Natural Resource Condition Assessments for George Washington Memorial Parkway

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.

Bicyclist riding past red flowers and a view of the DC skyline, Potomac River and the Washington Monument.
Mount Vernon Trail

Victoria Stauffenburg/NPS photo

George Washington Memorial Parkway was developed as a scenic parkway to help preserve the Potomac River Gorge and shoreline while serving as a memorial to the first President of the United States, George Washington. The Potomac Gorge is one of the most significant natural areas in the United States, and is home to hundreds of occurrences of many rare species and communities. George Washington Memorial Parkway runs 45 km (28 mi) along the western shore of the Potomac River through the District of Columbia and portions of northern Virginia.

Significant natural areas occur throughout the Parkway and are extremely rich both in biodiversity and in historical context. The park provides islands of refuge for many rare and unique plant and animal species in the highly urbanized Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, protecting a variety of cultural and natural resources, including plant community types found nowhere else on earth.

Traditional NRCA Report: 2016

In an effort to better understand the natural resources and processes within the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a Natural Resource Condition Assessment was written and published in 2017. This project was a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and Memorial Parkway staff and the University of Maryland. This team evaluated available data and chose indicators to evaluate the condition of four resource topics:

- Water resources

- Biological integrity

- Landscape dynamics

- Air quality

Natural resources in George Washington Memorial Parkway are in degraded condition overall and are under threat from surrounding land use, regionally poor air quality, and overpopulation of deer. Climate change is predicted to negatively affect many of the natural resources of the park, including increasing ozone levels and particle pollution, raising water temperature, changing forest composition, and affecting exotic species and forest pests and disease.

The natural resources of the parkway are challenged by multiple regional and local stressors. Air pollution from power plants, industry, and vehicle emissions result in reduced air quality through large regions of the central eastern seaboard of North America. Despite these findings, it is widely recognized that the parkway adds critical green space in an increasingly urbanized region, provides refuge for many species, serves as a migration rest stop for wildlife, and is a welcome escape from the traditional driving experience for motorists.

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: February 25, 2022


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