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

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Adaptation: Any morphological, physiological, sensory, developmental, and behavioral change in a character that enhances survival and reproductive success of an organism. Typically adaptation focuses on the process of genetic change within a population resulting from natural selection, whereby the average state of a character becomes better suited to some feature of the environment.

All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI): Intense inventory to identify all species of all taxa within a geographic area.

Bioblitz: Short-term (usually 24- to 48- hour) event that brings together professional species specialists and the public to sample biodiversity in a particular area.

Biodiversity: Full variety of organisms at all levels of biological organization, including the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels.

Biome: Major regional ecological community characterized by distinctive life-forms and principal plant (terrestrial biomes) or animal (marine biomes) species.

Bioregion: Geographic area whose limits are defined by natural features such as topography, biological attributes, and environmental processes rather than by political boundaries.

Biota: All of the species in a place.

Biotope: Large regional area with relatively uniform environmental conditions and consistent assemblages of populations of animals and plants.

Citizen science: Research science that engages the public in the scientific process, including training in methods and analysis, formulation of research questions, collecting data, and interpreting results.

Ecology: The study of the interrelation ships among living organisms and their environment. Ecology is the study of patterns, networks, balances, and cycles rather than of the straightforward causes and effects studied in chemistry and physics.

Ecoregion: Area of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type, quality, and quantity of environmental conditions such as climate, landforms, hydrology, soils, and communities of plants and animals.

Ecosystem: Community of organisms and their physical environment interacting as a cohesive whole.

Ecotone: Boundary or transitional zone between adjacent ecosystems or biomes.

Endemic: Native to, and restricted to, a particular geographic region.

Genome: The total genetic constitution of an organism.

Habitat: The locality, site, and particular type of local environment occupied by an organism; its “address” or place where conditions are right for its survival.

Island biogeography: A theory affirming that the number of species inhabiting an island is a function of island area and distance from the mainland and is determined by the relationship between immigration and extinction.

Keystone species: A species that through food web or nutrient cycle position has a “disproportionate effect on the persistence of other species” and determines the composition of a biological community.

Niche: An organism’s lifestyle; distinguished from habitat, an organism’s place.

NPSpecies: Database, maintained by the National Park Service, of park species records, accessible Service-wide and by the public.

Phenology: Timing of seasonal or periodic biological events, generally tightly coupled to climate, such as flowering and migration.

Phenotype: The physical expression (out ward appearance) of a trait of an organ ism, which may be the result of genetics, environment, or an interaction of the two.

Population: A group of organisms of one species, occupying a defined area, and usually isolated from other similar groups. The National Park Service typically manages populations of a species, not the whole species.

Range: All of the habitat areas where a species is usually found.

Species: Groups of individual organisms that can interbreed, resulting in fertile offspring. (Advances in analytical technologies have allowed other concepts to emerge, but they are beyond the scope of this glossary.)

Species richness vs. species diversity: Species richness is the actual number of different species in an area. Species diversity is an indirect measure that also takes into account the frequency of occurrence of species (e.g., rare vs. common).

Subspecies: A group of interbreeding natural populations different taxonomically and with respect to gene pool characteristics, often isolated geographically from other such groups within a biological species.

Taxon (pl. taxa): Unit or category used in the biological system for classifying related organisms. Taxa are ranked in descending order from kingdom to subspecies and include groups such as phyla, families, genera, and species.

Taxonomic working group (TWiG): Self-organized group of taxonomists and other scientists with particular expertise and interest in specific taxa.

Taxonomy: The theory and practice of describing and naming organisms and classifying them into hierarchical series of groups that emphasize their phylogenetic, and now genetic, interrelationships. Evolution now drives taxonomy, emphasizing “descent with modification”; that is, life-forms evolve in family trees.

Voucher: Representative specimen of an organism used to confirm a species’ identity in a biological study. Vouchers are usually entire preserved specimens, though they may consist of photos, sound recordings, or tissue.

About the authors

Greg Eckert is restoration ecologist and Glenn E. Plumb is chief wildlife biologist with the NPS Biological Resource Management Division in Fort Collins, Colorado. Correspondence can be directed to the editor at

Recommended readings in biodiversity

By Glenn E. Plumb

The glossary of E. O. Wilson’s 1992 book, The Diversity of Life, identified more than 200 key terms and notable individuals important to a cogent discussion and understanding of the evolution of biodiversity. By 2008 the glossary of Chivian and Bernstein’s Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity (see McNeely et al. 2008 and Pimm et al. 2008 for the reference) conveyed recent growth in biodiversity science through its more than 1,600 important terms and concepts. The commentary by Plumb et al. in this volume (see pages 14–16) also discusses the extent to which scientific narrative about biodiversity has proliferated in recent years. Within this growing scientific literature, the following recommended readings represent a very small, though satisfying, selection that may be of interest to the readers of Park Science, and address basic concepts and principles, syntheses and integrated states of knowledge, nexuses with evolution, and specific considerations across different ecosystem types.

Barnosky, A. D., E. A. Hadly, B. A. Maurer, and M. I. Christie. 2001. Temperate terrestrial vertebrate fauna in North and South America: Interplay of ecology, evolution, and geography with biodiversity. Conservation Biology 15:658–674.

Brito, J. C., R. Godinho, F. Martínez-Freiría, J. M. Pleguezuelos, H. Rebelo, X. Santos, C. G. Vale, G. Velo-Anton, Z. Boratynski, S. B. Carvalho, S. Ferreira, D. V. Goncalves, T. L. Silva, P. Tarroso, J. C. Campos, J. V. Leite, J. Nogueira, F. Alvares, N. Sillero, A. S. Sow, S. Fahd, P. Crochet, and S. Carranza. 2014. Unravelling biodiversity, evolution and threats to conservation in the Sahara- Sahel. Biological Reviews 89(1):215–231. doi:10.1111/brv.12049. Accessed 17 July 2014 at /brv.12049/pdf.

Cardinale, B. J., J. E. Duffy, A. Gonzalez, D. U. Hooper, C. Perrings, P. Venail, A. Narwani, G. M. Mace, D. Tilman, D. A. Wardle, A. P. Kinzig, G. C. Daily, M. Loreau, J. B. Grace, A. Larigauderie, D. S. Srivastava, and S. Naeem. 2012. Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 486:59–67.

Chapin, F. S., E. S. Zavaleta, V. T. Eviners, R. L. Naylor, P. M. Vitousek, H. L. Reynolds, D. U. Hooper, S. Lavorel, O. E. Sala, S. E. Hobbie, M. C. Mack, and S. Diaz. 2000. Consequences of changing biodiversity. Nature 403:234–242.

Davies, R. G., C. D. L. Orme, V. Olson, G. H. Thomas, S. G. Ross, T. Ding, P. C. Rasmussen, A. J. Stattersfield, P. M. Bennett, T. M. Blackburn, I. P. F. Owens, and K. J. Gaston. 2006. Human impacts and the global distribution of extinction risk. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 273:2127–2133.

Folke, C., S. Carpenter, B. Walker, M. Scheffer, T. Elmqvist, L. Gunderson, and C. S. Holling. 2004. Regime shifts, resilience, and biodiversity in ecosystem management. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 35:557–581.

Grant, F., J. Mergeay, L. Santamaria, J. Young, and A. D. Watts, editors. 2010. Evolution and biodiversity: The evolutionary basis of biodiversity and its potential for adaptation to global change. Report of an electronic conference, March 2010. 98 pp. Accessed 17 July 2014 at _longversion_final.pdf.

Hooper, D. U., E. C. Adair, B. J. Cardinale, J. E. K. Byrnes, B. A. Hungate, K. L. Matulich, A. Gonzalez, J. E. Duffy, L. Gamfeldt, and M. I. O’Connor. 2012. A global synthesis reveals biodiversity loss as a major driver of ecosystem change. Nature 486:105–108.

Kerr, B., M. A. Riley, M. W. Feldman, and B. J. M. Bonhannan. 2002. Local dispersal promotes biodiversity in a real-life game of rock-paper-scissors. Nature 418:171–174.

Lavergne, S., N. Mouquet, W. Thuiller, and O. Ronce. 2010. Biodiversity and climate change: Integrating evolutionary and ecological responses of species and communities. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 41:321–350.

de Manzancourt, C., E. Johnson, and T. G. Barraclough. 2008. Biodiversity inhibits species’ evolutionary responses to changing environments. Ecology Letters 11:380–388.

McNeely, J. A., E. Sterling, and K. J. Mulongoy. 2008. What individuals can do to help conserve biodiversity. Pages 407–429 in E. Chivian and A. Bernstein, editors. Sustaining life: How human health depends on biodiversity. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Myers, N. 1993. Biodiversity and the precautionary principle. Ambio 22:74–79.

Pimm, S. L., M. A. S. Alves, E. Chivian, and A. Bernstein. 2008. What is biodiversity? Pages 3–27 in E. Chivian and A. Bernstein, editors. Sustaining life: How human health depends on biodiversity. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Pimm, S. L., C. N. Jenkins, R. Abell, T. M. Brooks, J. L. Gittelman, L. N. Joppa, P. H. Raven, C. M. Roberts, and J. O. Sexton. 2014. The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection. Science 344(6187). doi:10.1126 /science.1246752.

Santamaria, L., and P. F. Mendez. 2012. Evolution in biodiversity policy—Current gaps and future needs. Evolutionary Applications 5:202–218. doi:10.1111/j.1752 -4571.2011.00229.x. Accessed 17 July 2014 at /j.1752-4571.2011.00229.x/full.

Wamer, R. M. 2014. Conserving marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction: Co-evolution and interaction with the law of the sea. Frontiers in Marine Science 1:6. doi:10.3389/fmars.2014.00006. Accessed 17 July 2014 at http://journal /fmars.2014.00006/full.

Wilson, E. O. 1988. Biodiversity. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., USA.

———. 1992. The diversity of life. W. W. Norton, New York, New York, USA.

About the author

Glenn E. Plumb is chief wildlife biologist with the NPS Biological Resource Management Division in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was working as a cattle ranch manager for The Nature Conservancy when, in 1988, he first read E. O. Wilson’s Biodiversity. He has worked for the National Park Service since 1993 in “wild life” biodiversity conservation. He can be reached at

National parks and biodiversity discovery

By the editor

The map on pages 12–13 locates national parks that have under taken biological diversity discovery research and monitoring work since around 1996. Many of these activities were funded, organized, and carried out by the parks and their partners, and many involved public participation. The activities commonly focused on understudied taxa such as insects, fungi, and other groups of invertebrates and nonvascular plants. The information produced by this work augments the systematic and program-funded vertebrate and vascular plant inventories led by the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program that began in the 1990s.

The map also denotes the types of biodiversity discovery activities conducted. This includes onetime and independent taxonomic investigations. More and more, however, biological survey work is being combined with an opportunity to engage the public in meaningful and satisfying park stewardship experiences. These biologically focused public activities are flexible in scope and design and require special planning. They encompass relatively small and easily managed park inventories focused on particular taxa or habitats, larger-scale collection and festival-style events such as the NPS–National Geographic Society BioBlitzes, the more comprehensive and longer-term All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventories, and coordinated, multipark surveys and related research.

The driving distance between parks and the nearest U.S. city with a population of 250,000 or more is illustrated too. Five of the 119 parks on the map are located in a city of this size and another 49 are within a 100-mile (161 km) drive—a reasonable day trip—of such a city. Thus nearly half of the parks on the map are relatively close to population centers, which underscores the ability of parks to appeal to urban and suburban residents to participate in these types of events.

Developing the map was not without challenges. Criteria for what constitutes biodiversity discovery have not been defined precisely and reporting of these activities varies, complicating the synthesis. Additionally, most of the work has not been fully documented or analyzed from a national perspective. We have chosen to be inclusive1 because biodiversity discovery is a scalable, cumulative process. Small, one time, and less formal activities have the potential to inform our knowledge of biodiversity, as do large, coordinated, and repeated events. Plus, participation in citizen science–oriented activities is not limited to taxonomists or other scientists; anyone can take part, make a discovery, and help bring meaning to an observation. Nevertheless, we may have overlooked some activities for lack of knowledge, for example breeding bird surveys, Christmas bird counts, and less publicized inventories.

We summarize the biodiversity discovery activities for each of the parks shown on the map at The parks on the list are cross-referenced with the map grid for ease of location. We invite you to review this online list and improve it by sharing news of your park’s biodiversity discovery activities that we missed, adding detail to those that are sparse, and clarifying misinterpretations. To log your input please write to editor Jeff Selleck at

The story of biodiversity discovery in our national parks is exciting and continues to unfold. Small and large parks across the National Park System increasingly are taking part in these scientific activities that capture the public’s imagination and enthusiasm. Moreover, urban and suburban residents are participating in biological surveys and biodiversity conservation, concepts typically associated with textbooks and more remote parks.

The graph on page 13 illustrates that these events have proliferated since the first bioblitz was held at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C., in 1996, and particularly since the NPS Call to Action item 7: “Next Generation Stewards” was announced in 2011. Numbering 109 in the last four years, bio diversity discovery activities are increasing our knowledge of park biota and providing educational and park bonding experiences for a multitude of volunteers and park visitors.

In biodiversity discovery, a rich and dynamic enterprise is taking shape in our parks, and with continued focus and resources, there is potential to do more. For the onetime, independent, or less formal inventories an opportunity exists to build on the information they produced and put it into a broader, more complete context by planning follow-up activities that address knowledge gaps and involve the public. Parks that have already carried out an activity can add to their knowledge of park biota and increase their public outreach by tweaking and repeating the events. Parks that have yet to get involved can draw from the considerable experience of those that have already done so and design an activity that meets their needs and matches their goals.

Biodiversity discovery is a concept in shared stewardship, and it seems to be working. If the trend continues, particularly after the NPS centennial celebration in 2016, it would not be surprising to see another 50–100 national parks plan and carry out a biodiversity discovery event over the next 5–10 years. Considering the recent growth in this enterprise and the potential for more, we may well want to revisit this topic in Park Science around that time to continue to gauge our progress.

[Map illustration showing those parks in the National Park System that have participated in biodiversity discovery activities since 1996]

Note: To review the listing of biodiversity discovery activities that informed production of this map please visit

[Graph showing the number of parks undertaking biodiversity discovery activities over five periods, as follows: 1996–1998: 8; 1999–2002: 14; 2003–2006: 25; 2007–2010: 33; 2001–2014: 109]

(Graph) Since the advent of the bioblitz in 1996, national parks, their partners, and the public have planned and carried out biological diversity discovery activities with increasing frequency. The graph illustrates growth in this type of research and stewardship work over five periods in the last 19 years, particularly since 2011. That year the National Park Service set numerous goals to be achieved by 2016, the NPS centennial, including a challenge to conduct biodiversity discovery activities in at least 100 parks, at least 5 of which are located in an urban area.
Biodiversity Discovery Activities 1996–2014

Map Supplement

This list summarizes biodiversity discovery activities undertaken by national parks from around 1996 to 2014. It was developed in conjunction with and provides detail to the map and synthesis article on pages 11–13. Parks are cross-referenced with the map grid by letter and number for ease of location. Activity types are indicated according to the categories listed in the legend. We recognize that some listings may be incomplete or inaccurate. We invite you to help improve this list by sharing news of your park’s biodiversity discovery activities that we missed, adding detail to those that are sparse, and clarifying misinterpretations. To log your input please write to editor Jeff Selleck at


Park Name (Map Location)

– Year(s) | Activity Type | Focal Taxa/Habitats | Participation | Highlights

Individual Park Projects

1 Bioblitz(es) (focal taxa/habitat or general)

2 NPS–National Geographic Society BioBlitz

3 All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory

4 Educational programs, biodiversity fair

5 Other (count, survey, monitoring, photographic/digital documentation, observation, training)

Multipark Projects

6 2013–2014 | multipark pollinator inventory | native bees | scientists from NPS, USGS, Harvard University | 46 parks | ~685 species

7 2013–2014 | multipark environmental mercury study | dragonfly larvae | ~300 citizen scientists | 700 larvae collected in 6 odonate families

8 2013–2014 | multipark six-week automated photographic sampling, educational programs | mammals | I&M network, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Student Conservation Association interns, public | 30 species

9 2012–2014 | breeding phenology through acoustic monitoring | wood frogs | Alaska Region, citizen scientists, student intern

Acadia NP (O2)6,7
– 2003–2014 | annual 24 hr targeted taxa bioblitzes | ants, aquatic insects, beetles, butterflies, flies, macrofungi, moths, spiders, true bugs, other insects | amateur entomologists and mycologists, school groups, public, academic institutions, state government, naturalist organization | 20 species of butterflies, 300 species of moths, 226 species of aquatic insects
– ongoing15 | hawk migration observation | volunteers in conjunction with Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Apostle Islands NL (K2)6

Arkansas Post NMem (K5)
– 2012–20134 | biodiversity fair | mammals, herpetofauna, nighttime species | I&M network scientists, public

Assateague Island NS (N4)6
– 20125 | science field day/survey | marsh and bay biota, mole crabs, water quality | educators, schoolchildren

Bandelier NM (H5)7
– 1992–20145 | surveys, monitoring | ground-dwelling arthropods: beetles, crickets/grasshoppers, selected true bugs, spiders and other arachnids; species-habitat associations and shifts because of climate change | 300 species | University of New Mexico

Bering Land Bridge NPres (B3)
– 20134,5 | science engagement through videography | loons | high school students, educational and nongovernmental partners

Big Bend NP (I6)7

Big Cypress NPres (N7)7

Big Thicket NPres (K6)6
– 2006–20143,4 | ATBI, educational fairs and programs, seminars | amphibians, aquatic true bugs and ectoparasites, butterflies and moths, fishes, fungi, lichens, mussels, orchids, pseudoscorpions, slime molds, tardigrades, terrestrial arthropods, vascular and nonvascular plants | professional scientists, public, students | 2,761 species, 103 new to park, 1 (crayfish) new to science

Biscayne NP (N7)6
– 20102,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | marine species focus | with National Geographic Society, scientists, educators, public | 824 species tallied, 324 new listings for park

Blue Ridge Parkway (M4)6

Boston Harbor Islands NRA (O2)6
– 2013–20145 | 4.5 hr pilot photo voucher bioblitz | flora and fauna | 13 public | 248 photo insect observations; 52 species, 23 new for Thompson Island

– 2005–20103 | ATBI | invertebrates, intertidal species, mammals | entomologists, professional and citizen scientists, high school students, academic partners | 1,777 species

Bryce Canyon NP (G4)6

Buck Island Reef NM (F7)6

Canaveral NS (N6)6

Canyon de Chelly NM (H4)
– 2005–20073,5 | inventories, ATBI | arthropods and other taxa | inventories of three habitats: mixed conifer forest, pinyon-juniper woods along canyon rim, riparian woodlands | volunteers, schoolchildren, professional scientists

Canyonlands NP (G4)
5 | survey | insects | entomologist

Cape Cod NS (O2/3)6,7

Cape Krusenstern NM (B3)6

Capitol Reef NP (H4)
– 1998–20055 | inventories | rare plants | NPS, BLM, and other agencies; Canon USA grant

Carlsbad Caverns NP
– 2006–ongoing5 | survey | moths | lepidopterist

Catoctin Mountain Park (N4)
– 2008–20135 | inventories | bees (93 species), damselflies and dragonflies (28 species), ground-beetles (103 species) | contractors | two odonates of conservation concern, 42 bees new to county, 1 bee new to Maryland, park insect list expanded from 364 to 588 species

Cedar Breaks NM (G4)
– 2013–20141,4 | weekend “bioblast” | bat, bird, bug surveys | live identifications only, no specimens collected; educational fair to celebrate biodiversity at 10,000 feet; public participation; local universities, retired entomologist

Channel Islands NP (F4)6,7
– 2009–20145 | inventories | ants, beetles, lichens | local taxonomists, in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy

Chattahoochee River NRA (M5)
– 20115 | inventory | pollinators (bees) | principal investigator, academic and federal partners | 8 species new to state, 1 new to science

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP (N4)
– 20141 | bioblitz | invasive species
– 20061 | 30 hr bioblitz | algae, amphibians, arachnids, bryophytes, fungi, insects, reptiles, select flowering plants, slime molds | with The Nature Conservancy

Chickasaw NRA (J5)7
– 20111,4 | 24 hr bioblitz, educational programs | 800 species | 40 scientists

Chiricahua NM (H5)8

Colorado NM (H4)6
– multiple years5,6 | survey | insects | university researcher

Congaree NP (M5)
– 1995–present1 | ~1 hr training followed by 3–4 hr guided observation | birds, butterflies, moths | naturalist partners, citizen scientists (average 75 per year)
– 2006–20071 | spiderblitz, three 3 hr sessions | arachnids | professional scientist, public
5 | survey | freshwater mussels | professional scientists, conservation partner volunteers

Coronado NMem (GH5)8

Crater Lake NP (F2)
– 20141 | 24 hr bioblitz | moths and butterflies | entomologists, public

Craters of the Moon NM and NPres (G2/3)
– 20145 | inventory | pikas and natural sounds | citizen scientists

Cumberland Island NS (M6)6

Cuyahoga Valley NP (M3)7

Death Valley NP (F4)6
– 2007–20081 | bioblitz | invertebrates | taxonomists, school groups

Denali NP and NPres (C4)6,7

Dinosaur NM (H3)
– multiple years5 | survey | insects, other arthropods | entomologist

Ebey’s Landing NHR (F1)
– 20045 | monthly collecting forays (April, May, June, September) | vascular plants | professional and amateur botanists, public

El Malpais NM (H5)
– 2007–20085 | ATBI | cave arthropods, bats, and other vertebrates | university researcher through CESU | 59 arthropods, 3 bats, 3 other vertebrates; many arthropod species new to science

Fire Island NS (O3)6

Fort Bowie NHS (H5)8

Fort Donelson NB (L4)
– 2013–20145 | targeted inventories, various techniques | plants and all animal species: photography; owls: audio calling; bats: echolocation recording; nighttime biota: infrared photography and night-vision scopes; bioluminescent species: UV illumination and high-intensity chemical lighting | volunteers, citizen scientists

Fort Matanzas NM (N6)6

Fort Pulaski NM (N5)
– 20131 | 12 hr bioblitz | nonnative plants | park staff, 27 public (high school students, area naturalists) | new exotic species identified

Fort Washington Park (N4)
– ongoing5 | video and direct observation monitoring | bald eagles | citizen scientists

Fossil Butte NM (H3)6

Gateway NRA (N3)6
– 2007–2008,1 20101 | bioblitzes, ATBI | all taxa, 3 focal areas | scientists, 50 preregistered public

George Washington Birthplace NM (N4)6
– 2007–2009,1,3 20121,3 | bioblitzes, ATBI | arthropods, including terrestrial and aquatic insects, birds, fungi, vascular and nonvascular plants | professional and amateur scientists, partners, schools | 377 arthropod species identified

George Washington Carver NM (K4)
– 20131,4 | bioblitz | aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small mammals, vascular plants, water mites | 4 professional scientists, 20 volunteers; 15 attended a related educational program | 141 species, 89 of which were new to park

George Washington Memorial Parkway (N4)
– 2006–20141,3 | 30 hr bioblitz, ATBI | algae, amphibians, arachnids, bryophytes, fungi, insects (including microwasps), reptiles, select flowering plants, slime molds | students, 59 citizen naturalists, academic institutions, museum | 378 genera (comprising 377 species) of insects

Glacier NP (H1)6
– ongoing5 | focal taxa inventories | butterflies, diatoms, ferns, mayflies, mollusks, mycobacteria, vascular plants

Glen Canyon NRA (H4)
– 20091 | bioblitz | animals, plants | professional and amateur scientists | with The Nature Conservancy
– 20045 | surveys | amphibians, arthropods, reptiles, small mammals, vascular and nonvascular plants | professional scientists

Golden Gate NRA (E3)7
– 20142,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | all taxa | with National Geographic Society

Grand Canyon NP (G4)
– 20075 | inventory | ground-dwelling arthropods | professional scientist
– 1999–20045 | surveys | aquatic annelids | park staff, professional scientists, public
– ~20045 | surveys | amphibians, arthropods, reptiles, small mammals, vascular and nonvascular plants | professional scientists – 2001–20035 | inventory | terrestrial and riparian invertebrates | professional scientist | 1,127 taxa collected

Grand Portage NM (K2)7

Grand Teton NP (H2/3)6
– 20045 | surveys

Great Basin NP (G4)6,7
– 2009,1 2011–20131 | annual 24 hr targeted taxa bioblitzes | arachnids (2 orders and several families new to park, white cave mite may be new to science), bees and wasps (65 species), beetles, flies (47 families, 19 species new to park) | professional and amateur scientists, public, volunteers | average 60 participants per year

Great Sand Dunes NP and NPres (I4)7
5 | survey | insects | entomologist

Great Smoky Mountains NP (M4/5)6,7
– 1998–present3,4 | ATBI, grant-funded projects involving TWiGs, bioblitzes, educational programs, workshops | ~130 focal taxa projects over 17 years, including algae, annelids (including oligochaeta), ants, aphids, aquatic bugs, bacteria (hemlock, plant, soil, waterborne), beetles (leaf, long-horned, wood), butterflies, cave and karst biota, crickets, diatoms, dry cliff plants, elk stomach biota, ferns and fern viruses, fish, flies (biting, bloodsucking, crane-, horse-, moth-, tephritid), flat worms, forest litter, freshwater invertebrates, fungi and microfungi (including pyrenomycetes), grasshoppers, hemlock insects, homoptera, hymenoptera (including wasps), insect viruses, internal bird parasites, leeches, lichens, microspore parasites, mosquitoes, moths (clearwing, micro-, noctuidae, owl-), pauropoda, planthoppers/leafhoppers, pollinators, slime molds (including myxomycetes), soil mites, spiders, springtails, stream microbes, tardigrades, thysanoptera, tree-canopy life, vascular plants, violets, viruses (plant), waterborne spores, water mites | partner-led, long-term study; researchers; volunteers; student participation through research learning center; public events | 18,038 species total; 7,636 species new to park, 923 new to science | 400+ participants in 2013

Indiana Dunes NL (L3)6,7
– ongoing5 | monitoring, counts | birds, plants of concern | 21 citizens, area naturalists | 52 bird species tallied
– 20092,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | all taxa | with National Geographic Society | more than 1,200 species tallied

Isle Royale NP (L2)6

Jean Lafitte NHP and Pres (L6)7
– 20132,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | all taxa | 458 species tallied | with National Geographic Society, 1,500 adults, 1,500 children, 100 scientists | Louisiana milk snake, mud minnow

John Day Fossil Beds NM (F2)7

John Muir NHS (E3)
– 2011–20135 | phenology monitoring | 50 high school students

Joshua Tree NP (FG5)
– 2011–20131 | 36 hr “biodiversity hunts” | terrestrial, aquatic, and aerial insects at park oases | university taxonomists and students, local naturalists, public education programs | range of 40–105 citizen scientists/event | new families, genera, and species to park
– 1994–present5 | checklist updates, counts, inventories, surveys | amphibians, breeding birds, butterflies, lichens, mammals, including bats and rodents, reptiles, terrestrial arthropods, including insects, vascular plants | park staff, academic institutions
– 1968–present5 | Christmas bird count | National Audubon Society
– 1991,5 1993,5 1999–20015 | surveys | bats | UCLA, Bat Conservation Int’l

Katmai NP and NPres (B5)7

Kenai Fjords NP (C5)6

Kings Canyon NP (F4)
– 2014 | inventory5 | DNA analysis of harvestmen (arachnid)
– ongoing5 | Christmas bird count
– 2002–20045 | inventory | cave invertebrates | contractor | about 30 new species (combined with those reported for Sequoia NP)
5 | roadside acoustic surveys | bats

Knife River Indian Villages NHS (J2)7

Kobuk Valley NP (B3)9

Lake Clark NP and NPres (C5)6,7

Lewis and Clark NHP (F1)
– 20121 | bioblitz | macroinvertebrates | 300 participants

Mammoth Cave NP (L4)7

Manassas NBP (N4)
– 1995–20145 | annual breeding bird surveys | birds, grasslands, shrublands | local Audubon chapter | designation as Important Bird Area, 10 species of regional conservation concern; butterflies, bees, plants also documented

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP (N/O2)7
– 2013–20145 | Atlas of Life field day, pilot digital documentation | bees, birds, moths, plants | 40 workshop/program participants | 90 observations/ photographs by smartphone submitted to iNaturalist

Mesa Verde NP (H4)
– 1999–20075 | invertebrates and other arthropods | university entomologists | state range extensions, pinned collection
– inventory5 | spiders | fire-burned areas | museum partner
– inventory5 | ground-dwelling arthropods, spiders | comparison of burned and unburned pinyon-juniper forest | graduate student

Mississippi NRRA (K2)
– 2011–20131 | annual 24 hr focal-area bioblitzes | birds, fish, fungi, insects, mammals, plants | 100 participants in 2013, local university and museum | 322 species in 2013

Mojave NPres (G4)6

Monocacy NB (N4)7

Mount Rainier NP (F1)7
– 2004–20075 | annual forays at different park locations | vascular plants | botanists, public
– survey5 | caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies | entomologist

Muir Woods NM (E3)
– 20142,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | diverse taxa | with National Geographic Society

National Capital Parks (Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens) (N4)7
– 19961 | 24 hr bioblitz | NPS and USGS scientists

Niobrara NSR (J3)7

North Cascades NP (F1)6,7
– ongoing5 | inventories | insects, lichens | independent researchers
– 2002–20075 | annual forays at different park locations | vascular plants | botanists, public

Ocmulgee NM (M5)
– 20131 | 2-day butterfly bioblitz | 480 participants | butterflies (28 species), dragonflies (5 species) | field identifications only (i.e., specimens not collected)

Olympic NP (F1)7
– 20083 | ATBI | fungi, insects, lichens, liverworts, microbes, mosses, spiders | before large-scale Elwha watershed restoration | park staff, academic institutions

Organ Pipe Cactus NM (G5)6

Ozark NSR (K4)7

Pecos NHP (I5)7

Petrified Forest NP (G5)6

Pictured Rocks NL (L2)6,7

Pipe Spring NM (G4)
– 2011–20124,5 | surveys, educational programs | bats, especially migratory species | academic partner | 18 species identified, 600 public participants

Piscataway Park (N4)
– 2013–20144,5 | videography, educational programs | bald eagles

Point Reyes NS (E3)6
– 2002–20141,5 | 24 hr bioblitzes, counts, forays, grants, 2- to 3-day inventories | algae, benthic invertebrates, crabs, diatoms, eelgrass, fish, fungi, intertidal biota, invasive species, lichens, mollusks, oysters, phytoplankton, sea squirts, shellfish, stream butterflies | taxonomists, students, 15–100 public and scientists per year depending on event

Pu’uhonua o Hönaunau NHP (B7)7

Redwood NP (E2/3)6

Rock Creek Park (N4)
– 20072,4 | large 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | amphibians, aquatic insects, birds, fish, fungi, mammals, microbes, plants, reptiles, and terrestrial invertebrates (including insects) | with National Geographic Society | more than 650 species tallied

Rocky Mountain NP (I3)6,7
– 20122,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | all taxa | with National Geographic Society, 5,000 public, schoolchildren, scientists, partners | 490 species total, 138 new to park (including 2 mammals)
– 2008–20091 | 2-day mycoblitz | fungi | professional and citizen scientists, local naturalist organization
– 2008–20095 | waterblitz | water sampling at 168 and 140 park locations, respectively | scientists, public
– survey5 | caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies | entomologist

Saguaro NP (G5)
– 2012–20145 | student monitoring of 10,000 saguaro cacti and other plants and animals
– 20112,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | all taxa | with National Geographic Society, 5,500 public, schoolchildren, scientists, partners | 859 species tallied, 400 new to park, 1 may be new to science

Saint Croix NSR (K2)7

Saint-Gaudens NHS (O2)7

San Juan Island NHP (F1)6
– 20141 | 2-day bioblitz | all taxa | students to help run event

Sand Creek Massacre NHS (I4)
5 | survey | insects | entomologist

Santa Monica Mountains NRA (F5)6,7
– 2009–20144 | annual biodiversity festival (1.5 days) | 2,000 people
– 20082,4 | large, 24 hr bioblitz and fair (NPS-NGS) | all taxa | with National Geographic Society, 2,000 public, schoolchildren, scientists, partners | more than 1,700 species tallied

Sequoia NP (F4)
– 20145 | inventory | DNA analysis of harvestmen (insect)
– ongoing5 | Christmas bird count
– 2002–20045 | inventory | cave invertebrates | contractor | about 30 new species (combined with those reported for Kings Canyon NP)
5 | roadside acoustic surveys | bats

Shenandoah NP (N4)7

Sleeping Bear Dunes NL (L2)6

Tallgrass Prairie NPres (J4)
– 2009–20135 | annual count | butterflies | 70 participants | 2013: 50 species (3,070 specimens), 5 species new to park

Timpanogos Cave NM (H3)6

Timucuan EHP (M6)6,7

Upper Delaware SRR (N3)
– 2013–20141,4 | 24 hr bioblitz | all taxa | 2013: 50 scientists, amateur naturalists, 25 volunteers, 250 educational program attendees | 1,024 species in 2013

Valley Forge NHP (N3)
– 20141,5 | “Summer of Bugs” (two 24 hr bioblitzes and a summerlong “photoblitz”) | terrestrial invertebrates | university partner with public participation | catalog bugs present in two seasons; includes macrophotography workshop and use of iNaturalist to log photos
– 20095 | “Crayfish Corps” | inventory and manual removal of nonnative rusty crayfish | volunteers from schools, summer camps, corporate groups, conservation organizations, families, park neighbors | native-to-nonnative crayfish ratio is 4:1
– 20035 | inventory | crayfish | 1 undescribed species and 1 new to state

Voyageurs NP (K2)7

Wolf Trap NPPA (N4)
– 20133,5 | photo inventory, ATBI | birds, insects (including pollinators: bees, butterflies, moths), plants | volunteer and federal biologist, professional and volunteer naturalists, public, local naturalist organizations | 100 bird species, thousands of photo insect and plant observations

Wrangell–St. Elias NP (D4/5)6,9

Wupatki NM (G4)
– 2012–ongoing5 | ATBI cave arthropods, bats, and other vertebrates | university researcher through CESU | 1 bat and at least 2 arthropod species new to science

Yellowstone NP (H2)6,7
– 20091 | 24 hr bioblitz, public event | various taxa | taxonomic working groups, public
– 2007–20091,3 | aquatic molecular ATBI | aquatic DNA of Yellowstone Lake, various taxa | largest study of environmental DNA: 7 billion base pairs of DNA sequenced | academic institutions

Yosemite NP (F4)7
– 2007–20143 | ATBI with annual targeted taxa and habitats | bryophytes, caves, cliff lichens, high-elevation lakes | park staff, taxonomists, contractor, American Alpine Club | 500 lichen species new to park, some new to Sierra Nevada and North America, a few new to science; more than 300 bryophyte species identified
– 2004–20105 | inventory | vertebrates | park, academic, and federal scientists | repeat of early 1900s Grinnell Survey
– 2002–20045 | inventory | cave invertebrates | contractor | 1 new species

Yucca House NM (H4)
– 1 year5 | survey | insects | entomologist

Yukon-Charley Rivers NPres (D3/4)9

Zion NP (G4)6



Biodiversity and national parks: What’s relevance got to do with it?

By Glenn Plumb, Edward O. Wilson, Sally Plumb, and Paula J. Ehrlich

Recently, the director of the National Park Service (NPS) asked the National Park System Advisory Board Science Committee to answer three questions: What should be the goals of resource management in the National Park Service? What policies for resource management are necessary to achieve these goals? What actions are required to implement these policies? Broad in scope and implication, these questions and their answers are intended to help chart the course of NPS resource stewardship. This dialogue generated a call “to steward NPS resources for continuous change that is not yet fully understood, in order to preserve ecological integrity and cultural and historical authenticity, provide visitors with transformative experiences, and form the core of a national conservation land- and seascape” (National Park System Advisory Board 2012). Within this context, the next century for the National Park Service will be influenced by a combination of system-level drivers and stressors such as advancement of climate and land use change, responses to such changes, and how stakeholders perceive the agency’s relevance. This essay considers not the relevance of biodiversity, but rather the relevance of the National Park Service as seen through the lens of participants in national park biodiversity discovery and conservation experiences. Simply put, without relevance, the National Park Service will have a difficult time championing meaningful biodiversity conservation.

Discovery matters

What connects national parks, biodiversity, and relevance? The public perception of the centenary National Park Service is increasingly focused on the nation’s biodiversity, though this vocabulary is not yet universally practiced. Technically, biodiversity is the diversity of life across the ecosystem, species, and genetic levels. Personally, only the most inattentive of park visitors do not find themselves taking a short breath in wonder and delight when first encountering a park’s diversity of life: majestic trees, expansive prairie, tender wildflowers, teeming wild fish, charismatic wild predators and prey, a hatch of the salmon fly, marine mammals, migratory birds and butterflies on their long journeys, cold-blooded amphibians and reptiles, coral reefs, and the colorful extremophiles of acidic hot springs. The diversity of life lives on in its full exuberance, we intend and hope.

We believe that old and young alike who experience biodiversity fully at the level of species in a national park are more likely to believe in the importance of conserving life in general, and to actively become a current- or next-generation steward. The power of biodiversity discovery in such moments is becoming central to the perceived transcendence of national parks. One needs only see the light of discovery in a child’s eyes at a park bioblitz to become a believer in the value of living nature. Such transformative experiences of discovery can be tightly coupled with the diversity of life that has been entrusted to the National Park Service. Think about it. The diversity of life that has been entrusted. Think about it again. Think about the great archetypal stories of journeys of discovery and of being entrusted with the diversity of life. Biodiversity is not an asset or a currency simply to be carefully packaged for passage through a purported Anthropocene. For the National Park Service and its visitors and stakeholders, biodiversity discovery and conservation are the journey. Exhilarating.

Words matter

Let’s take a step back from the edge of the profound, draw a short breath, and think about our current state of affairs. Just as of old, we continue to record and pass along our rules, accomplishments, aspirations, and paths through written narrative. In the past three decades, the scientific and nonscientific narrative about our growing understanding and anxiety about the eco logical consequences of the accelerating loss of biodiversity, especially at the species level, has exploded globally. From this emerging understanding of the ecological centrality of biodiversity in the human condition, this discussion has expanded to include the aesthetic, ethical, sociological, and economic consequences of the loss of diversity of life. Distinctly, Nobel Peace Prize–winner Eric Chivian and colleague Aaron Bernstein (2008) undertook the first in-depth synthesis of the fundamental and profound relationships between biodiversity and human health. Though we face many challenges to improving the human condition, conservation of the diversity of life remains within our collective capacity. Conceivable.

Words are important. Certain words speak volumes when used, and are poignant by their absence. Relevance can indeed become biased by a deft turn of phrase. Notwithstanding the rapidly growing global interest in biodiversity, a quiet reading of NPS Management Policies (2006) reveals that “biodiversity” or “diversity” is not to be found in the table of contents or glossary, and is mentioned obliquely only four times amidst this 170-page tome. Intriguing.

Despite this lack of specific biodiversity guidance, the business of biodiversity conservation takes place day to day in national parks through a wide array of resource protection and management, including restoration of native species and ecosystems, control of invasive species, integrated pest management, and inventory and monitoring. The National Park Service is actively engaged in the business of protecting a wide range of habitats, such as prairie, tundra, ocean, mountains, forest, desert, rivers, islands, reefs, man groves, and coastal wetlands; conserving ecological processes such as predation, competition, and disturbance; preserving large-scale marvels such as migration and dispersal; and providing for genetically diverse wild life populations.

Who cares matters

In addition to this foundational work of protection, the National Park Service advances biodiversity conservation by raising awareness through effective engagement of our citizens. As global threats increase, national parks are becoming critical reserves of biodiversity. Yet current societal trends include the disconnection of youth from nature and low park visitation by minority groups and underrepresented communities. If something is not seen as relevant, it is not considered important.

We suggest that public education and involvement in biodiversity discovery at our national parks are vital to conserving our national biodiversity for the future. Biodiversity discovery in national parks, for example via a public bioblitz, has proven to generate transformative visitor experiences that both educate and inspire through direct public involvement in the discovery of living organisms in the parks, of which it is estimated that 80–90% remain unknown. Because biodiversity discovery activities often require only excited minds and willing hands, they appeal to children and nonscientists as much as they do to experts in the subject matter. The NPS Call to Action item 7, “Next Generation Stewards,” envisions a new generation of citizen scientists and future stewards of our parks through societal involvement in fun and educational biodiversity discovery activities and has challenged park staffs to conduct such activities in at least 100 parks from 2011 to 2016. Parks can thereby develop new, engaging relationships with diverse audiences, especially children, in the discovery of life in our parks. In the past 16 years, biodiversity discovery activities in parks have identified approximately 21,500 species new to park species lists, and have provided hands-on science experiences for more than 39,000 people of diverse ages, races, and backgrounds (NPS 2014). The scientific gains from biodiversity discovery are incalculable, species specialists will tell you. Public involvement and education can also be catalytic, yielding an exponential increase in awareness of and motivation for stewardship of biodiversity. Imagine the number 39,000 with a few more zeroes.

Consider, for example, the middle school student from Connecticut who attended the 2013 NPS–National Geographic Society BioBlitz at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana (see sidebar on page 17). He became so inspired by the experience that he subsequently coordinated a bioblitz that engaged his entire school. As stated by one of his teachers, “City kids who live in some of the most crime-ridden and drug-ridden housing projects in the Northeast, and who need to appear ‘tough’ so they can survive, are now talking biodiversity.”

Participation in biodiversity discovery can be life-changing in unexpected ways. Con template, for instance, students from innercity Los Angeles who were bused to the 2008 NPS–National Geographic Society BioBlitz at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Before a single species had been identified, a bigger discovery was made: these children were seeing the ocean for the first time. Extrapolate this handful of children to the millions of people who have not yet experienced a national park and who have little understanding of the importance of biodiversity in their lives, health, and wellbeing. They need to experience the ocean to appreciate the fish; they need untamed spaces to attach importance to wild life.

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