National Park Service

Northeast Temperate Network (NETN)

Natural Resource Monitoring

NETN staff monitoring water at Acadia National Park
NETN staff water quality monitoring at Acadia National Park

The Inventory & Monitoring (I & M) program was created to monitor the natural resouces of more than 200 National Parks. Monitoring may be how NETN tracks the health of 13 National Parks in the Northeast, but protocols are how the monitoring is accomplished. Monitoring protocols describe what will be measured where, how, and how often. They are detailed study plans designed to verify that if changes are detected by monitoring, they are actually occurring and not being caused by measurement variability or the use of differing monitoring methods.

Each monitoring protocol includes a narrative providing the rationale for selecting a particular resource for monitoring, a framework for making necessary decisions or revisions relative to that protocol and its development, and standard operating procedures (SOP's) that explain, step-by-step, how each procedure will be accomplished. Some protocols are updated on a yearly basis and some remain unchanged for several years.

The Bicknell's Thrush is only found in high elevation areas of the Northeast, some of which is located near the Appalachian Trail
The Bicknell's Thrush is only found in high elevation areas of the Northeast, some of which areas are located near the Appalachian Trail. Steve Faccio photo.

Vital Signs

Because most protocols address multiple vital signs, the NETN program is organized around protocols, rather than vital signs. What are "vital signs"? The I & M program defines a vital sign as "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" ( Many vital signs apply to multiple parks in the network, creating a framework for a standardized, comprehensive monitoring program.

NETN vital signs were selected based on conceptual models and prioritized based on importance, management needs, and feasibility of implementation. These vital signs provide a peer-reviewed, prioritized list of monitoring categories that helps guide NETN's monitoring program. The table below shows the relationship between NETN monitoring protocols and vital signs, as well as provides links to each.

Published Protocols Vital Signs
Air Quality Acidic Deposition and stress,contaminants, ozone
Breeding Landbirds Breeding Landbirds
Coastal Birds Breeding Coastal Birds
Early Detection of Invasive Species Invasive/Exotic Plants, Invasive/Exotic Animals
Forest Health Forest Health, Forest Vegetation, Forest Soil, Invasive/Exotic Plants, Invasive/Exotic Animals, Land Cover, White-tailed Deer, Atmospheric Deposition and Stress
Lakes, Ponds, and Streams Water Quantity, Water Chemistry, Nutrient Enrichment, Invasive/Exotic Plants
Phenology Phenology, Climate
Rare Plants Rare Plants
Rare Woodland Communities Forest Vegetation, Invasive/Exotic Plants, Invasive/Exotic Animals, Visitor Use
Rocky Intertidal Communities Rocky Intertidal Vegetation, Invasive/Exotic Plants, Invasive/Exotic Animals, Shoreline Geomorphology, Visitor Use
Wetlands - Permanent Freshwater Wetland Vegetation
Weather and Climate Climate
Wetlands - Salt Marsh and Estuarine Estuarine Nutrient Enrichment, Shoreline Geomorphology

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster