National Park Service

Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN)

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Water quality monitoring, North Creek, Zion NP. NPS photo
Water quality monitoring, North Creek, Zion National Park

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. In situations where natural areas have been so highly altered that physical and biological processes no longer operate (e.g., control of fires and floods in developed areas), information obtained through monitoring can help managers understand how to develop the most effective approach to restoration or, in cases where restoration is impossible, ecologically sound management.

The NCPN Monitoring Plan provides a detailed description of the strategy for monitoring these vital signs. The table below shows the detailed monitoring protocols used to sample these vital signs to date.

Vital Signs
Protocol Status
  • Ozone
  • Visibility and particulate matter
  • Wet and dry Deposition
  • Riparian plant communities
  • Surface water dynamics
  • Fluvial geomorphology
In Development
  • Climate and Weather
  • Early detection of invasive plants
  • Vegetation phenology
  • Phenology and climate correlates
  • Extent and duration of snow cover
In Development
  • Landbirds
  • Remotely sensed land-cover change
  • Springs, seeps, and hanging garden communities
In Development
  • Native grasslands
  • Shrublands
  • Predominant plant communities
  • Upland nutrient cycle
  • Biological soil crusts
  • Upland hydrologic function
  • Upland soil/site stability
  • Riparian plant communities
  • Surface water dynamics
  • Groundwater dynamics
  • Stream/Wetland hydrologic function
  • Water Chemistry

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster