Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

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Park Science

Integrating Research and Resource Management

Volume 24 • Number 1 • Summer 2006

ISBN 0735-9462

United States Department of the Interior • National Park Service

= = = = Contents = = = =


(1) From the Editor

(2) News and Views

(3) Highlights

(4) Information Crossfile

(5) Meetings of Interest


(6) Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Scientists and managers improve their ability to protect the health of swimmers through better science-based management and an increased understanding of contaminants and local conditions.

By Wendy Smith, Meredith Nevers, and Richard Whitman


(7) Response of western mountain ecosystems to climatic variability and change: The Western Mountain Initiative

Scientists collaborate to understand and predict the effects of a warmer climate on park and protected area ecosystems, including potential dieback of forests, reductions in streamflows, and increased severity of wildfires.

By Nate Stephenson, Dave Peterson, Dan Fagre, Craig Allen, Don McKenzie, Jill Baron, and Kelly O’Brian

(8) Remote sensing for the national parks

Advances in remote sensing have led to a variety of applications in park management, including evaluation of landscape-level changes in natural resources, identification and monitoring of vegetation, and analysis of wildfires.

By John E. Gross, Ramakrishna R. Nemani, Woody Turner, and Forrest Melton

(9) Reassessing a troublesome fact of mountain life: Avalanches in Glacier National Park

Investigators combine historical records and field studies to elucidate climate patterns that produce avalanches, improving the safety of spring road-clearing crews and gaining insights into an important ecological process.

By Blase A. Reardon and Daniel B. Fagre

(10) Effects of white-tailed deer on vegetation structure and woody seedling composition at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia

Researchers document deer browsing impacts on forest succession as managers consider taking action to control the overabundant population.

By Bryan Gorsira, C. Reed Rossell Jr., and Steven Patch

(11) Restoration of threadleaf sedge at Scotts Bluff National Monument

Resource managers tackle an involved restoration requiring greenhouse propagation of a native mixed-grass prairie plant species, and return a portion of the park to its mid-1800s appearance.

By Susan J. Tunnell, James Stubbendieck, Robert Manasek, and Gary Willson


Swimmers enjoy summer sun, sand, and surf at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Thanks to pioneering research by the U.S. Geological Survey and recent modernization in water quality monitoring, park users and managers now enjoy quicker and more reliable reports on water quality at popular swimming beaches where fecal contamination can be a problem. For more of the story, see the cover article.


= = = = Masthead = = = =

Park Science

Integrating Research and Resource Management

Volume 24, Number 1, Summer 2006

ISSN 0735–9462

Published by

U.S. Department of the Interior

National Park Service


Fran Mainella

Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship & Science

Michael Soukup


Jeff Selleck

Assistant editors

Betsie Blumberg, under cooperative agreement CA 4000-8-9028, SA 14

Katie KellerLynn, under cooperative agreement CA 1200-99-0009, TO J2370030135


Glenda Heronema—Denver Service Center

Editorial board

Ron Hiebert (chair)—Research Coordinator, Colorado Plateau CESU

Gary E. Davis—Visiting Chief Scientist, Ocean Program

John Dennis—Deputy Chief Scientist, Natural Resource Stewardship & Science

Bobbi Simpson—Supervisory Biologist and California Exotic Plant

Management Team Liaison, Point Reyes National Seashore

Judy Visty—Natural Resource Management Specialist,

Continental Divide Research and Learning Center, RockyMountain National Park

Editorial office

Jeff Selleck

National Park Service

P.O. Box 25287

Denver, CO 80225-0287


Phone: 303-969-2147

Fax: 303-987-6704

Park Science is a resource management bulletin of the U.S. National Park Service that reports recent and ongoing natural and social science research, its implications for park planning and management, and its application to resource management. Published by the Natural Resource Program Center, Office of Education and Outreach, it appears twice annually. Thematic issues that explore a topic in depth are published occasionally. Content is reviewed for usefulness, basic scientific soundness, clarity, completeness, and policy considerations, but does not undergo anonymous peer review.

Letters that address the scientific content or factual nature of an article are welcome; they may be edited for length, clarity, and tone. Facts and views expressed in Park Science are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect opinions or policies of the National Park Service. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement by the National Park Service.

Unattributed articles in the News and Views, Information Crossfile, Highlights, and other departments are written, compiled, or edited by Park Science editorial staff, often based on cited sources or other material that is prepared by subject-matter experts among our readers. Articles, comments, address changes, and inquiries should be directed to the editor by e–mail; hard copy materials should be forwarded to the editorial office.

Park Science is also published online (ISSN 1090-9966). All back issues, article submission guidelines, and other useful information can be accessed from

Park Science accepts subscription donations from non-NPS readers to help defray production costs. A typical donation is $10 per subscription per year. Checks should be made payable to the National Park Service and sent to the editorial office address.

Sample article citation

Smith, W., M. Nevers, and R. Whitman. Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Park Science 24(1):19–23.

Printed on recycled paper.

(1) = = = = From the Editor = = = =

Collaboration for the long term

Though not designed to explore a particular topic in depth, this edition of Park Science reveals several common themes in how we in national park research and resource management approach our work. Collaboration, for example, is a thread that runs throughout the issue. The articles reflect the variety, complexity, and sheer number of research questions that have a bearing on park management, and they remind us of the broad scientific community with which the National Park Service enjoys fruitful partnerships. They also illustrate a variety of ways in which particular park information needs are matched with the right expertise, including through Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units and monitoring networks. Herein we see a small sample of results from current collaborative efforts in national park stewardship. The work is helping managers to improve park safety, recognize and anticipate changes in park resources, interpret historical events that affected park resources and the people inhabiting the area at the time, understand ecological interactions, and maintain park ecosystems.

Another theme is how different time scales—from hours to centuries and longer—have significance for park resource management. For example, satellite imagery can help managers understand park changes within hours or days of their occurrence, such as following hurricanes, wildfires, and other fast-acting disturbances. In these circumstances speedy feedback is essential to identifying and protecting high-priority resources at risk. For other management questions, analysis of a time series of images at intervals of years to decades is appropriate and reveals gradual processes, including changes in native and nonnative vegetation and the types and extent of land use adjacent to a park. A particularly dramatic example of resource change illustrated in this issue is the reduction in glacier mass at Glacier National Park, as documented in photographs over the last century. Modeling suggests that the current rate of climate warming could mean the loss of all glaciers in this park by 2030.

These observations at Glacier have been reported as part of a scientific collaboration called the Western Mountain Initiative, a long-term monitoring program in western national parks that has been ongoing since 1991. Other examples of collaborative, long-term monitoring in this issue come from several park areas, including Channel Islands and Shenandoah national parks. For 25 years researchers have been systematically collecting data about kelp forests at Channel Islands and watersheds at Shenandoah. The value of these data becomes clear when they are synthesized to reveal how park resources are changing and why. This information pertains not only to park management but also potentially to regional and national environmental issues. This knowledge of ecological systems is exciting and is a very important outcome of this fundamental park research activity.

Finally, one of the values I see in this publication is sharing the experience of investigators and resource managers so that researchers and managers in other settings might benefit from their findings. The authors of the report on water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes tell their story with this very point in mind. Other themes and connections await your discovery.

Jeff Selleck

(2) = = = = News & Views = = = =


Hatches Harbor restoration

John Portnoy, ecologist with the National Park Service, points out an error in figure 4 of his article “Estuarine habitat restoration at Cape Cod National Seashore: The Hatches Harbor prototype,” published in Park Science 22(1):53. The bar graph shows increasing mean tidal range in the salt-marsh restoration site since the installation and gradual opening of culverts in 1999. The mean tidal range for the unrestricted or natural marsh was 1.02 m, not 0.66 m as indicated in the graph.

Parking lot sealants

We received e-mail about our Information Crossfile article, “Are ugly parking lots healthier?,” published in volume 23(2):19. Our intent was to call attention to parking lot sealants as a previously unrecognized significant source of concentrated carcinogenic aquatic contaminants called PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). However, we were too broad in our presentation, implying that any application of sealants would be environ-mentally detrimental. As Dave Kruse, coordinator of the Pacific West Region Federal Lands Highway Program, points out, “The article fails to [explain] that there are more types of sealants than the coal tar–based sealants that do indeed contain PAHs.” Asphalt emulsion sealants, he relates, do not contain coal tar or PAHs and “the vast majority of asphalt sealants are emulsions and not coal tar based.” According to Kruse, the National Park Service commonly uses rapid-set asphalt emulsion sealers, including fog seal, slurry seal, and chip seal to maintain pavement.

Our title was also a poor choice as it suggests that allowing park infrastructure to deteriorate benefits the ecological health of parks. Infrastructure, including roads and parking lots, in the national parks must be maintained properly or, as Kruse reminds us, “we will see pavement cracking and breaking up prematurely, which will lead to increased costs and consumption of new oil-based asphalt,” another source of PAHs.

We also heard from Roy Irwin, contaminants specialist with the NPS Water Resources Division, who found the article incomplete. He encourages readers to refer to the NPS Environmental Contaminants Encyclopedia at for questions about road and trail treatments of all types, not just asphalt and its sealants. The encyclopedia is more comprehensive than the EPA source we cited and profiles 118 contaminants, listing benchmarks for toxic concentrations of metals, industrial organic chemicals, and hydro-carbons in water, sediment, soil, and tissues. Asphalt is reviewed at and PAHs at

Irwin has concerns that asphalt emulsion sealers could plausibly contain PAHs, though he has not seen test results to this effect. “We know that asphalt contains PAHs,” he says, “so … I would not … assume any product based on asphalt would not contain PAHs.” Irwin explains that compounds listed as inert for a particular product purpose are not necessarily nonhazardous under certain conditions. Complicating the matter is the difficulty of obtaining product scans for a full suite of suspect compounds. Irwin feels that test results of asphalt emulsion sealers that showed method detection limits (MDL) of less than 10 ppb of PAHs and alkyl PAHs “would be reassuring.” Still, he acknowledges that the PAHs in asphalt “are relatively immobile until the asphalt breaks down,” and says that oil from cars is probably a bigger source of these contaminants.

We regret the misinformation and hope the extended comments help clarify the issue.


(3) = = = = Highlights = = = =

A cultural icon surrounded by a natural treasure: Old-growth forest at Mount Rushmore

The Black Hills of western South Dakota and southeastern Wyoming are an island in the prairie, a metaphor fitting not only for their geological and topographical differences from the surrounding plains, but also for their differences in flora and fauna. Most notably, the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa (“hills that are black”) as the Lakota called them, are named for the dark appearance they have when viewed from a distance—a darkness caused by the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest that blankets the hills (fig. 1). Although ponderosa pine, as a species and as a forest type, occurs across a large part of western North America, the combination of species and natural processes in ponderosa pine forests of the Black Hills makes it a unique ecosystem.

Figure 1. [photo] Old-growth ponderosa pine forest is a natural treasure at Mount Rushmore.


Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a small portion—1,278 acres (517 ha)—of the 3.8 million acres (1.5 million ha) that comprise the Black Hills. However, because it has been protected from logging since the late 1930s, a popular “legend” perpetuated by park staff is that the memorial houses one of the largest areas of old-growth forest remaining in the Black Hills. By contrast, the majority of the Black Hills forest has been heavily logged. To determine the validity of this legend and to understand the role of the memorial’s forest in the Black Hills ecosystem as a whole, we determined the extent and location of unlogged and old-growth forest stands in the memorial using historical documents and field investigations.

Our results suggest that approximately 29% of the memorial has had no tree harvesting activity, and 18% has had only selective cutting of larger trees. When defined according to the only published description of old-growth Black Hills ponderosa pine forest, 901 acres (365 ha) of old-growth ponderosa pine forest occur in the memorial; this is 71% of the memorial’s area (fig. 2). Based on current estimates of similar forest in the rest of the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore National Memorial contains the second-largest area of old-growth Black Hills ponderosa pine forest. This work not only substantiates a park legend, but also highlights the significant contribution of the memorial’s forest to the Black Hills ecosystem: it provides important habitat for cavity-nesting birds (fig. 3) and other species that depend upon mature forest—a rare occurrence elsewhere in the Black Hills.

Figure 2. [Map]. Shaded areas in the map of Mount Rushmore National Memorial are stands of trees that meet the description of old-growth forest. Black circles identify points with no old stumps, that is, areas presumably without logging.


Figure 3. [Photo]. Large holes in this snag provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds like the red- breasted nuthatch. The small holes are evidence of birds searching for insects in the wood.


Even in areas that have not had logging, the memorial’s forest is not pristine, however. More than a century of fire suppression has increased the density of live and dead trees beyond that of presettlement times. These increased densities put the forest in danger of fires that are likely to be more intense than those that drove ecosystem evolution. Ongoing research will provide a clearer picture of management and restoration targets to reduce this danger.

*** “The oldest trees within the memorial sprouted just 27 years after Christopher Columbus reached the American continent.” ***

The results of this study add a new dimension to a “Shrine of Democracy”—a cultural treasure that commemorates the growth of the United States. To put things into perspective, the oldest trees within the memorial sprouted just 27 years after Christopher Columbus reached the American continent. These trees have seen immense change in the peoples and uses of the forest. The forest itself is a memorial to a unique ecosystem and these changes.

Amy Symstad, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 605-341- 2807,; Michael Bynum, Biological Technician, NPS Northern Great Plains Inventory and Monitoring Network,

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Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore iconAdvances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

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Advances in recreational water quality monitoring at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore iconNational Water Commission Annual Report 2010–11

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