Covering about 4% of the United States, the 338,000 km2 of protected areas in the National Park System contain representative landscapes of all of the nation's biomes and ecosystems. The U.S. National Park Service Organic Act established the National Park System in 1916 "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. Approximately 270 national park system areas contain significant natural resources. Current National Park Service policy for natural resource parks calls for management to preserve fundamental physical and biological processes, as well as individual species, features, and plant and animal communities. Parks with managed natural resources range from large intact (or nearly intact) ecosystems with a full complement of native species-including top predators-to those diminished by disturbances such as within-park or surrounding-area legacies of land use, invasive species, pollution, or regional manipulation of resources. The significance of national parks as representatives of naturally functioning ecosystems and as refugia for natural processes and biodiversity increases as surrounding landscapes become increasingly altered by human activities.
Baron, Jill S.; Allen, Craig D.; Flieshman, Erica; Gunderson, Lance; McKenzie, Don; Meyerson, Laura; Oropeza, Jill; Stephenson, Nate. 2008. National Parks. In: Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources. Washington, DC: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program. 35 p. Ch. 4.