What We Monitor

Water, forest vegetation, birds, fish, air quality—these are some of the park "vital signs" chosen by park and partner scientists for us to monitor.

Vital signs are particular species, habitats, landscapes, and abiotic factors (e.g., water, air, soil) that help indicate the overall health or condition of park ecosystems. These key elements, and their associated processes, are part of what park managers are charged with conserving "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Knowing if and how key resources are changing can help park managers develop sound approaches for management, restoration, and mitigation.

Our Vital Signs

  • A view from an overlook on a mountain looking into a valley with foothills in the distance

    Air Quality

    Park managers benefit from knowing the type and extent of various air pollutants in order to evaluate their impacts on park resources.

  • Closeup of a common crayfish crawling over gravel

    Benthic Macroinvertebrates

    This diverse group of creatures occupies stream beds and is a vital component of all healthy stream ecosystems.

  • Orange bird with a black head perched on a tree branch. Credit: Jessica Weinberg McClosky.

    Breeding Birds

    Many network parks have birds that are declining throughout their range, highlighting the need for understanding their status and trends.

  • Brook trout swimming in a rocky stream


    The relatively pristine and high elevation streams found in Shenandoah currently support increasingly rare coldwater fish communities.

  • Forest in the fall in Petersburg National Battlefield Park, with all of the leaves turned to yellow

    Forest Vegetation

    All Mid-Atlantic Network parks have forests that form an essential part of the landscape and provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife.

  • Device recording water chemistry at the edge of a stream beside a data sheet and pencil

    Water Quality & Quantity

    Monitoring water quality & quantity helps the National Park Service fulfill its duty to protect pristine (or improve impaired) park waters.

  • Climate monitoring station in a grassy clearing, with many scientific instruments scattered about.

    Weather & Climate

    Climate is a dominant factor driving the physical and ecologic processes affecting Mid-Atlantic Network parks.

Source: Data Store Collection 4344. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: December 19, 2018