National Park Service

Rocky Mountain I&M Network

Monitoring Protocols

Protocols are the core of the ROMN monitoring program, describing what will be measured where, how, and how often. Protocols are detailed study plans designed to ensure that changes detected by monitoring actually are occurring; that is, that they do not stem from measurement variability introduced when different people or methods are used.

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 (SOPs) that explain, in a step-by-step manner, how each procedure will be accomplished. Protocols also identify supporting materials critical to their development and implementation, such as databases, reports, maps, geospatial information, species lists, species guilds, analysis tools tested, and any decisions resulting from these exploratory analyses.

Because most protocols address multiple vital signs, the ROMN program is organized around protocols, rather than vital signs. The table below shows the relationship between ROMN monitoring protocols and vital signs.

Published Protocols Vital Signs
Alpine Vegetation Composition Structure and Soils Monitoring (GLORIA)
  1. Vegetation Composition Structure and Soils (alpine habitats)
  2. Invasive Plants
  3. Focal Species (elk)
  4. Weather and Climate
Rocky Mountain Climate
  1. Weather and Climate
Snow Chemistry
  1. Wet and Dry Deposition
  2. Weather and Climate
Vegetation Composition Structure and Soils Small Park Grasslands, Shrublands, and Woodlands
  1. Vegetation Composition Structure and Soils (small park grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands)
  2. Invasive/Exotic Plants
  3. Focal Species (elk)
Protocols in Preperation Vital Signs
Stream Ecological Integrity
  1. Water Chemistry
  2. Surface Water Dynamics
  3. Ground Water Dynamics
  4. Fresh Water Communities
  5. Invasive Exotic Aquatic Biota
  6. Focal Species (beaver)
Wetland Ecological Integrity
  1. Wetland Communities
  2. Invasive/Exotic Plants
  3. Ground Water Dynamics
  4. Surface Water Dynamics
  5. Water Chemistry
  6. Focal Species (beaver and elk)
Protocols to be Developed Vital Signs
Alpine Lakes
Ecological Integrity
  1. Water Chemistry
  2. Fresh Water Communities
  3. Invasive/Exotic Aquatic Biota
  4. Focal Species (beaver)
Great Sand Dunes Endemic Insects
  1. Focal Species (GRSA endemic insects)
Invasive Plants - Early Detection
  1. Invasive/Exotic Plants
  2. Vegetation Composition Structure and Soils
  3. Wetland Communities
Landscape Dyanmics
  1. Landscape Dynamics
  2. Focal Species (beaver, elk, and grizzly)

Published Protocols

For efficiency and to enhance interpretation, some ROMN vital signs will be monitored at the same time and place as others, and thus are included in the same protocol(s). Other vital signs appear in more than one protocol.

Monitoring development and implementation are staggered through time and parks.The ROMN initiated protocol development for Vegetation Compostion, Structure, and Soils: (with Alpine as a separate protocol), and Wetland Ecological Integrity in FY2006. Development of the Stream Ecological Integrity protocol began in FY2007. Snow Chemistry (as a key part of our Wet and Dry Deposition vital sign) monitoring is being integrated with the USGS Snow Monitoring Network. Through this partnership, the ROMN began receiving and analyzing data on snowpack (snow–water equivalent; SWE) and snow chemistry (concentrations of chemical ions) in FY2007.

Weather and Climate data are collected by other agencies, especially NOAA–NWS. Methodology and analyses may vary as dynamics and other vital signs dictate, but core data on weather and climate (e.g., daily temperature and precipitation derivatives) will be collected, analyzed, and reported with all vital signs. The ROMN investigated development of the Alpine Lake Ecological Integrity protocol (e.g., at the Alpine Monitoring Workshop), and an approved protocol exists (i.e., the NCCN's), but ROMN implementation of alpine lake monitoring will occur only as financial resources permit and management needs for natural resource data demand.

Immediate implementation of one component of Invasive/Exotic Plants monitoring began in FY2007, when data collection for target species was added to the Vegetation Composition, Structure, and Soils methods, and Wetland Ecological Integrity methods. A second phase of invasive plant monitoring, using models and field data for rapid detection of new arrivals, is targeted for future development, based on the methods and recommendations of several ongoing research programs funded by the NPS. The GRSA Endemic Insects protocol will likely be developed through cooperative agreements, and will take several years to complete. The Focal Species–Beaver protocol is integrated with the Stream, Wetland, and Alpine Lake Ecological Integrity protocols. Elk and grizzly focal-species protocols are currently not targeted for priority implementation due to costs associated with wildlife monitoring and the ongoing efforts by GLAC, GRSA, and ROMO relative to these species.

Go to Vital Sign Description Page

Focal Species Vital Signs and Protocols

For the elk, beaver and grizzly bear vital signs, ROMN monitoring will be conducted within other protocols. For example, the GLAC Landscape Dynamics protocol will detail methods for monitoring important aspects of grizzly bear habitat such as road density and land cover, and how the ROMN will relate this work to existing population monitoring. The Wetland Ecological Integrity protocol will include methods for monitoring elk herbivory and other aspects of elk habitat, and how the ROMN will relate this information to park-based population monitoring. ROMN protocols for Stream and Wetland Ecological Integrity and Landscape Dynamics will include methods for monitoring presence/absence of beaver and status and trend in beaver-built structures such as dams, canals, and lodges.

Because little is known about the species, habitat, and populations of the seven (or more?) GRSA endemic insects, the ROMN is working with the park on research and development for a possible monitoring protocol.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster