Ecological content and context of the National Park System


Svancara, Leona K.. (2010). Ecological content and context of the National Park System. Theses and Dissertations Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Collections.

Ecological content and context of the National Park System
Svancara, Leona K.
Climatic changes--United States
Natural Resources
Our goal was to assess the current level of representation and redundancy of natural features within the National Park Service (NPS) System, the spatial distribution of parks, the integrity of the surrounding landscape, and the resilience of parks to 21st century threats such as climate change and land use change. Although the System has been considered one of "America's best ideas" and held up as an example for the world, our results indicate that it is neither representative, nor redundant, nor resilient in the face of modern threats. Our analyses show that parks are too small to support viable populations of mammals over the long term, are not representative with biases in geology, topography, climate, and land cover, and are geographically biased with great variability in redundancy across the coterminous U.S. These biases in representation and redundancy of resources, together with the skewed size distribution, leave biodiversity in the System vulnerable to stochastic events and, in the absence of compatible management on surrounding lands, hamper the ability of the NPS to fulfill its mission to conserve natural and historical resources within the park system and manage so to " ... leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.";As climate change impacts become more pronounced, the ecological content and context of parks will become even more important. Although counties around parks tend to be more natural, more intact, and more protected than other counties, they are possibly at risk due to higher human population density, increases in human population, and decreases in natural land cover. Our climate change analyses indicate that, even under the lower greenhouse-gas emission scenario, species and communities in the System will likely undergo substantial changes in the next 60-90 years. Strategic growth of protected area systems will be needed to account for shifts in species distribution and areas highlighted in our analyses are natural targets for mitigation efforts and regional collaborations aimed at improving connectivity through matrix management.
Thesis (Ph. D., Natural Resources)--University of Idaho, January 2010.
Major Professor:
J. Michael Scott.
Defense Date:
January 2010.
Format Original:
xi, 188 leaves :col. ill., col. maps ;29 cm.

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