Scientists, students and backyard naturalists can now explore, within seconds, the range and more of Georgia’s most rare animals and plants.
A new Georgia Wildlife Resources Division web portal blends the agency’s data on occurrences and natural communities with interactive maps to document the in-state ranges of more than 1,250 species, from coldwater darters to velvet sedge.
Viewers can zoom and pan ranges defined using seven map units such as counties and watersheds. Occurrences are color-coded by time, according to portal creator Greg Krakow, conservation data manager for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section. Also shown: where a species possibly has been extirpated or introduced. (To protect species and landowners, specific sites are not marked.)
The result for researchers and simply the curious is a detailed view of where a plant or animal has been found in Georgia. “This is a more information-rich range map than anything I’ve seen,” Krakow said.
In the works for years and debuted this spring, the project is based on NatureServe Biotics, the state’s most comprehensive database of rare species occurrences and natural communities. The data are used for everything from environmental site reviews to conservation planning and habitat restoration. The Nongame Conservation Section, part of the state Department of Natural Resources, manages Biotics.
The map portal at www.georgiawildlife.org/about_rare_species_range_maps also links to rare species profiles, lists the conservation status of each species and connects to NatureServe overviews of the plants and animals. NatureServe is a data conservation network that monitors the status of species in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. DNR is a member.
There are limits to the system, Krakow said. The focus is on occurrences and habitat areas significant to conserving a species.
There also are data gaps. Nongame Conservation Section Chief Jon Ambrose suggested that the maps for some taxonomic groups, such as rare plants, freshwater fishes and mussels, provide a more complete picture than those for more wide-ranging animals such as birds. But, Ambrose said, “We’re continually doing surveys and regularly updating the database.”
Krakow calls the data dynamic. “There’s a lot of information that we need to add to this.”
Yet what is in the database, and even what’s not, can help target surveys and other conservation projects. And the map portal is flexible, allowing system-wide updates in a few clicks.
Krakow is switching an agency webpage that lists rare species by county to the new system. He is also basking in some well-deserved praise for the range maps portal. Included is a second-place award in an international map contest at NatureServe’s annual conference in April.
The range maps portal is one example of Nongame Conservation Section efforts to conserve Georgia’s endangered and other wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. For this vital work, the agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions.
Public support is critical. Georgians can help by:
- Purchasing or renewing a DNR eagle or hummingbird license plate. Most money from sales and renewals is dedicated to nongame conservation. Upgrade to a “wild” tag for only $25!
- Contributing to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund when filing state income taxes – line 26 on Form 500 or line 10 on Form 500EZ. Giving is easy and any amount helps.
- Donating directly to the agency. Details at georgiawildlife.com/conservation/support.
Learn more about nongame in Georgia: www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport.