A Conceptual Basis for Natural Resource Monitoring
Knowing the condition of natural resources in national parks is fundamental to the National Park Service's (NPS) mission to maintain park resources "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Most parks are open systems vulnerable to threats such as air and water pollution and invasive species, which originate outside of the park's boundaries. Understanding the dynamic nature of park ecosystems and the consequences of human activities is essential for management decision-making aimed to maintain, enhance, or restore the ecological integrity of park ecosystems. A nationwide Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) program was launched to determine status and trends of indicators (or 'vital signs') that represent the condition of park ecosystems. Vital signs monitoring is meant to provide early warning of abnormal conditions and impairment of selected resources and data to better understand the dynamic nature and condition of park ecosystems. The I&M program will ultimately help managers make better-informed decisions and work more effectively with stakeholders who benefit from proper park stewardship.