What We Monitor

We track selected flora, fauna and ecological processes in parks. We do so using rigorous, detailed protocols. These include water and air resources, plants and animals, and regional land cover. Monitoring information informs managers in their stewardship of park resources.


  • Garlic Mustard at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

    Invasive, Non-native Plants

    Invasive Non-native plants often spread rapidly, displace native plants, and alter ecological processes.

  • Blooming Missouri bladderpod flowers. Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

    Missouri bladderpod

    Given the natural rarity of the Missouri bladderpod, proper stewardship of existing habitat is critical for the conservation of the species.

  • Thickets at Homestead National Monument of America

    Vegetation Communities

    Native and restored plant communities are part of the foundation of park ecosystems.

  • Flowering western prairie fringed orchid. © Susan Bury (CC BY-NC).

    Western Prairie Fringed Orchid

    The western prairie fringed orchid is classified as imperiled or critically imperiled in eight states and one Canadian province.

  • Beaver Marsh


    Wetlands are important sites of biodiversity, providing habitat for nearly half of all endangered species.


  • Measuring water velocity as invertebrates are collected with a net

    Aquatic Invertebrates

    Aquatic invertebrates react strongly and predictably to human disturbance making them an effective tool to monitor stream water quality.

  • River flowing through a forested landscape

    Elemental Contaminants

    Park managers need to track concentrations of potentially toxic elemental contaminants for both human health and ecological reasons.

  • Longear sunfish

    Fish Communities

    Assessment of entire fish communities provides information on ecosystem integrity and function.

  • Pulltite Spring at Ozark National Scenic Riverways

    Spring Communities

    The irregular limestone topography surrounding Ozark National Scenic Riverways is conducive to the formation of springs—there are over 300.


  • Bobolink perched at Pipestone National Monument.

    Breeding Birds

    The Heartland Network monitors bird community composition and abundance in 11 parks to detect trends and compare with changes in habitat.

  • A deer at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.

    White-Tailed Deer

    Monitoring data can help parks identify and potentially mitigate safety risks and plant community damage related to deer overpopulation.


  • Storm at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

    Air Quality

    Air quality affects scenic and natural resources in national parks, including lakes, streams, plants, and wildlife.

  • Prescribed fire at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

    Fire Ecology

    Analysis of fire as a management tool can aide us in understanding observed patterns in grassland plant and wildlife monitoring data.

  • SPOT Imagery of Hopewell Culture National Historic Park used for Land Cover Analysis

    Land Cover

    Understanding landscape changes gives us insight into how these changes can affect park natural resources.

Last updated: March 6, 2019