Nature & Science

A Fence Lizard perches on a cabin wall.

NPS Photo.


Prince William Forest Park protects the largest piedmont forest in the National Park Service and the largest greenspace in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. This park gives area residents and visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in an abundance of natural features, ecosystems, flora, and fauna.

Use the links below to navigate to more information on the natural resources of Prince William Forest Park.

turtle close up
Eastern painted box turtle

NPS photo

Diversity! That is the key to understanding the animal populations of Prince William Forest Park. Learn more about the 46 species of mammals, 22 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 129 species of birds, 26 species of fish, and an unknown number of invertebrates that make this park their home. Learn More

purple asiatic flower

NPS photo

There are over 900 plant species in Prince William Forest Park. From the smallest wildflower to the tallest tree, each species has a special role to play in this forest ecosystem. 365 days a year, Prince William Forest Park is here to explore - tree bark in winter, wildflowers in spring, canopy cover in summer, and autumn colors in fall. Learn More

defoliation of trees by the gypsy moth

NPS photo

Environmental Factors
Despite its status as the largest greenspace in metropolitan Washington, D.C., Prince William Forest Park is not immune to environmental factors that stress its ecosystems. Climate change is altering ecosystem norms. Invasive species carried in on firewood and the bottoms of our shoes and cars can wreak havoc on species (see the gypsy moth defoliation at left). Boundary encroachment and area development stress the pristine ecosystems within with pollution runoff and litter. The park's landscapes are still recovering from historic impacts and non-sustainable practices. The more we learn about these problems, the more we can work together with the surrounding community to seek solutions. Learn More

geologic formations along quantico creek

NPS Photo

Natural Features and Ecosystems
Looking at plants and animals individually is like looking at the earth with tunnel vision. Take a step back and look at the natural features and ecosystems of Prince William Forest Park are all interdependent on each other. Learn how geologic features were formed and how geology leads to soil types and how soil types lead to plant development and how plants lead to animal habitats. It's all right here! Learn More

Researchers at work

NPS Photo

Research & Reports
Want to dig a little bit deeper? (figuratively of course...) Check out our Research page to see the science behind the facts and figures. If you want to conduct research in Prince William Forest Park or other national parks, apply for a research permit.


Researching Nature at Prince William

Prince William Forest Park is a natural oasis for visitors and for scientific researchers because of its protected natural landscape. The research done here provides the accurate and current natural resource information we need to provide to best care for the park. Scientists look at what key resources are present in the park, if they are stable or changing, how ecosystems are changing over time, and how much change is normal.

Like a physician monitoring a patient's heartbeat and blood pressure, National Park Service ecologists with the National Capital Region Inventory & Monitoring Network collect long-term data on forest vegetation, bird and amphibian communities, water quality, and other key resources at Prince William, analyze the monitoring results, and share them with the park.
Read more in the articles below about researchers studying nature at Prince William and nearby national parks.

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    Last updated: June 6, 2023

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