Natural Resource Condition Assessment: Santa Monica Mountains NRA, Pinnacles NM, and John Muir NHS

The National Park Service (NPS) and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) are collaborating in the preparation of natural resource condition assessments for three parks in the Mediterranean (MEDN) and San Francisco Bay Area (SFAN) Vital Signs Monitoring Networks: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SAMO), Pinnacles National Monument (PINN), and John Muir National Historic Site (JOMU). The assessments will characterize natural resources in these parks in terms of their setting and significance, provide an interdisciplinary evaluation of current condition status for park natural resources (spatial report-out, by park subareas), identify and document critical resource data and knowledge gaps, and highlight existing/emerging resource condition threats and stressors. By 2014, NPS plans to develop similar condition assessments for all 270 park units across the 32 NPS Vital Signs Monitoring networks. We expect that this project will develop innovative methods for interpreting and synthesizing inventory and monitoring data from NPS and other sources that can form a template for the assessments to follow.

Project Objectives
The project seeks to interpret and translate existing scientific information into a form that park managers find useful for supporting park decision making, action, and resource planning. The project will result in a report and set of Geographic Information System (GIS) maps with associated data layers for each park that:

  • Describe park resources in a regional context (setting, significance, issues);
  • Provide an interdisciplinary (holistic) snapshot of current resource conditions, by park areas;
  • Document high-priority data gaps and resource condition threats and stressors;
  • Identify and describe “high value” and “high vulnerability” (at risk) park resources and areas.

This is a general level assessment that will provide broad ecological information at a park-wide level. Information, data and recommendations developed by the project will assist park managers as they work to:

  • Develop near-term management strategies and priorities for the park’s resource management program;
  • Engage in watershed or landscape scale partnership and education efforts;
  • Conduct mid- to longer-term park planning (General Management Plans, Resource Stewardship Strategies)
  • Meet performance reporting requirements on park resource condition status (Department of Interior “land health” goals, Office of Management and Budget “natural resource condition” scorecard)

Anticipated Products
Project report-out can be partitioned into three categories.

  1. Park and Resources Context. This category will primarily involve a literature review for the purpose of describing and characterizing landscape scale data.
  2. Current Condition Status. This category is a structured evaluation, guided by a variety of frameworks and methodologies adapted for the project. Possible GIS data layers to be developed and delivered by UCSB: Spatially defined summaries of current resource conditions—likely to include separate data layers for individual measures as well as “integrative” layers that summarize general condition status for park areas
  3. Existing/Emerging Threats and Stressors. This category will primarily involve issue scoping that entails literature review and expert judgment based on park-to-regional scale data sets. Possible GIS data layers to be developed by UCSB include spatially defined summaries of existing/emerging threats and stressors in terms of potential source areas and/or areas where resources are considered to be currently impacted or vulnerable to impacts.


Frank W. Davis

Funding Agency: 

National Park Service

Project Period: 

August, 2008 to December, 2012

Research Area: