Vital Signs


The NPS Inventory & Monitoring Program defines the term "vital sign" as "a subset of physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems that are selected to represent the overall health or condition of park resources, known or hypothesized effects of stressors, or elements that have important human values."

The Rocky Mountain Network has identified 12 high-priority vital signs for monitoring. In the context of the NPS Ecological Monitoring Framework, two high-priority Rocky Mountain Network vital signs relate to Air and Climate, three relate to Water, six relate to Biological Integrity, and one relates to Ecosystem Pattern and Processes.

The Rocky Mountain Network vital signs selection process was a three-year collaborative effort among park managers, park professional staff, Rocky Mountain Network and other NPS staff, and scientific and technical partners outside the NPS. Vital signs development included conducting park scoping meetings, developing descriptions of the natural setting and management issues in each park, and formulating conceptual models of key ecological processes within possible vital signs. We held two widely attended workshops to develop vital signs objectives and initially prioritize vital signs. Working with the Rocky Mountain Network Technical Committee and Board of Directors during a two-day follow-up meeting, we utilized workshop results to "select" the 12 highest priority vital signs for the network:

Vital Signs and their Monitoring Protocols, Ordered by Vital Sign:

Vital Sign Monitoring Protocol
1. Wet and Dry Deposition Snow Chemistry
2. Weather and Climate Alpine Vegetation & Soils
Climate
Snow Chemistry
3. Water Chemistry Stream Ecological Integrity
Wetland Ecological Integrity
4. Surface Water Dynamics Stream Ecological Integrity
Wetland Ecological Integrity
5. Freshwater Communities Stream Ecological Integrity
6. Invasive/Exotic Aquatic Biota Stream Ecological Integrity
7. Groundwater Dynamics Stream Ecological Integrity
Wetland Ecological Integrity
8. Wetland Communities Wetland Ecological Integrity
9. Invasive/Exotic Plants Alpine Vegetation & Soils
Upland Vegetation & Soils
Wetland Ecological Integrity
10. Vegetation, Composition, Structure, and Soils Alpine Vegetation & Soils
Upland Vegetation & Soils
11. Focal Species (Beaver, Elk, Grizzly Bear) Alpine Vegetation & Soils
Landscape Dynamics
Stream Ecological Integrity
Wetland Ecological Integrity
12. Landscape Dynamics Landscape Dynamics

Vital Signs and their Monitoring Protocols, Ordered by Protocol:

Monitoring Protocol Vital Sign
1. Alpine Vegetation & Soils Invasive/Exotic Plants
Focal Species (Elk)
Vegetation Composition, Structure, and Soils
Weather and Climate
2. Climate Weather and Climate
3. Landscape Dynamics Focal Species (Beaver, Elk, Grizzly Bear)
Landscape Dynamics
4. Snow Chemistry Weather and Climate
Wet and Dry Deposition
5. Stream Ecological Integrity Focal Species (Beaver)
Fresh Water Communities
Ground Water Dynamics
Invasive/Exotic Aquatic Biota
Surface Water Dynamics
Water Chemistry
6. Upland Vegetation & Soils Invasive/Exotic Plants
Vegetation Composition, Structure, and Soils
7. Wetland Ecological Integrity Focal Species (Beaver, Elk)
Ground Water Dynamics
Invasive/Exotic Plants
Surface Water Dynamics
Water Chemistry
Wetland Communities

Last updated: April 19, 2018