BETTER SCIENCE, BETTER DECISIONS, BETTER PARKS
Significant threats to the most treasured natural resources within our nation’s parks represent and bring focus to key environmental issues that require much needed attention and effective interventions. Unfortunately, park boundaries alone do not provide adequate protection for the wildlife, plants, air, and water within them. Much more needs to be learned and done to protect endangered species, restore native plants and animals, sustain viable wildlife populations, reduce light and noise pollution, improve air and water quality, remove invasive species, and understand and address the impacts of climate change.
To effectively address these threats, rigorous scientific research and active management is needed in parks. National parks offer a unique opportunity to conduct scientific research. Many parks have extensive historical records resulting from years of data collection. By providing these windows to the past, parks offer insight into how nature will respond to inevitable and emerging environmental challenges in the future.
Research within parks provides actionable findings to park managers as well as valuable information and education for park visitors and local community members.
Unfortunately, funding for this type of science and stewardship in parks is woefully inadequate. The National Park Service is often not able to make the strategic research investments necessary to combat more complex, emerging issues. Most funding is now used to respond to parks’ most immediate concerns. We believe that more resources are needed to fund the strategic projects necessary to understand and effectively respond to threats presented by the changing environment and to make investments for the long-term future of the parks.
Over 2300 Species Found at “BioBlitz” at Golden Gate Parks:
More than 6,000 people, including 2,700 school children, 320 scientists and 55 exhibitors participated in a 24 hours species inventory and two day Biodiversity Festival, March 28-29, 2014, at park units in the Golden Gate area (Pt. Reyes National Seashore; Muir Woods National Monument; the Presidio of San Francisco; Mori Point; and Rancho Corral de Tierra). The initial count was 2,304 species, with the number expected to increase significantly as identification of specimens continues.
Exciting inventories and finds included:
- the first-ever canopy survey of redwoods at Muir Woods,
- first park observation of a gulf fritillary butterfly in the Presidio,
- first park sighting of a climbing salamander in Muir Woods, and
- a mountain lion photographed at Corral de Tierra
Six Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors participated in BioBlitz and will share their experiences with youth in their hometowns and local parks. NPS Director Jon Jarvis joined BioBlitzers in the field and spoke at the event’s closing ceremony.
Many thanks to the National Geographic Society, which has partnered with the National Park Service to hold BioBlitzes around the country. The next BioBlitz will be held at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on May 15-16, 2015.
Climate Change Places Pikas in Peril:
How will future climate change scenarios in the western United States affect the American pika, a species sensitive to temperature and climate? The “Pikas in Peril” research team, composed of National Park Service staff and academic researchers, are collaborating on a 3-year research project to address this question.
The project objectives are to:
- document pika occurrence patterns and predict pika distribution across eight national parks in the western United States;
- measure gene flow and model connectivity of pika populations in five of those parks; and
- project climate change effects on the future distribution, connectivity, and vulnerability of pika populations in each park.
Systematic pika occupancy surveys were conducted in 2010 and 2011 across a range of latitudes, longitudes, elevations, and substrate types (talus slopes vs. lava beds). Analyses of DNA extracted from fecal pellets collected during occupancy surveys will document recent gene flow patterns. The distribution, habitat, connectivity, and genetic data and models will be combined to conduct a quantitative vulnerability assessment that explicitly predicts pika response to climate change. By assessing the vulnerability of this sentinel species, the research team will provide park managers with insights into the expected rate and magnitude of climate-related changes in park ecosystems
Futuristic Technology Used to Monitor Ancient Fossils at White Sands National Monument:
An ‘unmanned aviation vehicle’ (UAV) was used to evaluate and monitor thousands of fossil mammal footprints preserved in playa lake and lake margin deposits at the White Sand NM in New Mexico. The Honeywell T-Hawk (“Tarantula Hawk”) UAV platform enables the integration of geospatial data, aerial photogrammetry, and videography to support an unprecedented application of this technology for paleontological resource management and scientific research. An interdisciplinary team of National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Geological Survey staff participated in the aerial photography and videography of sensitive and remote fossil localities at the Monument.