As seen from the parks' mountaintop vistas, forests spread over ridges and river valleys. These landscapes of rolling green are complex ecosystems that provides habitat for countless plants, animals, fungi, and insects. Beyond providing beautiful landscapes for hiking, boating and other outdoor recreation, forests maintain soil stability and protect water quality. Forests also influence our weather and regional air quality.
The Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network collects information on the condition of park forests, and how those conditions are shifting over time. Park forests are constantly changing as a result of severe weather, invasive plants and animals, and the natural processes of maturing forests. Many other factors such as geology, soil quality, and land-use history also strongly influence the condition of the forests. We use a network of 360 permanent monitoring plots established across eight parks to track forest health. Within the plots, we collect information on tree growth and health, forest regeneration, diversity of plants on the forest floor, invasive species, among other indicators. This long-term monitoring increases park managers’ understanding of park ecosystems, improves their ability to steward park resources, and allows them to adjust to and mitigate threats to park vegetation.