Science and the US National Park System

This editorial in Science about science and the National Park System (NPS) in the US touches on some familiar themes:

The NPS can support this scientific engagement with parks. Data sharing and data accessibility for external scientists (including the NPS robust inventory and monitoring data sets) should be increased. The research permit process can be streamlined and made more consistent across the system. Long-term studies should be encouraged, with park staff (including NPS scientists) as collaborative partners. In addition, opportunities for citizen science—including the widely popular BioBlitz programs that bring young people out to the parks—should be expanded.

The use of parks for basic research can also contribute to “usable knowledge.” High-quality science is needed to inform complex decisions about issues such as the future of wolves on Isle Royale, the establishment of marine reserves in the Dry Tortugas, and the prevention of habitat fragmentation and species loss in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. There is a strong and positive feedback loop between “parks for science” and “science for parks.”

The 2016 centennial of the NPS comes at a critical time for science and conservation, in the United States and worldwide. As both the gathering at Berkeley in 1915 and the conference earlier this year remind us, science and parks are indispensable to each other. Let’s make the centennial a celebration of science and the national parks.

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