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Status and Future

The National Park System contains substantial ocean and coastal resources. However, these resources are declining and rapidly approaching critical levels beyond which recovery may not be possible. As species are extirpated and ecosystems lose resilience and degrade into simplified states, opportunities for restoration fade. Ocean and Great Lakes parks face unprecedented challenges. To meet these challenges, park managers need better information about the condition of submerged natural and cultural resources; models that predict the impacts of sea level, temperature, and other changes on coastal ecosystems; and innovative mitigation and restoration techniques. Critical to improved ocean conservation in the National Park System are partnerships with other ocean and coastal agencies, especially those that manage contiguous areas, and local communities to facilitate communication, cooperation and collaboration. Parks have a unique opportunity to provide education and outreach to the public on the consequences of threats including climate change. Doing a better job of connecting people to ocean parks may be the most important task ahead.

Last Updated: December 20, 2011