National Park Service

Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN)

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Uplands Monitoring

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Contact: Dana Witwicki
Uplands monitoring plot, Dinosaur NM. NPS photo Uplands monitoring plot, Dinosaur National Monument


Uplands represent the vast majority of land area in the Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN), and include rock outcrops, badlands, shrublands, grasslands, woodlands, and forests. Upland vegetation provides energy to other trophic levels, habitat structure for various organisms, and is a significant component of species diversity. The ability of uplands to retain soil and nutrients, absorb and release water, and buffer high-runoff precipitation events is a major influence on riparian condition. Upland ecosystems are easily disturbed and slow to recover, yet several NCPN units contain relatively undisturbed examples of grasslands and shrublands. Historic land uses include livestock and timber production; more recently, recreational use has increased. To effectively manage uplands, the National Park Service needs to know the impacts of these uses.

Long-term Monitoring

Uplands monitoring includes measuring soil stability, hydrologic function, biological soil crusts, and plant community characteristics. The NCPN uses a complex survey design to select randomized sampling plots that are visited in two consecutive years, followed by a relatively long interval between revisits (3-6 years). This design minimizes the chances that sensitive, arid-ecosystem plots will be damaged by repeated visits in successive years and is a cost-effective way to estimate the health of upland ecosystems across a large area. NCPN uplands monitoring is intended to strike a balance between increasing fundamental understanding of these systems and providing managers with early warning of undesirable change.

Park Units Monitored

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster