Upland Vegetation and Soils

Person in hat crouches to ground, looking closely at plant transect
Vegetation and soils are an important focus of network monitoring.

NPS

Uplands represent the vast majority of land area in the Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN), and include rock outcrops, badlands, shrublands, grasslands, woodlands, and forests. Upland vegetation provides energy to other trophic levels, habitat structure for various organisms, and is a significant component of species diversity. The ability of uplands to retain soil and nutrients, absorb and release water, and buffer high-runoff precipitation events is a major influence on riparian condition.

Upland ecosystems are easily disturbed and slow to recover, yet several NCPN units contain relatively undisturbed examples of grasslands and shrublands. Historic land uses include livestock and timber production; more recently, recreational use has increased. To effectively manage uplands, the National Park Service needs to know the impacts of these uses.

Uplands monitoring includes measuring soil stability, hydrologic function, biological soil crusts, and plant community characteristics. The NCPN uses a complex survey design to select randomized sampling plots that are visited in two consecutive years, followed by a relatively long interval between revisits (3–6 years). This design minimizes the chances that sensitive, arid-ecosystem plots will be damaged by repeated visits in successive years and is a cost-effective way to estimate the health of upland ecosystems across a large area. NCPN uplands monitoring is intended to strike a balance between increasing fundamental understanding of these systems and providing managers with early warning of undesirable change.

The Northern Colorado Plateau Network monitors vegetations and soils at Arches National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Dinosaur National Monument, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, and Zion National Park.

Vital Signs: Native grasslands, shrublands, predominant plant communities, upland nutrient cycle, biological soil crusts, upland hydrologic function, upland soil/site stability

Protocol Lead: Dana Witwicki

Quick Reads

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    Publications and Other Information

    Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring Briefs

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 478. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring Reports

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 455. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Upland Vegetation and Soils Monitoring Protocol

    Source: Data Store Collection 3870. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Last updated: June 1, 2018