National Park Service

Appalachian Highlands Network (APHN)

Landscape Change Monitoring

Map showing patch size as defined by road networks
Map showing patch size as defined by road networks at BISO

Resource Brief: Landscape Change Monitoring in APHN

There are currently no other documents or reports pertaining to this topic.

The monitoring protocol and procedures for this topic are currently under development.

For more information contact: Brian Witcherp>

Affected Parks

  • Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (BISO)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (BLRI)
  • Obed Wild & Scenic River (OBRI)

Importance / Issues

This protocol will address two broad categories of landscape-level change: 1) changes in external land cover and land use patterns potentially impacting resources within the parks; and, 2) changes in the composition and structure of dominant vegetation types within the parks.

It is important to monitor external landscape changes because they may provide an early indication of resource changes to be expected within the parks. External land cover and land use patterns influence Network park resources in many ways. Development along park boundaries may fragment sensitive habitats, introduce exotic species, alter animal migration patterns, spoil scenic vistas, or expand wildland-urban interface zones. Upstream resource extraction, development, or water withdrawal may impact water quality and quantity in downstream environments within the parks.

Within the parks, the arrangement of habitats, as well as differences in habitat quality, influence the ecological functioning of plants and animals in the landscape. Despite their protected status and considerable acreage, Network parks have been altered by numerous biotic and abiotic factors which continue to threaten their ecological integrity. The balsam wooly adelgid, for example, has nearly eliminated mature Fraser fir from high-elevation spruce-fir forests in the Southern Appalachians, and the hemlock adelgid is currently devestating populations of both eastern species of hemlock. As temperature and precipitation regimes change and infestation by exotic species accelerates in coming years, the composition and condition of habitats within the parks will likely be significantly altered.

Preliminary Monitoring Objectives

Specific objectives are to:

  1. To periodically (once every 5 to 10 years) determine status and trends in the spatial extent and configuration of land use and land cover (Anderson Level II) adjacent to park lands, in order to evaluate large scale changes affecting park resources.
  2. To periodically determine status and trends of key landscape metrics (e.g. proportion of area in different cover types, number and density of patches, mean patch size, patch connectivity) of lands adjacent to the parks.
  3. To periodically document long-term changes in the abundance, distribution and health of dominant vegetation types within the parks.


This protocol will not consist of sampling design procedures and field methods that are comparable to those for other resources, rather it will recommend a decision making process for acquiring imagery and creating land cover maps to meet park-specific objectives. The protocol will also describe standard operating procedures for conducting habitat pattern analyses and for detecting long-term change using map or image comparisons.

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Last Updated: October 05, 2017 Contact Webmaster