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Resource Inventories

Discovering America’s natural heritage

Preserving the unimpaired splendor of the national parks for the enjoyment of future generations is the fundamental purpose of the National Park Service. This mission includes protecting the clear, star- filled skies over places like the Grand Canyon and ensuring that creatures like the grizzly bear
and black -footed ferret grace our lands in perpetuity. The safekeeping of the awe-inspiring natural wonders in our national parks requires the identification of their key components, including living things, natural processes, and landscape features. Natural resource inventories allow managers to account for park resources, such as the presence and distribution of plants, animals, and nonliving resources such as water, landforms, and climate in the parks. This type of baseline information is needed to make scientifically sound management decisions that ensure the future health of the parks.
The National Park Service is undergoing a comprehensive inventory effort under the Natural Resource Challenge program.

The goal is to help every park with significant natural resources complete basic inventories, documenting such things as soils, vegetation, biological diversity, geologic resources, and water
quality. In order to reach this ambitious goal, the National Park Service has organized parks into 32 networks. Individual networks will link parks that share similar geographic and natural resource characteristics to facilitate collaboration, information sharing, and cost savings. Each network will develop systematic approaches for inventorying the plants and animals found in its parks.

To ensure that inventories result in the highest-quality scientific information possible, the National Park Service is working with scientists from other agencies with expertise in specialized areas. Additionally, inventory efforts are being closely coordinated to ensure that they satisfy the following important criteria.

  • Inventories produce the “core” or baseline information that park managers need to effectively manage and protect park resources.
  • Inventories are being conducted in accordance with specified protocols and quality assurance standards.
  • Data obtained through the inventories are compatible, allowing for synthesis and analysis at broader levels.

Inventories not conducted by networks, including partnership efforts with other
state and federal agencies, are being coordinated by the Natural Resource Program Center in Colorado. For example, the National Park Service is working cooperatively with state geologic
agencies to produce geologic maps and assessments. Similarly, the National Park
Service has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop vegetation maps that will be used for resource management activities, including fire management. Partnerships allow the
National Park Service to acquire inventory data in an efficient, timely, and cost-effective manner.

Through the inventory process the National Park Service will begin to realize its potential as a major force in fundamental research on biological diversity, ecology, and conservation.

Basic Natural Resource Inventories and Tools

  • Natural Resource Bibliographies
    Bibliographies of existing research are made available to all parks to help them identify inventory needs.
  • Base Cartography Data
    Digital cartographic products that park managers need to prepare maps and perform spatial analyses and assessments are being acquired.
  • Species Occurrence Inventory
    Lists of the vertebrates and vascular plants currently known to occur in
    parks have been and continue to be compiled and verified. New field inventories are documenting additional species, especially those in plant and animal groups left out of previous inventories.
  • Species Distribution Inventory
    New field inventories are also focusing on the distribution of species of concern to managers, including threatened and endangered species and exotics.
  • Vegetation Maps
    All parks will be provided maps of their vegetative communities based on recent aerial photography and following a standard classification.
  • Soil Resources Inventory
    Soils maps are being created for parks through a partnership with the Natural
    Resource Conservation Service. Additional products include data about physical and chemical properties of those soils and information derived from those data about potentialities and problems of use on each kind of soil
  • Geologic Information Inventory
    Geologic maps and digital products for parks are being completed through partnerships with
    the U.S. Geological Survey and state geologic agencies. Also included are an on-site evaluation of park geologic maps, resources and issues and a geologic report with basic geologic information on geologic setting and history, geologic hazards, and other geologic related issues.
  • Water Resource Inventory
    The locations of streams, lakes, and wetlands are being documented digitally.
  • Water Chemistry Inventory
    Water quality information is being collected for all “key” water bodies found in the parks.
  • Air Quality Inventory
    Where the National Park Service does not have its own monitoring stations,
    data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality monitoring stations near parks are
    being summarized into an air quality atlas to assess air quality conditions in parks.
  • Air Quality-Related Values Assessment
    Basic air quality-related information includes identification of visibility and
    other park resources that may be affected by air quality. The information
    will be available through a Web-based computer program.
  • Climate Data Inventory
    Basic meteorological parameters such as precipitation and daily temperature
    are being collected.
updated on 10/08/2003   I   /managingprotecting/resourceinventories.htm   I  Email:Webmaster
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