What We Monitor

A selection of freshwater mussels on a red net found during monitoring at Big South Fork NRRA.
A selection of freshwater mussels found during monitoring at Big South Fork NRRA.

NPS Photo

The intent of park vital signs monitoring is to track a subset of physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems. These elements are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources, known or hypothesized effects of stressors, or elements that have important human values.

The elements and processes that are monitored are a subset of the total suite of natural resources that park managers are directed to preserve "unimpaired for future generations," including water, air, geological resources, plants and animals, and the various ecological, biological, and physical processes that act on those resources. In situations where natural areas have been so highly altered that physical and biological processes no longer operate (e.g., control of fires and floods in developed areas), information obtained through monitoring can help managers understand how to develop the most effective approach to restoration or, in cases where restoration is impossible, ecologically sound management.

The APHN Monitoring Plan provides a detailed description of the strategy for monitoring these vital signs.

Vital Signs

  • Panoramic shot of Blue Ridge Parkway.

    Air Quality Monitoring

    The network examines key air quality indicators including ozone, visibility and atmospheric deposition.

  • Baseline tape at cobble bar monitoring site in BISO

    Cobble Bar Monitoring

    Cumberlandian cobble bars are unique plant communities endemic to the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and Kentucky.

  • Bloodroot in flower (Sanguinaria canadensis)

    Exploited Plant Monitoring

    Illegal harvesting of plants for commercial sale in the herbal remedy and floral markets is a growing concern along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

  • littlewing pearlymussel (Pegias fabula) in a the palm of a hand

    Freshwater Mussel Monitoring

    The habitat protected by the Big South Fork is believed to be the best remaining freshwater mussel refugium in the Cumberland River system.

  • Water-quality sampling at Rock Creek at Obed Wild and Scenic River.

    Water Quality Monitoring

    The health of aquatic systems in Big South Fork NRRA and Obed WSR is largely dependent on land use activities upstream of the parks.

Last updated: August 20, 2018