Vital signs are physical resources and processes (such as air, water, climate, fire, erosion), biological attributes (such as species and biological communities), and ecological processes (such as disturbance and productivity) that occur within park ecosystems. I&M networks, in conjunction with parks, select a subset of vital signs that can represent the overall health or condition of park natural resources. Learn more about vital signs.
By monitoring vital signs over the long term, the Gulf Coast Network and park staff can determine if significant changes are happening 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 Gulf Coast Network monitors seven vital signs in total, with each being monitored in one or more of eight parks. The network also provides techical assistance to parks on selected topics. See the pages below for more information on each vital sign and technical assistance topic.