Established as part of the National Park System in 1996, Boston Harbor Islands NRA has a threefold purpose of (1) preserving and protecting a drumlin island system within Boston Harbor, along with its associated natural, cultural, and historic resources, (2) telling the islands' individual stories and enhancing public understanding and appreciation of the island system as a whole, and (3) providing public access, where appropriate, to the islands and surrounding waters for education, enjoyment, and scientific and scholarly research for this and future generations. Managed by a unique 13-member partnership, the park's 34 islands are rich in both human history and breeding bird habitat. In 2002, the park was designated as a Massachusetts Important Bird Area (IBA). The IBA program, overseen by the international nonprofit group BirdLife, includes more than 2,000 sites in over 20 countries worldwide.
The Boston Harbor Islands are part of the only drumlin (an elongated hill in the shape of an inverted spoon or half-buried egg formed by glacial ice) field in the United States that intersects a coastline. Located in the Northeastern Coastal Zone level III ecoregion, the islands have a humid maritime climate characterized by a moderate annual range of temperatures and definite summer and winter seasons. The park encompasses a total of 1,480 terrestrial acres, with islands and peninsulas ranging in size from a quarter to over 300 acres. In addition, the park includes approximately 34 miles of shoreline and 1583 acres of intertidal habitat.
The Boston Harbor Islands Partnership facilitates natural, cultural, and social science studies and scholarly research. These studies support the park mission by providing a cumulative and constantly refined understanding of park resources, along with an understanding of park visitors, the non-visiting public, and human interactions with park resources. This approach provides a scholarly or scientific basis for planning, development, and management decisions.
Long Term Monitoring Programs in the Park
Park Baseline Inventories
The Inventory and Monitoring Program provides guidance, funding, and technical assistance for parks to complete a set of 12 baseline, or "basic", natural resource inventories. These basic inventories are common to all parks with significant natural resources, and are intended to provide park managers with the minimum information needed to effectively manage the natural resources of their park.
Park Species ListsSpecies lists are available from NPSpecies, the National Park Service's tool for documenting park biodiversity. Keep in mind that these species lists are a work-in-progress. Changes and updates are made as more species are shepherded through a rigorous vetting process. The absence of a species from a list produced with the tool below doesn't necessarily mean the species is absent from a park.
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How National Parks in urban settings provide valuable refuges to wildlife: from water birds at Boston Harbor Islands to threatened bats at Rock Creek Park, and the contributions that monitoring by citizen scientists and NPS employees make to preserving them.
Natural Resource Briefs for Boston Harbor Islands NRAClick link below to view all the short briefs about the long-term monitoring and natural resouces of the park.
Non NPS Citizen Science Opportunities in the Park
Bird observations on eBirdThe Boston Harbor Islands have been set up in eBird as birding "hotspots". Help the park bolster bird data by adding your bird obsevations to eBird when you visit the park.
Download a bird checklist compiled using eBird data, NPSpecies info, and NETN's longterm coastal breeding bird monitoring program in the Islands. 11x17 PDF 1.3 MB
Species observations from iNaturalist
Boston Harbor Islands NRA Science Stories
Last updated: September 28, 2020