What We Monitor

Water, plant communities, birds, and amphibians – these are “vital signs” that help indicate the health of park ecosystems. Our scientists look at what key resources are present in the park, if they are stable or changing, and how ecosystems are changing over time. The information we collect can help park managers make sound, science-based decisions about the future. (Learn more about how we manage this irreplaceable ecological data.)

Vital Signs

  • Clouds turn peach-colored on a blue sky at sunset.
    Air Quality

    Air quality affects views and natural resources like lakes, streams, plants, and wildlife.

  • Northern red salamander

    Amphibians react strongly to human disturbance, showing land and water condition.

  • Hooded warbler on a branch

    We monitor bird community composition and abundance in 11 parks.

  • A woman measures the width of a tree.
    Forest Vegetation

    The Eastern Deciduous Forest makes up two-thirds of NCRN park land and is crucial wildlife habitat.

  • Looking down on the light green leaves of Japanese barberry.
    Invasive Plants

    Invasive plants can spread rapidly, displace native plants, and alter ecological processes.

  • Spongy moth
    Forest Pests

    Insect pests and pathogens can damage plants and change natural forest communities.

  • Map of DC and surroundings showing impervious surface in orange and red colors

    Changes in nearby landcover and land use affect park natural resources.

  • Hands hold a brook trout over a white bucket.
    Stream Biota

    Fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates are sensitive to changes in water quality, making them good indicators of aquatic ecosystems.

  • Field technician stands in a stream with water quality monitoring equipment.
    Stream Water Quality

    Information on water quality and nutrient levels in streams helps park managers manage potential impacts.

  • Snowy forest
    Weather & Climate

    Weather and climate affect short-term and long-term changes in ecological systems.

Last updated: October 21, 2022