(25) Marine Debris on NPS Beaches: A Plastic, Glass, Metal Nightmare
(26) Nadkarni Still “Up in the Air” As a Tree Canopy Life Specialist
(27) Kemp’s Ridley Research Continues at Padre Island National Seashore
(28) Toward an NPS “Virtual Library” Supporting Research Servicewide
In the Next Issue
The US Geological Survey will provide several articles based on earth science research in national parks. An assessment of dams and natural resources in NPS lands will overview the national program and describe the Lawn Lake Disaster at Rocky Mountain NP; the impacts of fires on water quality and sediment in Yellowstone NP will be described; other articles will deal with flow and sediment transport in the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead, the long-term water quality of Lake Powell, stream biogeochemical responses to global climate change in Rocky Mountain NP, and 100 years of environmental change in the Grand Canyon.
Additional titles scheduled for Winter include “High Altitude Mountaineering at Denali NP: Visitor Profiles and Management Preferences” by Alan Ewert; “A Window to the Past: Prior Resource Management Provides a Framework for the Future” by Carol McNulty-Huffman; “Ecology of the High Mountain Black Bear Population at Rocky Mountain NP in Relation to Land Use” by Henry E. McCutchen; “Fort Matanzas National Monument: Home of the Anastasia Island Beach Mouse” by Philip Frank.
The NPS has produced a Watchable Wildlife brochure that will be ready for distribution by November 1. The 4-color 16 x 16 1/2” folder was funded by the NPS Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It describes some of the wildlife that can be seen in the 10 NPS Regions.
(1) = = = = Editorial = = = =
If you build it, they will come.
Watchable Wildlife was the movement; a stylized set of binoculars was the logo; and they came--400 strong, from all over the U.S. and even from Canada and Mexico--to the 1st National Watchable Wildlife Conference, Sept. 10-12 in Missoula, MT.
For three jam-packed days, representatives of eco-tourism, and federal and state agencies with fish, game, and/or recreation interests, interacted both inside and outside of 34 intensive working sessions. The subjects covered almost every conceivable way of incorporating watchable wildlife into entertainment, enjoyment, education, the economy, and ethics. Whether the individual conferees came motivated to make money or to promote biological diversity, the watchable wildlife theme was inclusive and binding.
Fifteen entities--federal agencies (including the National Park Service) and conservation organizations--were signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding that supports the movement, but none of the 15 evidenced a “guiding hand.” Rather, it was the yeasty mix of celebrants eager to share information and success stories that provided the conference signature. The working sessions showcased story after story testifying to the public hunger to be involved in wildlife activities.
Hal Salwasser, formerly a deputy director of the U.S. Forest Service and soon to be the Boone and Crockett professor of forestry at U/MT, sounded the upbeat conference note in closing:
“Don’t lose the magic,” he said. “You’re building a coalition here of public and private sectors that can do more than any legislation. You aren’t dependent on any agency or leadership group or pot of dollars. You’re people from many different places and interests, bringing meager resources to the table and making of them something much larger than the sum of the parts.
“You’re excited. You’re having fun. You’re pulling together. You represent a promising alternative to polarization. You have the enormous task of recreating the old sense of community whose actions are based on collective self-interest.
“So celebrate your successes; share your information. These are goals enough for now.”
(2) = = = = Book Review = = = =
Wildlife Research and Management in the National Parks, R. Gerald Wright, 1992. University of Illinois Press. Urbana and Chicago, 224 pages. Cloth, $32.50. Notes, appendix, figures, tables, bibliography, and index.
Gerry Wright has presented a much needed and long overdue account of the evolution and present day treatment of wildlife research and management in the National Park Service. From the introduction to its conclusion, relatively unusual facts and little known accounts of past actions and deeds are presented. Unpublished literature and incidents that may have long escaped attention, have been forgotten, or have been buried, are here made available. Memories and notes of those managers, biologists, and scientists who have left the Service in body but not in mind are now brought into the light. As Paul Harvey says, “And now, the rest of the story.”
Gerry’s unique perspective is not only informational and thought provoking, it reflects his personal concerns and commitment for wildlife management and research in the Park Service. While some may argue that he is not critical enough, others will maintain that the book is an expression of sour grapes. It is neither. It is a well-written and researched review of the history and evolution of wildlife management and research in the NPS.
The book is an important and valuable contribution to an understanding of the evaluation of NPS wildlife research and management activities . . . a must read for everyone who is involved, interested, or concerned with wildlife in our national parks. It is not only for those within the Service, but for all those in conservation at the local, state, and federal levels, and in the private sector.
While the book is not perfect, the errors are few, the generalizations, data interpretation, and interpretation of past and present literature are neither slanted nor biased pro or con. The availability and use of more current data and information in a number of the tables and figures would greatly have enhanced the book. Read it; you’ll enjoy it.
Michael A. Coffey, Wildlife Biologist,
NPS Wildlife and Vegetation Division
Washington, DC 20013
(3) = = = = Notes from Abroad = = = =
By Janet Edwards
Former Natural Resource Specialist
Pacific Northwest Region
In 1909 Sweden passed legislation establishing its first nine national parks. They were intended to be undisturbed natural settings managed in similar fashion to USA national parks. Despite the fact that both park agencies deem one of their fundamental purposes as scientific, science in the parks means something quite different in Sweden than it does in the United States.
Abisko NP, situated adjacent to Lake Torne, is an international biosphere reserve. Here, within a nature reserve adjacent to the park, lies Abisko Research Station, established in 1903. Since 1935 it has been administered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Hosting often as many as 80 scientists in the summer, it has become an internationally known Arctic research station, where investigations from many disciplines--especially bioscience and geoscience--are conducted. The commonest research topics are plant ecology and meteorology (Sonesson 1991). Equipped with workrooms, geo- and radio-laboratories, computer and drawing rooms, and greenhouse facilities, the station is open to visiting scientists (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1985).
Abisko is only one of the many sites where environmental research is conducted in Sweden. Research within parks has not for the most part been driven by park administrators. Decisions about types and scope of research within parks have been generated by the investigating official, often from one of the Swedish universities, sometimes even from abroad.
By 1990 the Swedish Environmental Protection Board, under whose jurisdiction the national parks fall, realized the need for a systematic inquiry into the types of research that have been conducted in the parks. All published materials now are being collected and accounted for, their scientific integrity evaluated and research methods assessed. Results will be noted and a corresponding data base will be created. In addition, both a geomorphological and a vegetation map are desired for each park. The “Documentation of Sweden’s national parks,” a report proposed by the national park administrative staff, will include baseline information on geology, flora, fauna, and other resources within specific parks (Bergqvist 1990).
The 1983 (and most recent) literature collection for studies done within the parks has several hundred project entries including topics in geology, glaciology, meteorology, botany, zoology, limnology, ornithology, and entomology (Naturvardverket 1983). Most of the projects are pure science based, as opposed to applied science or resource management oriented. Much of the research has provided important baseline data on park resources. The limitations of current and past research rest with the absence of projects that define resource problems and their proposed solution.
In an attempt to integrate and direct science in the parks, a research plan for the parks is being funded by the Environmental Protection Board. Written by university staff, this plan will describe proposed research needed to provide further information on park resources.
Despite the Environmental Board’s interest in systematizing research in parks, most environmental work done in Sweden is not earmarked for park sites. To understand why this is so, it is important to note three conditions that exist in Sweden and reduce the need for establishing large research projects within parks.
First, Sweden has a long tradition of “every man’s right” when it comes to land (Naturvardsverket 1982). Because of this, research sites can be set up as easily on private and company lands as on government-owned lands.
Secondly, Sweden has a population of only about 8.3 million. For a country of 450,000 square km, about the size of California, Sweden is rather sparsely populated. In the far north, populations can be as low as 2 to 3 persons per square km. When seeking a naturally vegetated landscape where sites could be stationed, a researcher has a wide range of choices.
A third consideration is that Sweden’s goals for nature protection include maintenance of landscapes sculptured by human use. Farmlands, pasture lands, burial mounds, and Laplander reindeer grazing traditions are as important as wilderness where protection is concerned. Human impacts on landscape are not always considered a negative attribute. Although uses are limited and often regulated, the general focus of nature research is not on monitoring normal and anticipated human impacts to the land. The major threat to natural resources generally is stated to be the forestry and agricultural industries. Where these activities prevail, there is direct and significant impact on biotypes (Larsson 1990, p. 8).
Although there currently is no integrated research program for parks, a large and cohesive environmental research effort has been pulsing in Sweden since 1967. At that time, one of the most comprehensive environmental programs, monitoring and assessing the effects of acid rain deposition, began. The national government reacted immediately to scientific findings about adverse impacts of acid rain. Rather than waiting for large funding or national guidelines, monitoring began shortly after the problem was first discovered in the late 1960s.
Swedish scientists are particularly interested in the critical load concept, hoping to discover how much pollution the environment can tolerate. With 80 to 90 percent of acid deposition coming from other countries, the need to investigate this building problem has pushed research on it to the fore. Liming of lakes is a common procedure, used to rehabilitate the affected aquatic environment. However, liming does not take place in national parks, since national standards require that parks be kept in their natural condition and maintained as baseline reference areas (Thornelof 1991). Thus the parks suffer greater cumulative impacts.
Global warming studies also are important in Sweden, although funded to a tune of only about one sixth the amount of the acid rain program. Sweden relies a great deal on data supplied by other countries. Some modeling work has been done on the probable species composition of Swedish forests after increased global warming. Changes in the patterns of mountain birch and incidents of insect defoliation also have been investigated. Cooperative research for global warming is ongoing, even on Svalbard Island north of Norway.
Outstanding wetlands, botanical resources, wildlife, and geological formations are as important as parks to Sweden’s concept of nature protection. Together the parks and reserves protect approximately 5 percent of Sweden’s land base. The current parks comprise about 627,000 ha as compared with nearly 2 million ha of nature properties.
The National Environmental Protection Board has primary jurisdiction over environmental programs throughout the country, whether within parks, reserves, or other public or privately owned lands. The Board provides funds for such programs, then distributes them to local county boards (24 of them) for local research and monitoring. Requests can be made by the local county boards for establishment of new nature reserves and subsequent funding for inventory and management. Furthermore, science stipendiums are awarded yearly by the National Board for research as well as applied projects that enhance nature conservation efforts.
This year, management of the Swedish national parks was transferred from the National Environmental Protection Board to local county environmental agencies. The local offices are staffed with science professionals. Together they handle a variety of resource management projects for parks, reserves, bird sanctuaries, and other protected natural sites. County personnel grant and regulate permits for research on these sites. In addition, these environmental offices work with landowners as well as with the forestry agency, writing up agreements, discussing use restrictions, and designing rehab protects.
The holistic approach to science related to nature conservation in Sweden functions well for a country of its size and population. Visitor numbers are relatively low in parks, which means that most internal resource problems are incurred through permitted land uses. External threats, however, have been measured and are of immediate concern to Swedish environmental managers. To pinpoint impacts, baseline data gathered over an extended time, are critical to Sweden’s approach to science. International conferences, agreements, and shared research also are important ingredients used to address protection of natural resources.
Edwards has been living in Sweden and learning about its natural parks and reserves for the past two years.
Bergqvist, Anders. September 13, 1990. Memorandum about “Dokumentation av Sveriges nationalparker.” Solna, Sverige: Naturesursavdelningen, Forvaltningsenheten, Naturvardverket.
Larsson, Tor-Bjorn. 1990. “Ecological Nature Conservation in Sweden.” Solna, Sweden: National Environmental Protection Board. Report 3828, p. 84.
National Environmental Protection Board. 1990 and 1985. Monitor 90 and Monitor 85. Solna, Sweden. P. 180.
Naturvardsverket. 1983. “Litteraturesammansttallning over Sveriges nationalparker.” Solna, Sweden. Rapport SNV-FRN 1703, p.83.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 1985. Abisko Scientific Research Station. Stockholm, Sweden. Brochure. 8 pp.
Sonesson, Matts. 1991. “Research Projects 1991--Abisko Scientific Research Station.” University of Lund, Sweden: Biology Dept.
Svensson, Linus, ed. 1988. “Nature Conservation--Symposium in Budapest 27 March 1987.” Solna, Sweden: National Env. Protection Board. Report 3496, p. 65.
Thornelof, Eva. Solna: National Env. Protection Board, acid rain research. December 1991 (telephone conversation).
