Biological diversity: discovery, science, and management in this issue



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Figure 2. Comparison among mean values of responses with four statements reflecting the human impact of participation in bioblitz programs across three national parks, measured on a Likert scale where 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither disagree nor agree, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree.

Respondents at all sites reported they had a strong stewardship ethic, reflected in their agreement with statements related to protecting the environment for future generations, having an ethical responsibility to care for the environment, and taking individual responsibility for actions that could affect the park. Respondents at Rocky Mountain considered themselves to be natural resource stewards to a greater degree than did those at the other two parks. Bioblitz participants at Biscayne showed the lowest levels of self-reported affinity for stewardship. Across all three parks, survey respondents perceived natural resource stewardship to be more nature-based than people-oriented, and displayed an intrinsic appreciation for nature regardless of its functional utility (zBiscayne = 5.57, p < 0.001; zSaguaro = 5.75, p < 0.001; zRocky Mountain = 5.23, p < 0.001; table 2). Participants reported moderate willingness to engage in park protection behavior, such as volunteering time and paying more for products and services that improve park environments.



Table 2. Bioblitz participants’ values associated with nature- and human-oriented stewardship at three national parks

Dimension and Survey Value

Factor 1*

Factor 2*

National Park

Mean

SD

Nature-oriented stewardship

Preserving the environment in its natural state

0.763




Biscayne

4.5

0.7










Saguaro

4.5

0.6










Rocky Mountain

4.0

0.9

An ethical responsibility to care for the environment

0.819




Biscayne

4.4

0.7










Saguaro

4.5

0.6










Rocky Mountain

4.5

0.7

All animals’ and plants’ right to exist

0.699




Biscayne

4.3

0.8










Saguaro

4.3

0.8










Rocky Mountain

4.1

1.0

Protecting the environment for future generations

0.779




Biscayne

4.6

0.6










Saguaro

3.9

1.0










Rocky Mountain

4.5

0.6

Trying to reduce my negative impact on the environment

0.560




Biscayne

4.2

0.8










Saguaro

4.4

0.7










Rocky Mountain

4.4

0.7

Human-oriented stewardship

Managing our natural resources wisely to provide for human needs




0.770

Biscayne

3.8

1.1










Saguaro

3.9

0.9










Rocky Mountain

4.0

1.0

Protecting all species because we may find a use for them later (e.g., curing disease)




0.570

Biscayne

3.7

1.0










Saguaro

3.9

1.0










Rocky Mountain

3.7

1.2

Note: Bioblitz participants were asked the question “When I hear the term ‘natural resource stewardship’ in relation to [park name] I think of [value in list].” Their responses were measured on a Likert scale where 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither disagree nor agree, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree.

*Principal Axis Factoring with Varimax rotation and Kaiser normalization was used to determine underlying factors that each item represented. Two underlying factors were identified, which we labeled “nature-oriented” and “human-oriented” stewardship. Primary factor loadings for each item are shown.

Survey respondents formed connections with all three parks. Bioblitz participants at Rocky Mountain reported the highest levels of place attachment as well as more extensive visitation histories at the park. That is, over time Rocky Mountain respondents have developed connections with the park based on emotional ties (e.g., feelings of belonging and happiness), individual identity (e.g., believing the park is part of oneself), and opportunities to socialize (e.g., spending time with family and friends). Across all three parks, affect and emotion as well as social and individual factors underpinned human-place bonds. Sociodemographic characteristics were consistent across the three national parks. More males than females completed the survey, and most were in their mid-40s, well educated, and employed outside the home. Between half and three-quarters of respondents at the three parks reported earning more than $50,000 annually. The majority were white and of non-Hispanic origin.

Discussion

Results from these surveys suggest that NPS-NGS BioBlitzes are meeting the main social-psychological objectives related to providing park visitors with an opportunity to learn from professionals, experience the park in a new way, and learn about science and park ecosystems. Respondents believed their efforts helped manage the park’s natural resources, added to science-based knowledge, increased understanding of biodiversity within the park, and informed the public about park resources. They reported a strong stewardship ethic and were willing to engage in park protection behavior.

Respondents’ motivations for participation included seeking opportunities to contribute to society in a meaningful way and to learn about and contribute to the conservation of nature, indicating that the promotion of these events appropriately attracted individuals desiring a citizen-science experience. Like many research endeavors involving the public, bioblitzes can be designed to focus more strongly on either the science or education components of the event. Given the strong desire of participants to make a difference, bioblitz organizers will need to be careful not to allow future bioblitzes to swing so far to the education side that the scientific and conservation contributions of the event are minimized. In addition to teaching the scientific method and getting kids and adults outside, activities billed as inventories should include discussion of how public participation is helping to further our understanding of park resources and advance conservation of these resources.

Levels of place attachment were most pronounced in the Rocky Mountain sample and relatively low among participants at Biscayne. Affective/emotional bonds are key components of the connections formed between people and places, which can be maintained through experiential opportunities. Bioblitzes may help to foster attachment to park settings by allowing participants to interact with a park and its flora and fauna in new and exciting ways that conventional visitors seldom experience. Having natural and cultural histories interpreted by scientific guides also gives participants a unique understanding of the resource that they might not otherwise be exposed to during a typical visit. By nurturing attachment to parks, bioblitzes contribute to increasing the relevancy of national parks for participants.

On the whole, bioblitzes in the national parks are a relatively recent phenomenon. While some parks have engaged in them since the mid-1990s, Service-wide attention to these types of events has not been prevalent until the last decade. The NPS-NGS partnership initiated in 2006 has raised awareness of these events as a means to engage the public in science and stewardship, and since then, bioblitzes and biodiversity discovery activities have gained momentum across the National Park System and beyond. Published in 2012, the NPS Call to Action articulated numerous goals to guide the work of the National Park Service in the time leading up to the bureau’s 100th anniversary in 2016. One of those goals is to conduct 100 bioblitzes in national parks by 2016, a goal that has already been exceeded, with park participation growing rapidly over the past few years. Nevertheless, these events are still relatively rare in comparison with the overall number of park visitors and interpretive and research programs that take place in a given year. Thus it is unsurprising that most respondents in this study had limited experience with other bioblitzes. Yet we also note that a number of respondents at each park had previously participated in bioblitzes, either at other national parks or elsewhere at local natural areas. Anecdotal accounts also indicate the potential for developing bioblitz “groupies” as prevalence of these opportunities increases.

Conclusion

Given the growing popularity of bioblitzes, it will be important to ensure that these events continue to meet expectations of participants. Future bioblitzes can use lessons from this study to capitalize on the strong community and environmental ethic of visitors attracted to these events and to emphasize to a greater degree the role that participants play in contributing to park science and stewardship. Offering species inventories and other experiential research opportunities should remain an important and visible component of these kinds of events. In addition, pro viding central access to information about planned events could help bioblitz aficionados learn about upcoming opportunities and continue to spread interest via their own social networks. Finally, an effort should be made to reach out to underserved audiences to broaden the diversity of participants.

Although only adults were surveyed in this study, many attended the bioblitz in family groups and likely imparted their stewardship ethic to their children, many of whom also attended the bioblitz in school groups. Because an additional goal of NPS bioblitzes relates to creating the next generation of park stewards, our future research will examine the social outcomes of participation for teachers and students, the other major audience participating in NPS-NGS BioBlitzes.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the Texas A&M graduate students who assisted with data collection, and reviewers for their comments and suggestions during preparation of this manuscript. This study was approved by park research permit programs, the Office of Management and Budget in compliance with the Paper work Reduction Act, and the Texas A&M University Institutional Review Board as part of the Human Subjects Protection Program.



References

Bonney, R., J. L. Shirk, T. B. Phillips, A. Wiggins, H. L. Ballard, A. J. Miller- Rushing, and J. K. Parrish. 2014. Next steps for citizen science. Science 343:1436–1437.

Dillman, D. A., L. M. Christian, and J. D. Smyth. 2008. Internet, mail and mixed-mode surveys: The tailored design method. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA.

Kyle, G. T., and K. Eccles. 2009. Creating stewardship through discovery: Final report. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.

