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Introduction to the North Coast and Cascades Network

The National Park Service's North Coast and Cascades Network includes three large parks—Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, and Olympic National Park—that collectively range from sea level to 14,410 ft (4,392 m) and contain huge tracts of old-growth conifer forest on the Olympic Peninsula and the west slope of the Cascades, as well as large subalpine and alpine areas. North Cascades National Park also includes substantial acreage on the east side of the Cascades. The Network also includes several smaller units, including San Juan Island National Historical Park and Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

Why monitor birds?MacGillivray's Warbler

Populations of many bird species in North America are declining. Data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate that bird populations inthe Pacific Northwest are no exception. Threats to Pacific Northwest birds include outright habitat loss due to land conversion, forest management practices that discourage the development of old-growth conditions, climate change, and problems that migratory birds may encounter on their wintering grounds or migration routes.

National parks in the NCCN play vital roles as both refuges for bird species dependent on late-successional forest conditions, and as reference sites for assessing the effects of land use and land cover changes on bird populations throughout the larger Pacific Northwest region. These changes in the larger Pacific Northwest landscape stem from local causes such as conversion to agriculture, forest management, and surburban development, as well as broader-scale processes such as global climate change.

In 2001 the NCCN launched a partnership with The Institute for Bird Populations to conduct spatially extensive inventory surveys of birds in five national park units, and then develop a long-term monitoring program to assess population trends of park bird species over time. Monitoring population trends at ‘control’ sites in national parks is especially important because parks are among the sites in the United States where population trends due to large-scale regional or global change patterns are likely least confounded with local changes in land use. Long-term monitoring of NCCN birds will also inform future decisions about important management issues in the parks, including visitor impacts, fire management, and the effects of introduced species.

Old growth Douglas-fir forest in one of the large NCCN parks