National Park Service

Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network (ERMN)


Enthusiastic field crew during training
Enthusiastic field crew during training

The intent of park vital signs monitoring is to track a subset of physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems that are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources, known or hypothesized effects of stressors, or elements that have important human values.

The elements and processes that are monitored are a subset 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 broad-based, scientifically sound information obtained through natural resource monitoring will have multiple applications for management decision-making, research, education, and promoting public understanding of park resources.

The five Goals of Vital Signs Monitoring that the 32 networks of parks are addressing as they design and implement their natural resource monitoring program are as follows:

  1. Determine the status and trends in selected indicators of the condition of park ecosystems to allow managers to make better-informed decisions and to work more effectively with other agencies and individuals for the benefit of park resources.
  2. Provide early warning of abnormal conditions of selected resources to help develop effective mitigation measures and reduce costs of management.
  3. Provide data to better understand the dynamic nature and condition of park ecosystems and to provide reference points for comparisons with other, altered environments.
  4. Provide data to meet certain legal and Congressional mandates related to natural resource protection and visitor enjoyment.
  5. Provide a means of measuring progress towards performance goals.


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