National Park Service (NPS). 2010. Biodiversity discovery: A foundation for resource protection and stewardship. Natural Resource Report NPS/ NRPC/BRMD/NRR–2010/278.

National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. . 2013. A call to action: Preparing for a second century of stewardship and engagement. National Park Service, Washington, D.C., USA. Accessed 28 May 2014 at http://www.nps.gov/calltoaction/PDF /C2A_2013_screen.pdf.



About the authors

Kirsten M. Leong is program manager, Human Dimensions of Biological Resource Management, National Park Service, in Fort Collins, Colorado. She can be reached at kirsten_leong@nps.gov. Gerard T. Kyle is a professor in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas. He can be reached at gerard@tamu.edu.

Using monitoring data to map amphibian breeding hotspots and describe wetland vulnerability in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

By Andrew Ray, Adam Sepulveda, Blake Hossack, Debra Patla, and Kristin Legg

The number of species that occur in a location (hereafter “species richness”) is a basic measure of species or biological diversity (Hamilton 2005). This simple measure of diversity is often used to guide conservation strategies and make inferences about resource condition. Areas with many species (hotspots) are often prioritized for protection, while declines in species richness may indicate environmental change. Monitoring efforts in the National Park System that provide knowledge of patterns of species richness, particularly related to breeding or other vital activities, can therefore assist park administrators with identifying management actions for sustaining or improving natural resource conditions (Fancy et al. 2009).

Here, we use multiyear monitoring data on amphibian breeding to examine amphibian richness patterns in Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) and Grand Teton National Parks (Wyoming) (hereafter “Yellowstone and Grand Teton”). Amphibians have been selected as a “vital sign” by several National Park Service (NPS) Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) networks, including the Greater Yellowstone I&M Network. Selection was based on the understanding that amphibians can be sensitive to environmental and land use change and provide an indicator of wetland ecosystem and landscape condition (Guzy et al. 2012). A recent analysis documented that North American amphibian populations are declining at a rate of approximately 4% annually and that some of the greatest declines in amphibian occurrence were observed on lands administered by the National Park Service (Adams et al. 2013).

Only six native amphibian species, representing five different families, have been recorded in Yellowstone and Grand Teton: western tiger salamanders, boreal toads, boreal chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, Columbia spotted frogs, and a spadefoot species (Koch and Peterson 1995; table 1 and fig. 1). This limited species richness is characteristic of montane regions of northern latitudes; consequently, the loss of one amphibian species represents a large proportion of the total species pool. The northern leopard frog has apparently vanished from Grand Teton, with only one confirmed sighting since the 1950s. Boreal toads used to be common in this region, but are now relatively rare. Spadefoots have been documented just a few times in Yellowstone’s history (Koch and Peterson 1995), and the taxonomic species of spadefoot remains unclear. Species loss and declines are surprising given that the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) is renowned as the largest relatively intact temperate ecosystem in the conterminous 48 states.

Table 1. Native amphibians of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

Common Name

Family

Scientific Name

Western tiger salamander

Ambystomatidae

Ambystoma mavortium

Boreal toad

Bufonidae

Anaxyrus boreas

Boreal chorus frog

Hylidae

Pseudacris maculata

Northern leopard frog

Ranidae

Lithobates pipiens

Columbia spotted frog

Ranidae

Rana luteiventris

Spadefoot species

Scaphiopodidae

Spea sp.

[(Photo) A: Columbia spotted frog. Credit: USGS/R. K. Honeycutt]

[B: Western tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium). Credit: NPS photo]

[C: Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Credit: NPS photo]

[D: Boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata). Credit: USGS/P. S. Corn]

[E: Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens). Credit: USGS/M. Roth]

[F: Plains spadefoot (Spea bombifrons). Note: Plains spadefoot is shown, but the taxonomic species of spadefoot in Yellowstone has not yet been determined. Credit: J. D. Willson]



Figure 1. The native amphibians of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks comprise (A, facing page) Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris), (B) western tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium), (C) boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas), (D) boreal chorus frog (Pseudacris maculata), (E) northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens), and (F) Plains spadefoot (Spea bombifrons).*

*Plains spadefoot shown, but the taxonomic species of spadefoot in Yellowstone has not yet been determined.