(4) = = = = Information Crossfile = = = =
Two NPS scientists, D. J. Shaver of Padre Island National Seashore and M. R. Fletcher of the CPSU at the University of New Mexico, appear in the Letters column of Science for July 24, 1992, with a spirited reply to Gary Taubes’ article about Kemp’s ridley sea turtle conservation (Research News, May 1, p. 614, Science). After correcting what Shaver and Fletcher term “ambiguous, misleading, or incorrect” statements regarding NPS activities in the Taubes article (“A dubious battle to save the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle”), the authors note that “public awareness about the plight of sea turtles has increased as a result of NPS efforts.” Further, they point out that “some of the biological information collected by the NPS was the first of its kind for the species and has been used to assist with efforts in Rancho Nuevo, Mexico” (where the turtles’ eggs were collected each summer from 1978 to 1966 and transported to Padre Island National Seashore in an international multi-agency effort to establish a secondary breeding colony through imprinting).
This saga has received ongoing coverage in Park Science, most recently in this issue (see pp. 26-27). The Shaver/Fletcher [letter] closes with this paragraph:
“The NPS is now focusing conservation efforts for this species on attempts to locate and protect nesting females (wild and head-started) and stranded hatchlings. Staff at PAIS (Padre Island) are conducting extensive beach patrol and public education efforts, both of which have been given high priority in the recently completed Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Plan. As directed by the recovery plan, NPS mandates, and the Endangered Species Act, these efforts will continue for the foreseeable future.”
* * *
“Keeping aliens out of paradise,” by Anna Maria Gillis in the July/August issue of BioScience (pp 462- 485), describes the host of educational, research, and enforcement programs developed by the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture, federal agencies, and numerous environmental groups in the effort to limit alien species’ impacts on the native flora and fauna.
Gillis quotes Alan Holt, one of the authors of “The Alien Pest Species Invasion in Hawaii: Background Study and Recommendations for Interagency Planning” (prepared by The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii and the Natural Resources Defense Council) as suggesting that the rate of new species invasions is “thousands of times faster than it was in prehuman times, when one new colonist was estimated to arrive on the islands approximately every 10,00 years.” Many scientists now say, writes Gillis, “that Hawaii harbors more aliens than natives.” She discusses biocontrol and notes the objections of British Museum entomologist Frank Howarth. He attributes the decline of numerous Hawaiian species--from moths to damselflies to snails--partially to the introduction of biocontrol agents. “In some cases, the agents become pests themselves,” writes Gillis. The real focus, says Howarth, should be on cutting the influx. “Once we close the door on new species introductions, then we can figure out how to control what we already have.”
* * *
A new department, The Professional Biologist, began appearing in the July/August 1992 issue of BioScience. The premier subject matter for this department was sabbaticals--a time “to redefine objectives, reflect, evaluate your professional performance, and be creative...a time during which you can consider the important spiritual and intellectual goals that higher education must pursue for their own sake . . .” and a time to “interact with colleagues in different educational and geographical environments and to experience another culture.”
The Professional Biologist’s verdict is contained in the first column’s headline: “A Sabbatical? Do It!”
* * *
Farmers soon may be producing plastic from their potato and sugar beet crops according to word from Michigan State and James Madison University scientists in Science. “For the first time, a plant has been genetically engineered to make something other than a protein--something no other plant has ever made before,” according to Christopher Somerville of Michigan State’s Plant Research Lab.
The plastic, called polyhydroxybutyrate, is being grown in an experimental plant. PHB, a polyester, could be used as a liner for disposable diapers and for containers. A British company is producing it from bacteria to make shampoo bottles, but this is the first successful attempt to get plants to grow plastic. PHB is similar to polypropylene, a plastic used for molded parts, electrical insulation, packaging, and fibers for clothing; however, PHB is biodegradable and is chemically similar to starch. Both PHB and starch can serve as a way for plants to store carbon.
For 20 years scientists have known about a family of polymers accumulated as storage products in many species of bacteria and blue-green algae. The three genes necessary for one of these bacteria, Alcaligenes eutrophus, to make PHB were identified and cloned in 1987 by Douglas Dennis at James Madison U in Harrisonburg, VA. One of the genes also is found in higher plants, including Arabidopsis thaliana, a small, quick-growing mustard plant with a very simple genetic structure.