they were seen by human eyes. By entering his information into ServCat, biologists will be able to compare the reef conditions they observe to the baseline data today or 20 years from now. That type of baseline information is vital to the study of reefs in relation to human impact, coral bleaching, and climate change.Many IRMA users are focused on getting their legacy data into IRMA and may not have considered using it to prevent loss of data as employees move. With the surge of baby boomers retiring, IRMA is a great tool to preserve valuable information about a specific park, region, or natural/cultural resource issue to preserve research findings for use in the ... [Read full article]

Snow Cover Monitoring with MODIS Satellite Data in the Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network, Alaska, 2000-2013 (Jun 30, 2014)

Snow cover was monitored in the five National Park Service (NPS) units of the Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network (ARCN) from the fall of 2000 through the spring of 2013, using 500 m resolution daily data from the MODIS Terra satellite. The MODIS data were processed by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the Geographic Information Network for Alaska (GINA) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to detect the first and last snow days of each season, and the start and end of the continuous snow season (CSS).

The median first snow day was in October over most of the low-elevation areas (<2000 feet, 620 m) of ARCN and mainly in September at higher elevations, except at elevations above 3000 feet (914 m) along the north side of the Brooks Range, where the first snow came in August. The start of the CSS was within 2 weeks of the first snow day over most of ARCN: late October in the lowlands (<1000 feet, 305 m) of western ARCN and early October elsewhere, except at elevations above 3000 feet (914 m), where the CSS began in September. In years with late snow cover establishment and cloudy fall weather, the date of first snow and the start of the CSS were not detected in some parts of ARCN before winter darkness and long terrain shadows obscured the ground. While this problem appears to not have substantially affected the long-term median values for first snow day and start of CSS, it prevented analysis of year-to-year variability in these two metrics.

The median length of the continuous snow season was 6 to 7 months in most lowland areas (below 1000 feet, 305 m), 7 to 8 months at most mid-elevations, and 8 to 9 months at most high elevations (above 4000 feet, 1219 m). The median last snow day and median last day of the CSS were less than a week apart in May over most of ARCN. Higher elevations in ARCN generally had later snow-off dates, though there was some interesting variability within this overall pattern. Snow usually disappeared ... [Read full article]

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