National Park Service

Inventory & Monitoring (I&M)

Species Occurrence and Distribution


Seining for fish at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Seining for fish at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

An important function of the National Park Service (NPS) is protecting and maintaining the level of biological diversity found within parks. Park managers, planners, and scientists require basic information on the status of species occurring in parks as a basis for making decisions and working with other agencies, the scientific community, and the public for the long-term protection of park ecosystems. As one of the 12 core natural resource inventories, the I&M program provided parks with funding and technical assistance to compile existing data and to undertake targeted field investigations to document the occurrence of at least 90 percent of the species of vascular plants and vertebrates (birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles) currently estimated to occur in parks.


The primary products resulting from these inventories are reports and associated data sets (e.g., species lists with related attribute and spatial data). Reports document vertebrate or vascular plant species, and describe survey methods, species locations, associated habitat, observation details, and other attributes.

Associated data sets typically follow service-wide I&M data structures and are standardized with location and observation data. In addition to these products, the results of species detections are incorporated into the national NPSpecies database.

Status (May, 2012)

The initial funding provided in 2000-2005 allowed most parks to conduct field studies to determine the occurrence of vertebrates and vascular plants. These are groups for which methodology and taxonomy were better developed at the time, and therefore could be surveyed more efficiently; however, only limited work on the distribution and abundance of the park's highest-priority species could be undertaken.

Additional field investigations will be conducted as funding becomes available to provide baseline data on the occurrence, distribution, and abundance of species that parks determine to be of highest priority for management and conservation. Advances in methodology, technology, and taxonomy now make it possible to efficiently survey groups other than vertebrates and vascular plants that were not included in the initial inventory efforts.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster