Natural Resource Condition Assessments for Dry Tortugas National Park

The Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) Program provides framework, funding, and publishing support to parks to aid in the synthesis and documentation of natural resource conditions. Condition assessment reports are a tool to describe selected park resources, and record a snapshot of their current condition, identify trends, and identify potential or current threats and stressors. Understanding the condition and trend of natural resources is key for parks and NPS planners to appropriately prioritize and allocate stewardship resources.

A gray angelfish swimming among red, purple, black, and green corals.
Gray angelfish swimming through the reef at Dry Tortugas National Park

NPS photo

Dry Tortugas National Park, located 100 km west of Key West, Florida, is perhaps the most remote marine National Park in the United States, offering visitors a rare opportunity to see and experience an intact and relatively pristine coral reef ecosystem. The combination of its remote location, low visitation and substantial fishing restrictions have largely preserved the integrity of the natural ecosystem that now provides an important refuge for more than 700 species of fishes, birds, mammals, plants, and hard and soft corals. Although Dry Tortugas is principally a marine park (99% water), the seven islands within the park boundaries provide unique habitats for nesting and migratory birds, as well as, pristine beaches for nesting sea turtles.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2018

In order to better understand the conditions of the natural resources present in this park, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2018. The authors worked with Dry Tortugas National Park staff and other NPS representatives to identify seven key natural resources vital to the park:

- seagrass communities

- terrestrial vegetation

- stony corals

- spiny lobster, queen conch and long-spined sea urchin

- reef fish and sharks

- sea turtles

- birds

This assessment revealed that overall, the natural resources of Dry Tortugas National Park are in moderate condition. Three resources were in god condition: seagrass, lobster, conch and sea urchin, and sea turtles; three resources had a condition of moderate concern: terrestrial vegetation, reef fish and sharks, and birds; and stony corals with a condition of significant concern. Park management has made a significant improvement in park conditions.

Global warming and sea level rise are a major threat to several resources in Dry Tortugas National Park and impose a tremendous challenge for park managers. Continued monitoring will inform park managers on how these resources are responding to a rapidly changing marine environment.

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: June 29, 2022


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