National Park Service

Northeast Temperate Network (NETN)

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Background

Between 1989 and 2001 NPS cooperated with each of the fourteen (14) state Natural Heritage programs to document vascular plants and rare or exemplary communities found on APPA lands. The inventories conducted by the Natural Heritage programs were extensive but not exhaustive, documenting approximately 530 total species and 1,750 species occurrences. Each inventory included descriptions and maps of each species occurrence, as well as threats and management recommendations to protect them. Although the majority of the species detected in the inventories are not legally threatened or endangered, many of them are species that are being impacted by various stressors and could provide an early warning of ecological changes. Approximately 22% of all species occurrences have been monitored since the APPA rare plant monitoring program was started in 1999. Monitoring has been qualitative, relying on volunteers to make visual observations to assess plant and population condition. In 2007, the NETN funded a programmatic review of the existing program that resulted in more than 80 recommendations for improvement (Dufour 2008). Following the review, a new protocol was drafted in 2008 that addressed many of the identified concerns (Tierney 2010). The new protocol was tested during 2009 and 2010.


Importance & Issues

The 2010 field season proved problematic because few field visits were initiated and very little data were collected. Though it had been intended to monitor rare plant resources along the APPA at the start of the 2010 field season, changes in priorities and resource availability prevented that from happening. During November 2010, APPA resource managers met to discuss a variety of issues including the future of the rare plant monitoring program. The value of the new protocol notwithstanding, resource managers acknowledged that data collected during recent years has diverged progressively from data available from the originating state natural heritage programs and that sustaining an independent APPA-centered rare plant monitoring program was no longer possible. Managers decided to re-prioritize all rare plant occurrences, determine which are actively monitored by others entities, and identify a select few rare plant occurrences to which limited resources will be directed.

Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine long-term trends and variability in number of individuals and life-stage distribution for selected occurrences of rare, threatened, and endangered (RTE) plant species;
  • Determine long-term trends and variability in spatial extent of selected occurrences of RTE plant species;
  • Identify threats to selected occurrences of RTE plant species.

Potential Measures

Field methods are being carefully designed for implementation by trained volunteer monitors. The protocol uses a combination of straightforward quantitative and qualitative measurements to track size and condition of known rare plant occurrences, as well as tracking spatial extent of the occurrence, important site variables and visible threats. The protocol has been kept simple and requires only a few basic pieces of equipment. It was designed to be used for monitoring a wide variety of plant lifeforms, including herb/forbs, trees, shrubs, graminoids (grasses and sedges), and non-vascular plants, and methods vary slightly for applicability to different lifeforms.


 

Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster