Park Science Integrating Research and Resource Management Volume 24 • Number 1 • Summer 2006

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Park Science

Integrating Research and Resource Management

Volume 24 • Number 1 • Summer 2006
ISBN 0735-9462

United States Department of the Interior • National Park Service

= = = = Contents = = = =

(1) From the Editor

(2) News and Views

(3) Highlights

(4) Information Crossfile

(5) Meetings of Interest


(6) Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Scientists and managers improve their ability to protect the health of swimmers through better science-based management and an increased understanding of contaminants and local conditions.

By Wendy Smith, Meredith Nevers, and Richard Whitman


(7) Response of western mountain ecosystems to climatic variability and change: The Western Mountain Initiative

Scientists collaborate to understand and predict the effects of a warmer climate on park and protected area ecosystems, including potential dieback of forests, reductions in streamflows, and increased severity of wildfires.

By Nate Stephenson, Dave Peterson, Dan Fagre, Craig Allen, Don McKenzie, Jill Baron, and Kelly O’Brian

(8) Remote sensing for the national parks

Advances in remote sensing have led to a variety of applications in park management, including evaluation of landscape-level changes in natural resources, identification and monitoring of vegetation, and analysis of wildfires.

By John E. Gross, Ramakrishna R. Nemani, Woody Turner, and Forrest Melton

(9) Reassessing a troublesome fact of mountain life: Avalanches in Glacier National Park

Investigators combine historical records and field studies to elucidate climate patterns that produce avalanches, improving the safety of spring road-clearing crews and gaining insights into an important ecological process.

By Blase A. Reardon and Daniel B. Fagre

(10) Effects of white-tailed deer on vegetation structure and woody seedling composition at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia

Researchers document deer browsing impacts on forest succession as managers consider taking action to control the overabundant population.

By Bryan Gorsira, C. Reed Rossell Jr., and Steven Patch

(11) Restoration of threadleaf sedge at Scotts Bluff National Monument

Resource managers tackle an involved restoration requiring greenhouse propagation of a native mixed-grass prairie plant species, and return a portion of the park to its mid-1800s appearance.

By Susan J. Tunnell, James Stubbendieck, Robert Manasek, and Gary Willson


Swimmers enjoy summer sun, sand, and surf at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Thanks to pioneering research by the U.S. Geological Survey and recent modernization in water quality monitoring, park users and managers now enjoy quicker and more reliable reports on water quality at popular swimming beaches where fecal contamination can be a problem. For more of the story, see the cover article.


= = = = Masthead = = = =
Park Science

Integrating Research and Resource Management

Volume 24, Number 1, Summer 2006

ISSN 0735–9462

Published by

U.S. Department of the Interior

National Park Service

Fran Mainella

Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship & Science

Michael Soukup


Jeff Selleck

Assistant editors

Betsie Blumberg, under cooperative agreement CA 4000-8-9028, SA 14

Katie KellerLynn, under cooperative agreement CA 1200-99-0009, TO J2370030135

Glenda Heronema—Denver Service Center

Editorial board

Ron Hiebert (chair)—Research Coordinator, Colorado Plateau CESU

Gary E. Davis—Visiting Chief Scientist, Ocean Program

John Dennis—Deputy Chief Scientist, Natural Resource Stewardship & Science

Bobbi Simpson—Supervisory Biologist and California Exotic Plant

Management Team Liaison, Point Reyes National Seashore

Judy Visty—Natural Resource Management Specialist,

Continental Divide Research and Learning Center, RockyMountain National Park

Editorial office

Jeff Selleck

National Park Service

P.O. Box 25287

Denver, CO 80225-0287


Phone: 303-969-2147

Fax: 303-987-6704

Park Science is a resource management bulletin of the U.S. National Park Service that reports recent and ongoing natural and social science research, its implications for park planning and management, and its application to resource management. Published by the Natural Resource Program Center, Office of Education and Outreach, it appears twice annually. Thematic issues that explore a topic in depth are published occasionally. Content is reviewed for usefulness, basic scientific soundness, clarity, completeness, and policy considerations, but does not undergo anonymous peer review.
Letters that address the scientific content or factual nature of an article are welcome; they may be edited for length, clarity, and tone. Facts and views expressed in Park Science are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect opinions or policies of the National Park Service. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement by the National Park Service.
Unattributed articles in the News and Views, Information Crossfile, Highlights, and other departments are written, compiled, or edited by Park Science editorial staff, often based on cited sources or other material that is prepared by subject-matter experts among our readers. Articles, comments, address changes, and inquiries should be directed to the editor by e–mail; hard copy materials should be forwarded to the editorial office.
Park Science is also published online (ISSN 1090-9966). All back issues, article submission guidelines, and other useful information can be accessed from
Park Science accepts subscription donations from non-NPS readers to help defray production costs. A typical donation is $10 per subscription per year. Checks should be made payable to the National Park Service and sent to the editorial office address.
Sample article citation

Smith, W., M. Nevers, and R. Whitman. Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Park Science 24(1):19–23.

Printed on recycled paper.

(1) = = = = From the Editor = = = =
Collaboration for the long term
Though not designed to explore a particular topic in depth, this edition of Park Science reveals several common themes in how we in national park research and resource management approach our work. Collaboration, for example, is a thread that runs throughout the issue. The articles reflect the variety, complexity, and sheer number of research questions that have a bearing on park management, and they remind us of the broad scientific community with which the National Park Service enjoys fruitful partnerships. They also illustrate a variety of ways in which particular park information needs are matched with the right expertise, including through Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units and monitoring networks. Herein we see a small sample of results from current collaborative efforts in national park stewardship. The work is helping managers to improve park safety, recognize and anticipate changes in park resources, interpret historical events that affected park resources and the people inhabiting the area at the time, understand ecological interactions, and maintain park ecosystems.
Another theme is how different time scales—from hours to centuries and longer—have significance for park resource management. For example, satellite imagery can help managers understand park changes within hours or days of their occurrence, such as following hurricanes, wildfires, and other fast-acting disturbances. In these circumstances speedy feedback is essential to identifying and protecting high-priority resources at risk. For other management questions, analysis of a time series of images at intervals of years to decades is appropriate and reveals gradual processes, including changes in native and nonnative vegetation and the types and extent of land use adjacent to a park. A particularly dramatic example of resource change illustrated in this issue is the reduction in glacier mass at Glacier National Park, as documented in photographs over the last century. Modeling suggests that the current rate of climate warming could mean the loss of all glaciers in this park by 2030.
These observations at Glacier have been reported as part of a scientific collaboration called the Western Mountain Initiative, a long-term monitoring program in western national parks that has been ongoing since 1991. Other examples of collaborative, long-term monitoring in this issue come from several park areas, including Channel Islands and Shenandoah national parks. For 25 years researchers have been systematically collecting data about kelp forests at Channel Islands and watersheds at Shenandoah. The value of these data becomes clear when they are synthesized to reveal how park resources are changing and why. This information pertains not only to park management but also potentially to regional and national environmental issues. This knowledge of ecological systems is exciting and is a very important outcome of this fundamental park research activity.
Finally, one of the values I see in this publication is sharing the experience of investigators and resource managers so that researchers and managers in other settings might benefit from their findings. The authors of the report on water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes tell their story with this very point in mind. Other themes and connections await your discovery.
Jeff Selleck

(2) = = = = News & Views = = = =

Hatches Harbor restoration

John Portnoy, ecologist with the National Park Service, points out an error in figure 4 of his article “Estuarine habitat restoration at Cape Cod National Seashore: The Hatches Harbor prototype,” published in Park Science 22(1):53. The bar graph shows increasing mean tidal range in the salt-marsh restoration site since the installation and gradual opening of culverts in 1999. The mean tidal range for the unrestricted or natural marsh was 1.02 m, not 0.66 m as indicated in the graph.

Parking lot sealants

We received e-mail about our Information Crossfile article, “Are ugly parking lots healthier?,” published in volume 23(2):19. Our intent was to call attention to parking lot sealants as a previously unrecognized significant source of concentrated carcinogenic aquatic contaminants called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). However, we were too broad in our presentation, implying that any application of sealants would be environ-mentally detrimental. As Dave Kruse, coordinator of the Pacific West Region Federal Lands Highway Program, points out, “The article fails to [explain] that there are more types of sealants than the coal tar–based sealants that do indeed contain PAHs.” Asphalt emulsion sealants, he relates, do not contain coal tar or PAHs and “the vast majority of asphalt sealants are emulsions and not coal tar based.” According to Kruse, the National Park Service commonly uses rapid-set asphalt emulsion sealers, including fog seal, slurry seal, and chip seal to maintain pavement.

Our title was also a poor choice as it suggests that allowing park infrastructure to deteriorate benefits the ecological health of parks. Infrastructure, including roads and parking lots, in the national parks must be maintained properly or, as Kruse reminds us, “we will see pavement cracking and breaking up prematurely, which will lead to increased costs and consumption of new oil-based asphalt,” another source of PAHs.
We also heard from Roy Irwin, contaminants specialist with the NPS Water Resources Division, who found the article incomplete. He encourages readers to refer to the NPS Environmental Contaminants Encyclopedia at for questions about road and trail treatments of all types, not just asphalt and its sealants. The encyclopedia is more comprehensive than the EPA source we cited and profiles 118 contaminants, listing benchmarks for toxic concentrations of metals, industrial organic chemicals, and hydro-carbons in water, sediment, soil, and tissues. Asphalt is reviewed at and PAHs at

Irwin has concerns that asphalt emulsion sealers could plausibly contain PAHs, though he has not seen test results to this effect. “We know that asphalt contains PAHs,” he says, “so … I would not … assume any product based on asphalt would not contain PAHs.” Irwin explains that compounds listed as inert for a particular product purpose are not necessarily nonhazardous under certain conditions. Complicating the matter is the difficulty of obtaining product scans for a full suite of suspect compounds. Irwin feels that test results of asphalt emulsion sealers that showed method detection limits (MDL) of less than 10 ppb of PAHs and alkyl PAHs “would be reassuring.” Still, he acknowledges that the PAHs in asphalt “are relatively immobile until the asphalt breaks down,” and says that oil from cars is probably a bigger source of these contaminants.

We regret the misinformation and hope the extended comments help clarify the issue.

(3) = = = = Highlights = = = =
A cultural icon surrounded by a natural treasure: Old-growth forest at Mount Rushmore
The Black Hills of western South Dakota and southeastern Wyoming are an island in the prairie, a metaphor fitting not only for their geological and topographical differences from the surrounding plains, but also for their differences in flora and fauna. Most notably, the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa (“hills that are black”) as the Lakota called them, are named for the dark appearance they have when viewed from a distance—a darkness caused by the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest that blankets the hills (fig. 1). Although ponderosa pine, as a species and as a forest type, occurs across a large part of western North America, the combination of species and natural processes in ponderosa pine forests of the Black Hills makes it a unique ecosystem.
Figure 1. [photo] Old-growth ponderosa pine forest is a natural treasure at Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a small portion—1,278 acres (517 ha)—of the 3.8 million acres (1.5 million ha) that comprise the Black Hills. However, because it has been protected from logging since the late 1930s, a popular “legend” perpetuated by park staff is that the memorial houses one of the largest areas of old-growth forest remaining in the Black Hills. By contrast, the majority of the Black Hills forest has been heavily logged. To determine the validity of this legend and to understand the role of the memorial’s forest in the Black Hills ecosystem as a whole, we determined the extent and location of unlogged and old-growth forest stands in the memorial using historical documents and field investigations.

Our results suggest that approximately 29% of the memorial has had no tree harvesting activity, and 18% has had only selective cutting of larger trees. When defined according to the only published description of old-growth Black Hills ponderosa pine forest, 901 acres (365 ha) of old-growth ponderosa pine forest occur in the memorial; this is 71% of the memorial’s area (fig. 2). Based on current estimates of similar forest in the rest of the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore National Memorial contains the second-largest area of old-growth Black Hills ponderosa pine forest. This work not only substantiates a park legend, but also highlights the significant contribution of the memorial’s forest to the Black Hills ecosystem: it provides important habitat for cavity-nesting birds (fig. 3) and other species that depend upon mature forest—a rare occurrence elsewhere in the Black Hills.
Figure 2. [Map]. Shaded areas in the map of Mount Rushmore National Memorial are stands of trees that meet the description of old-growth forest. Black circles identify points with no old stumps, that is, areas presumably without logging.


Figure 3. [Photo]. Large holes in this snag provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds like the red- breasted nuthatch. The small holes are evidence of birds searching for insects in the wood.


Even in areas that have not had logging, the memorial’s forest is not pristine, however. More than a century of fire suppression has increased the density of live and dead trees beyond that of presettlement times. These increased densities put the forest in danger of fires that are likely to be more intense than those that drove ecosystem evolution. Ongoing research will provide a clearer picture of management and restoration targets to reduce this danger.
*** “The oldest trees within the memorial sprouted just 27 years after Christopher Columbus reached the American continent.” ***
The results of this study add a new dimension to a “Shrine of Democracy”—a cultural treasure that commemorates the growth of the United States. To put things into perspective, the oldest trees within the memorial sprouted just 27 years after Christopher Columbus reached the American continent. These trees have seen immense change in the peoples and uses of the forest. The forest itself is a memorial to a unique ecosystem and these changes.
Amy Symstad, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 605-341- 2807,; Michael Bynum, Biological Technician, NPS Northern Great Plains Inventory and Monitoring Network,

* * *

Application of GIS to estimate the volume of the Great Johnstown Flood
Johnstown Flood National Memorial was created in 1964 to commemorate the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889 and preserve the remnants of the South Fork Dam. The earthen dam formed a reservoir known as Conemaugh Lake on the South Fork of the Little Conemaugh River. Originally a reservoir for the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, in the 1800s the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club used the lake as a resort for wealthy industrialists. Following heavy rains, the dam broke on 31 May 1889, killing 2,209 people in the flood.
Historical documents presented conflicting information regarding the estimated size of the lake and the amount of water released in the flood. An 1891 engineering report in Transactions, the journal of the American Society of Civil Engineers, estimated the reconstructed volume of Conemaugh Lake to be 450,000,000 cubic feet (12,744,265 cu m). However, an 1889 article in Engineering News and American Railway Journal estimated the lake to contain 640,000,000 cubic feet (18,125,177 cu m) of water when the dam burst. Unsure which estimate was more accurate, the park staff requested technical assistance from the Northeast Regional Office and the Water Resources Division to calculate the estimated volume of the historical Conemaugh Lake. Kathy Penrod, natural resource specialist at the park; Alan Ellsworth, Northeast Region hydrologist; and James Farrell, Northeast Region GIS specialist, conducted a study to assess the historical estimates of the volume of water held by the dam when it burst.
The team used GIS technology and previously collected data from the State of Pennsylvania and the National Park Service to determine the high-water line of the lake. A high-resolution, geo-rectified aerial photograph (all points on the photo correspond to real-world coordinates) served as a background base image of the South Fork Dam region (fig. 1). A digital elevation model (indicating vertical dimensions over the area) yielded 1-foot (0.3-m) contours. This information and the known elevation of the top of the dam gave us a boundary of Conemaugh Lake before the dam breach. Placing this high-water line over the aerial photo revealed an immediate and accurate depiction of the basin. The high-water level lined up with houses and other structures known to have been situated just above the flood area. The high-water level and elevation values within the space that had been the lake enabled the team, using ArcGIS 3D Analyst software, to determine the volume of water in the lake when the dam was breached.
Figure 1. [Modified aerial photo]. This high-resolution aerial photograph of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, area is overlaid with the high-water line of former Conemaugh Lake at the time of the catastrophic flood in 1889. Using GIS technology coupled with topographic data, the National Park Service was able to determine the lake’s perimeter, calculate the volume of the tremendous flood, and compare the results to historical volume estimates.


