Developing Monitoring Programs for Damaged Ecosystems

Science Center Objects

California’s Channel Islands are recovering from a long history of ranching. As the island ecosystems respond to the absence of livestock, WERC’s Dr. Kathryn McEachern is working with the National Park Service to test new monitoring programs that could help ecologists and biologists study recovering environments across the West.

Long-term monitoring programs can provide resource and land managers with the National Park Service and other agencies with a “big picture” perspective of environmental change across a landscape. Dr. McEachern is collaborating with the NPS and others to test new monitoring studies that will support the agency’s efforts to conserve the Channel Islands for both rare species and the public.

Dr. McEachern’s efforts focus on documenting the response of island vegetation to rapid changes in the environment and the absence of ranching livestock. Her studies include evaluating permanent transect monitoring, mapping out vegetation, and identifying links between physical and biological factors (e.g. temperature and invasive species) that could influence trends in plant communities on Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa Islands. She also provides technical support to the Mediterranean Network vegetation monitoring program, which stretches from the Channel Islands to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Cabrillo National Monument in southern California.

Watch a USGS video on ranching on the Channel Islands to learn more:

Video Transcript

Remnants of former ranching enterprises, feral horses can still be found on Santa Rosa Island, part of the remote and hauntingly gorgeous Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Los Angeles. This small herd is just one of the many biological and cultural legacies of human habitation that National Park Service managers and USGS scientists have to keep in mind when restoring this island ecosystem after decades of human use.Kathryn McEachern, U.S. Geological Survey(Public domain.)