Benchmarks for Assessing the Condition of Park Natural Resources
Dr. Peter Vaux
Mitchell Center for Environmental & Watershed Research
University of Maine-Orono
Orono, ME 04469
Delivered at 2008 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium.
In 2003, Congress instructed and funded the National Park Service (NPS) to assess the condition of, and threats to, natural resources in watersheds where national park units are located. Assessments focus on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Since 2006, the NPS has initiated condition assessments of 77 park units.
An assessment of current conditions of the natural resources of Boston Harbor Islands began in 2007 and will be completed in 2009. These assessments do not involve collection of new data; rather they are based on compilation, analysis and synthesis of previously-collected information. Key challenges for assessing condition include: (i) working with heterogeneous data sets, many of which were not collected to measure condition, per se; (ii) identifying relevant metrics; and (iii) defining benchmarks against which metric data can be scaled. Benchmarks can include desired conditions, criteria based on regulatory and ecological premises, comparisons to regional populations (e.g. ecoregions and other spatial frameworks) and historical conditions. This presentation discusses approaches to defining benchmark conditions for national park units in the Northeast Region and examines their utility for assessing condition of Boston Harbor Islands.