While the reason for amphibian declines on protected lands varies, climate-related changes to available wetland breeding habitat have been identified as a potential driver of the decline (McMenamin et al. 2008). Higher air temperatures and decreased precipitation can lead to wetland desiccation, reducing the surface water required for amphibian breeding and larval development. In 2007, a hot and dry year, up to 40% of all monitored wetlands in Yellowstone and Grand Teton lacked surface water by midsummer (Ray et al. in press). Climate-related declines in available wetland habitat could reduce amphibian distribution and abundance (Matthews et al. 2013) and affect amphibian richness in even the most protected places. Documenting the spatial and temporal patterns of amphibian breeding richness along with patterns of wetland desiccation in Yellowstone and Grand Teton is an important first step in determining amphibian vulnerability.

We used eight years of amphibian monitoring and wetland data from Yellowstone and Grand Teton to explore patterns of amphibian breeding richness and wetland desiccation dynamics. Our primary goals were to describe the spatial and temporal patterns of amphibian breeding richness across both parks. Moreover, we were interested in identifying monitored catchments that are vulnerable to wetland desiccation in relation to catchments with the highest amphibian richness. To that end, we asked the following three questions: Where are hotspots for amphibian breeding richness? Are hotspots constant through time? Do amphibian breeding hotspots exist in regions where a high proportion of wetlands are susceptible to drying?

Methods

The Greater Yellowstone Network, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, has organized annual amphibian monitoring in a set of randomly selected catchments distributed across Yellowstone and Grand Teton since 2006 (Gould et al. 2012). Catchments (or watersheds) are defined by topography as it relates to the flow and collection of water sources and averaged approximately 200 hectares (494 ac) in size. On average, 30 catchments are revisited annually; we report results from 31 catchments that have more than five years of monitoring data. All wetlands within the selected catchment are visited in summer, when two independent observers search for evidence that amphibians bred there (i.e., eggs, larvae, or recently metamorphosed individuals). We also describe the presence of surface water observed during the surveys: wetland sites without surface water are described as “dry,” while sites with an expanse of surface water greater than 1 m2 (1.2 yd2) in size and exceeding 2 cm (approximately 1 in) in depth are described as “inundated.” We used results from annual surveys completed from 2006 to 2013 to examine spatial and temporal variation in amphibian richness and to describe wetland status for monitored catchments. Because elevation is a potentially limiting factor of amphibian richness in montane landscapes (Sergio and Pedrini 2007), we also used correlation analysis (a technique to examine the association between two variables) to examine the relationship between average amphibian breeding richness and average wetland elevation in catchments.

To identify catchments that are amphibian breeding hotspots, we plotted the total number of breeding amphibian species that were observed at least once from 2006 to 2013 (fig. 2). We did not correct for detection probabilities because detection for breeding amphibians at the catchment scale is high and constant over years (>75%; Gould et al. 2012). Nevertheless, improved methods for identifying rare species like boreal toads, spadefoots, and northern leopard frogs are needed. We are testing DNA-based monitoring tools, which are now being used widely to survey for rare or secretive amphibian species (see the sidebar on page 118 and specifically Pilliod et al. 2013b for more information about environmental DNA).

To examine whether amphibian breeding hotspots exist in regions where a high proportion of wetlands are susceptible to drying, we plotted the maximum number of breeding amphibian species observed in a catchment with the proportion of dry wetlands (fig. 2). We calculated the proportion of dry wetlands within a catchment by summing the number of wetlands reported as dry at least once from 2006 to 2013 and dividing by the total number of wetlands visited. Catchments with a high proportion of wetlands susceptible to drying indicate areas where amphibians are vulnerable to climate-related declines in available breeding habitat.

[Map showing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park watersheds and areas that are used for long-term monitoring of amphibians. The maximum number of breeding amphibian species observed in a catchment (species richness) is shown by the outer circles, with the proportion of dry wetlands (proportion dry) indicated by the inner circles. The circles summarize results from surveys conducted from 2006 to 2013. Red circles indicate amphibian “hotspots,” where four amphibian species have been documented as breeding in a catchment.]

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