Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5197

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Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

The Structure and Functioning of Dryland Ecosystems—Conceptual Models to Inform Long-Term Ecological Monitoring

By Mark E. Miller

thumbnail image of report's cover pageIntroduction

This report presents conceptual ecological models describing the structure and functioning of dryland ecosystems of the Colorado Plateau and bordering ecoregions of North America. These models and the associated literature review were prepared in support of the Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN) of the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program (NPS I & M Program). In conjunction with the I & M Program, ecoregional networks of NPS units have been tasked with the identification of “vital signs” to be monitored for the purpose of tracking long-term trends in the “health” or condition of park ecosystems. This report was developed for SCPN policymakers and researchers to help inform them in the consideration and selection of vital signs for dryland ecosystems in 19 NPS units located in the Colorado Plateau region of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The SCPN and the Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN; consists of 16 NPS units) are working together closely to coordinate planning and implementation of their respective monitoring programs. As a consequence, this document also is intended to support the NCPN in the development of its monitoring plan and to facilitate the coordinated development of monitoring across both networks in the Colorado Plateau region. Although developed to support the identification of long-term monitoring needs in NPS units, information in this report is broadly applicable well beyond NPS management boundaries and should be of use to other organizations or persons involved in management, conservation, and monitoring of dryland ecosystems in the Colorado Plateau or bordering ecoregions.

Version 1.0

Posted December 2005

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