National Park Service

Chihuahuan Desert Network (CHDN)


Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park

National Park managers are confronted with increasingly complex and challenging issues that require broad-based understanding of the condition of park resources as a foundation for making decisions, working with other agencies, and communicating with the public to protect park natural systems and native species. Monitoring data help to define the normal limits of natural variation in park resources, detect long-term environmental change, provide insights into the ecological consequences of change, and help decision makers to determine if observed change in resource condition warrants changes in management objectives or practices.

The intent of park monitoring is to track select physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems (referred to as "vital signs") that represent the overall health or condition of park resources, known or suspected effects of stressors, or elements that have important human values. The elements and processes monitored are just part of the total suite of natural resources that park managers are directed to preserve "unimpaired for future generations," including water, air, geological resources, plants and animals, and the various ecological, biological, and physical processes that act on those resources.

The first few years of monitoring data are being used to document baseline conditions for vital signs in selected ecosystems of CHDN parks. Over the long term, data collected following the procedures detailed in monitoring protocols will provide park managers with information describing the status and long-term trends in the condition of park resources. This information can help park managers to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions aimed at protecting or restoring park resources.

The Vital Signs Monitoring Plan for the Chihuahuan Desert Network provides a detailed description of how vital signs (the select elements and processes) were chosen, and CHDN's strategy for developing and implementing the monitoring program. The table below shows the protocols developed to monitor vital signs.

Published Protocols Vital Signs
CHDN air quality icon symbol
Air Quality
  • Ozone
  • Atmospheric Deposition (wet and dry)
  • Visibility and Particulate Matter
CHDN dune dynamics icon symbol
Dune Dynamics
  • Dune Formation and Stability
  • Dune Morphology
CHDN groundwater icon symbol
  • Groundwater Quantity
CHDN invasive plants icon symbol
Invasive Exotic Plants
  • Distribution & Abundance of Invasive/Non-native Plants
CHDN landbirds icon symbol
  • Bird Communities
CHDN upland icon symbol
Upland Soils and Vegetation
  • Bare Ground
  • Biological Soil Crusts
  • Soil Erosion (Wind and Water)
  • Soil Hydrologic Function
  • Plant Community Composition
Protocols in Development  
CHDN climate icon symbol
  • Basic Meteorology
CHDN landscape dynamics icon symbol
Landscape Dynamics
  • Land Cover
  • Land Use Changes
CHDN river channel icon symbol
River Channel Morphology
  • River Channel Characteristics
CHDN springs icon symbol
  • Surface Water Dynamics
  • Persistence of Springs
  • Surface Water Quantity
  • Aquatic Invertebrates

⇑ To Top of Page

Last Updated: January 13, 2017 Contact Webmaster