Collaborating with other research partners, like MARINe, the Klamath Network collects scientifically credible data that tracks the condition of each park’s most important resources—its “vital signs.” Multiple vital signs are selected within a network of parks to provide early warning of deteriorating conditions. A vital sign can be a single endangered species or an entire community—like cave ecosystems at Lava Beds NM, or rocky intertidal zones at Redwood National and State Parks.
At most long-term monitoring sites, I&M scientists and their partners don’t just measure one variable, because ecosystems don’t work that way. They measure a suite of related variables that influence the overall condition of a vital sign. For example, intertidal plots at Redwood National and State Parks are set up to monitor sea stars, snails, chitons, limpets, crabs, as well as algae, surfgrass, and water temperature. Each piece of the puzzle offers clues to how a system works. Periods of warmer water, for example, have been associated with outbreaks of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. Ultimately, more data means less speculation and better understanding about cause and effect in park ecosystems.
Park managers can rely on I&M for both data and expertise in protecting the natural treasures set aside for all of us to enjoy in national parks.