Inventory & Monitoring Networks

National Park managers across the country are confronted with complex and challenging issues that require a broad-based understanding about the status and trends of park natural resources.

As part of the National Park Service's efforts to improve park management through the greater reliance on scientific knowledge, the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program collects, organizes, analyzes, and synthesizes natural resource data and information, and provides the results in a variety of useful formats.

The primary goals of the I&M Program are to:

  • Inventory the natural resources under National Park Service stewardship to determine their nature and status.
  • Monitor park ecosystems to better understand their dynamic nature and condition and to provide reference points for comparisons with other, altered environments.
  • Establish natural resource inventory and monitoring as a standard practice throughout the National Park system that transcends traditional program, activity, and funding boundaries.
  • Integrate natural resource inventory and monitoring information into National Park Service planning, management, and decision making.
  • Share National Park Service accomplishments and information with other natural resource organizations and form partnerships for attaining common goals and objectives.

Vital Signs Monitoring Networks

More than 270 parks with significant natural resources have been grouped into 32 I&M networks, which have been determined based on geography and shared natural resource characteristics. The network organization facilitates collaboration among parks, information sharing, and economies of scale in natural resource inventory and monitoring. Parks within each of the 32 networks work together and share funding and professional staff to plan, design, and implement an integrated long-term monitoring program.

The Learning Center for the American Southwest consists of four neighboring I&M networks: the Chihuahuan Desert Network, the Sonoran Desert Network, the Southern Colorado Plateau Network, and the Southern Plains Network.