Vital signs are a set of physical elements, chemical elements, biological elements, or processes that occur within park ecosystems. They are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources, effects of stressors, or elements that have important human values. Broadly speaking, park vital signs may include:
- Geologic resources
- Plants and animals, and
- Various ecological, biological, and physical processes that act on those resources.
By monitoring vital signs over the long term, the Cumberland Piedmont Network and park staff can determine if significant changes have occurred and can begin to understand why. Such knowledge is essential for meeting the NPS mission of preserving park resources "unimpaired for future generations."
In situations where natural areas have been so highly altered that normal processes no longer operate, monitoring can also help natural resource managers develop the most effective approach to restoration or ecologically sound management.
The Cumberland Piedmont Network Monitoring Plan provides a detailed description of the strategy for monitoring these vital signs.