Paper No. 236-16
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
MONITORING LONG TERM TRENDS OF PALEONTOLOGICAL SITE CONDITION ASSESSMENT AT FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, COLORADO
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument implemented an Inventorying and Monitoring (I&M) program in 1992 to document the cyclic (typically annual or biennial) condition of fossil sites. This is done by taking photos and evaluating scored criteria to quantify site condition (scores above 90 rated as good). It has been the longest ongoing project for paleontology interns at the monument with over 39 interns participating on the project. Since 1992, there have been several updates to the I&M protocol, development of a dedicated database for the project, and implementation and revisions of the evaluation criteria. This study is the first to analyze and report the results of long-term trends and impacts to the monument’s paleontological sites. The study looked at annual summer precipitation (June-August), research excavation disturbance, theft, and change of evaluation criteria as possible factors for change in paleontological site condition. It also compared 1992/93 photos of paleontological sites to the most recent photos to observe any long term changes, including erosion and theft. From 2004 to 2016, the evaluation scoring of paleontological sites has remained fairly constant with an average score of 85. Recorded theft at certain paleontological sites showed only short term decrease (2 to 3 years) in evaluation scores before returning to normal or higher evaluation scores. Research disturbance showed similar trends for short term decrease in evaluation scores in some heavily researched sites, but remains inconclusive. Years of increased precipitation during the summer months has shown a decrease in the number of sites evaluated as good sites and an increase in sites evaluated as fair (score 50-89). Years of heavy precipitation seem to have little to no effect on average evaluation scores. Analysis of these factors demonstrates that the I&M project should continue ongoing cyclic monitoring, but with a significant portion of paleontological sites given longer cycles since they show little change. Several sites that had recurrent research activity and recorded theft should be monitored more frequently, perhaps even biannually to observe seasonal changes. New advances in applications of photogrammetry are being implemented and will improve the resolution and three dimensional imagery of minute changes.