National Park Service

Rocky Mountain I&M Network

Landscape Dyanmics

Glacier National Park Scene
Glacier National Park Scene

Importance/Issues

Landscapes within and surrounding protected areas, including ROMN parks, are undergoing varying degrees of anthropogenic and natural modification that can have cascading effects on park resources. ROMN parks include both relatively large landscapes composed of interacting yet heterogeneous ecosystems (GLAC, GRSA, ROMO) and smaller areas that are often critically influenced by the surrounding landscape structure and use (FLFO, GRKO, LIBI). Although the effects of landscape dynamics differ in scale and intensity, concerns about potential ecological consequences are similar; landscape-scale mechanisms are well-recognized as important drivers impacting all six parks.

Critical management issues and ecological processes extending across parks and beyond their boundaries include wildfire and fire management (all parks), large mammal populations (e.g., elk at ROMO, grizzly bears at GLAC, bison at GRSA), abiotic conditions and processes (e.g., ground- and surface water dynamics at GRSA), viewshed preservation (especially at FLFO, GRKO, and LIBI, but also along the borders of GLAC, GRSA, and ROMO), and the spread and control of invasive exotic plants (all parks).

The importance of landscape context is underscored by its recognition as a systemic driver affecting all terrestrial and aquatic systems and species in Rocky Mountain parks to some degree. For example, the distribution and activities of animals transcend park boundaries with implications on land use for available habitats and influences of animals on habitat conditions (e.g., distribution and hydrologic modifications of beaver, ungulate migration and herbivory patterns, health and distribution of top-carnivore/omnivore populations). Streams often extend across park boundaries with critical inputs and influences from upstream sources (Water Chemistry, Surface Water Dynamics, Groundwater Dynamics and Freshwater Communities), but also from downstream sources (esp. Freshwater Communities and Invasive Aquatic Species). Sources of atmospheric pollutants (e.g., SO 2, NO x and heavy metals) and invasive species (terrestrial and aquatic) are heavily influenced by geographic position and spatial connections that are best monitored through wide-area landscape monitoring.

Florrisant Fossil Beds Viewshed
Florrisant Fossil Beds Viewshed

Preliminary Monitoring Objectives

  • Analyzing existing LandCover and LandUse data sets at a regional scale to assess composition and configuration to identify issues like habitat conversions (composition change) or incompatible uses (indicated by proximity of "threatening use" such as a source for weeds in immediate proximity to the park border).
  • Determine status and trends in land cover using shifts in multi-spectral signatures and spatial models that integrate remotely sensed imagery with auxiliary data to detect changes not otherwise known. For example, the extent of beetle induced mortality, shifting patterns of seasonal or total "greenness", and etc.
  • Determine status and trends in the distribution and connectivity of particular land-cover types important to other high-priority ROMN vital signs or resources of concern. For example, analysis of a landscape for habitat quantity, quality, and connectivity for each Focal Species.

Potential Measures

  • Size and count distributions for land cover and land use classifications
  • Spatial distribution and proximity measures of cover or use classes of concern
  • Correlation of above (1 & 2) with SEI, VCSS and/or WEI measures.
  • Extent and location of "unexplained, significant temporal shifts"; possible addition of identification of the type/cause/source of the shift
  • Landscape quality with respect to each ROMN Focal Species (based on habitat quantity, quality and connectivity, etc.)

Protocol Development and Status

The Landscape Dynamics protocol addresses a single ROMN vital sign: Landscape Dynamics. The protocol will be implemented in all six ROMN parks (with buffers based on watersheds and/or ecoregion boundaries), but is currently on hold as regional and national examples are developed.

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Last Updated: December 04, 2012 Contact Webmaster