Rarely do agencies have the opportunity to research ecosystem change in undisturbed landscapes managed for conservation. The Channel Islands are a living laboratory for ecosystem recovery, experiencing rapid environmental change that is documented with a long-term monitoring program. The islands were used as ranches for wool and beef production for nearly 100 years, resulting in profound ecosystem change. Now, livestock and feral ranch animals are being removed, and the islands are returning to natural areas for conservation and recreation. However, the region is also a hot spot for climate change, which affects all aspects of the biological system from fruit and seed production to fog deposition and hydrologic recharge. Recognizing the importance of the islands as natural laboratories, the National Park Service implemented one of their first long-term, institutionalized monitoring programs at Channel Islands National Park. Quantitative data have been collected annually since 1984 on five of the 12 designed protocols.
USGS-BRD conducted technical reviews in 2000-2001 of four Channel Islands National Park long-term monitoring programs. In 2000-2007, this project provided follow-up analyses and technical support recommended in the reviews for the vegetation, landbird, rocky intertidal and seabird monitoring programs. Currently the program focuses effort primarily on the terrestrial monitoring programs for vegetation, landbirds and small mammals. USGS is working with NPS scientists to analyze trends in the monitoring data, and in a new project funded for FY2009-2010, model interactions and correlate trends among the terrestrial disciplines. In addition, a new project funded 2010-2011 will study the role of fog in the hydrologic cycle of the island, particularly as it relates to vegetation recovery and water retention in the ecosystem. USGS continues to provide oversight for the vegetation monitoring program, including development of vegetation mapping strategies, budgets and exploratory data analyses. This work is necessary for the programs to move forward into the future with the best techniques and sample designs and technologies. The park’s program is a prototype program for the National Park Service. The techniques developed and tested here serve as templates for monitoring in similar ecosystems throughout the world.
USGS Contact For This Project
Ellis, M. M., J. L. Williams, P. Lesica, T. J. Bell, P. Bierzychudek, M. Bowles, E. E. Crone, D. F. Doak, J. Ehrlen, A. Ellis-Adam, K. McEachern, R. Ganesan, P. Latham, S. Luijten, T. N. Kaye, T. M. Knight, E. S. Menges, W. F. Morris, H. den Nijs, G. Oostermeijer, P. F. Quintana-Ascencio, J. S. Shelly, A. Stanley, A. Thorpe, T. Ticktin, T. Valverde, and C. Weekley. 2012. Matrix population models from 20 long-term studies of perennial plant populations (data paper). Ecology 93:951.