Many natural resources in Mammoth Cave National Park are subjected to unfavorable influences from a variety of sources, for example, air and water pollution, industrial development, and excessive visitation. Left unchecked, the very existence of many natural communities can be threatened. To help prevent the loss or impairment of such communities in the National Park System the Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring (IandM) Program was established.
The principal functions of the IandM Program at Mammoth Cave National Park are the gathering of information about the resources and the development of techniques for monitoring the ecological communities. Ultimately, the inventory and monitoring of natural resources are integrated with park planning, operation and maintenance, visitor protection, and interpretation to establish the preservation and protection of natural resources as an integral part of park management and improve the stewardship of natural resources.
The detection of changes and the quantification of trends in the conditions of natural resources are imperative for the identification of links between changes in resource conditions and the causes of changes and for the elimination or mitigation of such causes. Inventory and monitoring datasets lead to specific management actions, and then track the effectiveness of those actions. If results of resource management actions are not as anticipated, then adjustments can made to the prescription. This is a process known as adaptive management.