- Why is it important to create and maintain a network of biodiversity inventories? In order to know what to protect, we first need to know what exists and how it is doing. Biodiversity inventories help us keep track of the plants, animals, and ecosystems on which we all depend. From the bees that pollinate our food to the plants that give us life-saving medicines, these species and habitats are essential for life on Earth. It’s like keeping a finger on the pulse of the planet.
The network aspect is important because, while there are professional biodiversity experts in each state, province, and country, they all need to talk to each other, and the data needs to sync up. Nature does not necessarily respect political boundaries, so if you need information that crosses state or country lines, that data needs to be harmonized so that you can compare “apples to apples.”
- Why is this especially important today? Change is happening faster than ever before. The warming climate, expanding infrastructure, and habitat loss mean that plants and animals we thought were safe are now declining. Species and habitats that we never thought we needed to worry about are now threatened. In order to make good decisions about what to protect and where, we need current, accurate, reliable scientific information about what is happening in a rapidly changing world.
- Where does your data come from? How is it gathered and compiled? Our data comes from our Network of over 80 programs in every U.S. state, all Canadian provinces and territories, and over a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. These professionals are the experts on their local biodiversity. They are out in the fields, woods and streams surveying plants and animals and recording information about them. They mine existing data sources, use remote sensing, and develop computer models paint a comprehensive picture of what exists and how it is doing. Their information and expertise is rolled up into NatureServe. In the U.S., these programs are often known as “natural heritage programs.” In Canada and Latin America, they are often called “conservation data centers.”
- What makes NatureServe unique? What makes NatureServe so unique is that we’ve established an internationally uniform, harmonized way of collecting and analyzing biodiversity information, and a shared place to store it. We train people in these methods to ensure consistency, and develop cloud-based technology that allows our Network Programs to maintain the data in a shared place, so that decision-makers can access it.
- How does NatureServe foster a community, bringing people and nature together? How does this extend beyond political boundaries? Building community is a critical part of our Network. We host in-person trainings and conferences, run webinars, and involve our Network Programs in organizational decisions, like strategic planning. Beyond our Network, we engage with a wide variety of stakeholders, including citizen scientists, academic experts, museums and botanic gardens, government agencies, and corporations.
- Is NatureServe bipartisan? NatureServe is a science-based organization. We do not “take sides” or advocate for any particular issue. Our focus is on giving decision-makers the objective scientific information they need. Our information is often used as an arbitrator when two sides are in conflict.
- According to your Mission, “NatureServe envisions a world where decision-makers recognize the value of biodiversity…” How do you reach and educate these decision-makers? It starts with making the data easily accessible. If the information is easy to access, the decision-makers are more likely to use it. From there, we show decision-makers how using scientific information results in better outcomes, both for nature and for their constituents. We do this by telling the stories of how science has led to positive outcomes, and showing the hard metrics of where data has improved situations.
- How can NatureServe help corporations? In order for businesses to most effectively minimize impacts on the environment, they must have access to the data, tools, and resources available to assist in science-based conservation decision-making and the technical expertise on how to best use these tools and resources. We help business in a few ways:
Risk reduction. NatureServe helps companies screen for at-risk species before a project starts, to minimize surprises down the road. We help businesses to screen for the known presence of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the earliest stages of planning, due diligence, project selection, assessment, and review processes.
Science-based options. We know that businesses have multiple objectives they are trying to meet, and biodiversity is just one piece in the overarching puzzle. We can help companies see how biodiversity fits with other objectives. For example, our decision-support tool, NatureServe Vista, helps companies incorporate climate change, economic and cultural components, and other considerations into their project plan. The result is a variety of science-based scenarios to choose from.
Save time and money. As a Network with local experts in multiple jurisdictions, we are a one-stop shop for multijurisdictional projects.
Enhancing Capacity. We complement the expertise on staff, so that companies don't have to build it inhouse. What could take someone weeks to figure out on their own takes much less time working with the NatureServe Network.
- How might NatureServe benefit landowners (aka those not in the science field)? We believe that knowledge and information is empowering for landowners. NatureServe helps landowners in a few ways. First, we help them understand what plants and animals exist on their land, and track how they are doing. For some people, this can be eye-opening. Second, we provide landowners with the scientific information they need for conservation easements. Third, we help landowners monitor trends on their land, and can provide more comprehensive expert conservation planning services.
- How can NatureServe help land trusts? NatureServe can help land trusts see where to prioritize places to protect, and to understand what biodiversity exists in the places people care about. We can also help land trusts understand the conservation value of a place, and how it connects to the larger picture.
- What is a NatureServe product or tool that you would recommend specifically to land trusts? For example, one of our tools, LandScope America, has over 400 data layers combined with photos, videos, and stories that help land trusts visualize the conservation priorities in a place, including rare species and ecosystems, alongside threats from climate and infrastructure. LandScope also includes tools for discovering nearby schools to partner with on outreach projects, tracking how much land is already protected nearby, and more. Using LandScope’s map reporting tools, land trusts can easily access and download concise data reports in specific areas. This can help land trusts access the information they need for practicing more strategic conservation and documenting conservation values of existing or planned easements based on data from authoritative sources. LandScope America also offers land trusts a platform for communicating. Land trusts can make maps and tell their stories without needing a lot of technical know-how. Land Trusts can also work with NatureServe to establish their own custom portal using LandScope.
- How can people help NatureServe? It is very important for people to understand that this critical information does not collect and maintain itself. It takes an army of scientists and data managers to put it all together, analyze it, and translate it in a way that resonates with decision-makers. The more the public supports this work, the more accurate decisions can be, and the more successful the outcome for both people and nature. To learn more about how to donate and support these efforts, visit www.natureserve.org/support-us.