*** “The team used GIS technology and previously collected data … to determine the high-water line of the lake.” ***
The GIS study produced a lake volume of 449,093,200 cubic feet (12,716,900 cu m), which supports the estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ report as the more accurate of the two historical estimates. This volume is approximately equal to 780 American football fields under 10 feet (3 m) of water. The park can now use the confirmed volume in its interpretive exhibits with confidence. The GIS study may also lead to a new exhibit at the park; the park now has a GIS model of the former lake and images of the estimated lake boundary overlaid on modern aerial photography and topographic maps showing present-day towns and villages.
Kathy Penrod, Natural Resource Specialist, Johnstown Flood National Memorial,; Alan Ellsworth, Northeast Region Hydrologist,; and James Farrell, Northeast Region GIS Specialist,

* * *

Northward range expansions in the Upper Columbia Basin Network: The northern mockingbird and the ringtail
For the second time in four years, a nesting pair of northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos, fig. 1) was found in the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in 2005. The brilliant nocturnal singing and wing-flashing of the territorial male was conspicuous and foreign sounding in the dry canyon northwest of the monument headquarters in Kimberly, Oregon. The 2002 nesting event, documented during the monument’s biological inventory, was the northernmost Oregon record for that species. But the mockingbird has continued its northward march and several breeding pairs have been found as far north as eastern Washington in recent years. An examination of breeding bird survey and atlas results for the region provides clear evidence that the species is expanding its range northward into the Pacific Northwest.
Figure 1. [Photo]. Northern mockingbird in the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon. Documentation of nesting by mockingbirds in 2002 and 2005 at the park confirms northern expansion of this species’ range, which has since extended into eastern Washington.


*** “Range expansion can signal changes in habitat resulting from human-caused factors.” ***
Another less certain but potential range expansion example in the region is the case of the ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), a secretive and nocturnal raccoon-like mammal. In March 2003, a dead ringtail was found in the Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area near City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho. This remains the first and only record for the species in the state. However, tracks tentatively identified to the species were found in snow in February 2005 and a well-described ringtail sighting was also reported by a park visitor in May 2006. Through the support of an Idaho State Wildlife Grant, City of Rocks resource managers are using remote cameras to try to document other ringtails. Confirmation of a resident population in the reserve would add a significant northern extension to the species’ known range.

Though this could be the result of inadequate survey effort—a scenario in which the species has simply been overlooked—it could also indicate a real change in its distribution.

Conservation programs typically focus on declining species undergoing range contraction, but detecting and tracking range expansion of plants and animals are also important. Though this is most obvious for noxious “weedy” species, an equally significant but often more subtle phenomenon can occur among “native” species. Range expansion can signal changes in habitat resulting from human-caused factors. A well-documented example of this is the movement of the brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) out of the Great Plains with forest clearing and the spread of domestic livestock during the 19th and early 20th centuries as people settled former forestland. Northward range expansions may also signal a response to climate change. Warming temperatures have been implicated in several recent studies of latitudinal movements by butterflies and other invertebrates, and preliminary results from the Joseph Grinnell resurvey project in Yosemite National Park (California) suggests that mammals may also be responding to regional warming trends by moving up in elevation. Fossil records also provide clear evidence of climate-induced range expansion. The mockingbird is part of a group of several northward advancing bird species in the West including the white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) and the bronzed cowbird (Molothrus aenus). Though the connection between warming temperatures and species range expansion has been difficult to prove scientifically, it is certainly a plausible hypothesis and one worth monitoring over time.
National parks and other units of the National Park System make excellent reference sites to document changes in species distribution, and through the efforts of the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program, the National Park Service is now positioned to make a significant contribution toward documenting and understanding contemporary range expansions.

Tom Rodhouse, Ecologist, NPS Upper Columbia Basin Network; phone 541-312-8101; email Jodi Vincent, Natural Resources Ranger, City of Rocks National Reserve; phone 208-824- 5757; email

* * *

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