Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

A wooden walkway lined with lush foliage and tall trees.

NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg.

Prior to the 18th century, the region of what is now Allegheny Railroad Portage National Historic site was occupied primarily by Native American groups and scattered European settlers who often fought each other for land. During a relatively peaceful period the land was cleared for settlement. The Allegheny Portage Railroad opened in March of 1834 and, although only in operation for two decades, is still regarded as an engineering marvel and symbol of America’s ingenuity and perseverance during the first steps toward western expansion.

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site is in southwestern Pennsylvania and protects the cultural resources that comprise the Allegheny Portage Railroad and tells the story of its influence on the nation. Although this small park was established for the preservation of cultural resources, these resources are embedded within the natural resources of the park, including forested mountains, streams and other natural areas supporting a variety of wildlife, including rare or regionally important plant and animal species.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2013

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes present in this Historic Site, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2013. National Park Service staff examined available data and needs of the site, and chose 25 resource topics to evaluate:

- Ozone

- Wet nitrogen and sulfur deposition

- Visibility

- Mercury deposition

- Night Skies

- Bat communities

- Precipitation trends

- Bird communities

- Temperature trends

- Amphibians and reptiles

- Water chemistry

- Mammals

- Aquatic macroinvertibrates

- Invasive animals: Hemlock wolly adelgid

- Forests/woodlands/shrublands

- Gypsy moth

- Grasslands

- Brown trout

- Wetlands

- Crayfish

- Species of special concern: American Bugbane and American Ginseng

- Invasive plants

- Northern myotis (bat)

- Land use and fragmentation

- Bat communities

- Brook trout

The assessment showed that five resources (brook trout, bird communities, gypsy moth, crayfish, and land use and fragmentation) were in good condition; six resources (visibility, wet nitrogen and sulfur deposition, wet mercury deposition, northern myotis, bat communities, and hemlock wooly adelgid) warranted significant concern; and the remaining resources warranted moderate concern. Two resources (precipitation trends and temperature trends) were not assigned a condition status because they are drivers of change in other resource conditions. The park’s natural resources are under threat from fragmentation and invasive plant and animal species. Past land use activities, including extensive logging, burning, and mining followed by a long period of no physical disturbance to the landscape, have resulted in major shifts in forest community composition, some of which include dominance of undesirable species. Additional regional threats to the park include suburban development, Marcellus shale gas extraction and infrastructure, and wind turbines.

For other reports and natural resource datasets visit the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 7765 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: December 16, 2022


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