Why NatureServe Data?


Photo by Irvine Wilson NatureServe data is widely recognized as a standard for conservation science and biodiversity assessment. What makes NatureServe unique is that we’ve established a standardized way of collecting field data, mapping biological features, assessing the condition of those mapped elements, and managing the information. From the Artic to the Andes, the NatureServe Network assesses and documents detailed scientific data for more than 70,000 species and 7,000 ecosystems using our core methodologies, so you can be sure our data is decision-quality.

As proof, our data and expertise are used to guide millions of conservation actions towards the species and habitats that need it most. Also, our data is widely used and relied on by a variety of organizations. 

Who Relies on NatureServe Data?

Don’t just take our word for it. Learn how organizations are relying on NatureServe data to guide their decision-making.

Photo by Larry MasterThe U.S. Forest Service

The Forest Service directs its regional foresters to identify species of conservation concern (SCC) during their planning process. The Forest Service relies on NatureServe’s species ranking system to list SCCs.

"The list of potential SCCs must include the following:

  1. Species with status ranks of G/T 1-2 on the NatureServe ranking system…"

“When developing the list of potential SCCs, conservation must also be given to:

  1. Species with the status ranks of G/T 3 or S 1-2 on the NatureServe Ranking System"

- Forest Service Land Management Planning Handbook (2013)

Photo by  Don McCulloughThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

NatureServe data plays an important role in the EPA’s Pesticide Risk Assessment Program, which has been challenged to find defensible scientific data to support decisions on how, when, and where herbicides and pesticides can be used without risking harm to non-target species, especially those listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The FIFRA Endangered Species Task Force (FESTF), an industry group, aggregates numerous datasets on the locations of at-risk species populations to facilitate EPA’s risk assessment process for its member companies. NatureServe data has been an essential component of that since 2003.

“Of all the data that FESTF has been able to aggregate, NatureServe is the only reliable source for sub-county data. You are the go-to source for that kind of information on a national level. Both the Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA now realize FESTF is the best available data and that is all county except what we got from NatureServe.” –FESTF

Photo by Travis S. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is charged with ensuring that the pipelines and other infrastructure that transports hazardous materials in the U.S. are assessed regularly and maintained in good condition.

The “Liquid IM Rule” specifies how the operators must assess, evaluate, repair, and maintain the integrity of pipelines in areas near sensitive resources such as drinking water and at-risk species. At-risk species populations are explicitly defined in the rule to incorporate NatureServe’s Element Occurrence (EO) ranking methodology, an assessment of the health of individual species populations. Since 2001, at-risk species areas designated as ‘unusually sensitive’ have been defined exclusively by NatureServe location information for species that are federally listed, depleted marine mammals, or ranked by NatureServe as critically imperiled or imperiled (G1-G2).

Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) | Photo by Larry MasterThe Western Electricity Coordinating Council

As part of the Regional Transmission Expansion Planning project funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) developed a risk classification for land areas that could be used to help avoid areas of high cultural and environmental value at the earliest stages of planning a transmission line.

WECC assigned a higher risk classification to areas with irreplaceable resources such as populations of species assessed by NatureServe as being critically imperiled or imperiled. These areas are thus identified early in the planning process, reducing the potential for subsequent conflict.

Photo by Bill DickinsonLEED The U.S. Green Building Council

LEED is the worldwide standard for recognizing green building and maintenance practices and information from NatureServe and our natural heritage member programs is incorporated throughout the LEED certification process. New developments or major renovations can earn LEED credits for consulting with natural heritage programs:

“to determine if any of the following have been or are likely to be found on the project site because of the presence of suitable habitat or nearby occurrences:

species are listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act or the state’s endangered species act, or
species or ecological communities classified by NatureServe as GH (possibly extinct), G1 (critically imperiled), or G2 (imperiled).”

- LEED version: v4 (2013)  

Red wolf (Canis rufus) | Photo by Christine MajulThe Sustainable Forestry Initiative

SFI’s forest certification standard is the largest single forestry standard in the world. In the U.S. and Canada, the SFI standard includes the requirement to identify and appropriately manage “Forests of Exceptional Conservation Value,” defined as those with viable occurrences of critically imperiled and imperiled species or ecological communities based on NatureServe’s information.

“Under the SFI 2010-2014 Standard, occurrences of critically imperiled and imperiled [G1-G2] species and communities ranked as A and B [excellent or good viability] are to be protected…

Program Participants are encouraged to seek additional information on occurrence ranking from NatureServe.”

- Guidance to SFI 2010-2014 Standard

Photo by Sam Sheline Thousands of Scientific Researchers

Since January of 2009, NatureServe and its Network Program’s contributions to science have been cited in literature nearly 5,000 times (based on Google Scholar as of November 14, 2014.). Examples of the wide variety of our work that have been cited include the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (350 citations) and our standards for an ecological classification of the terrestrial, coastal, and marine realms (315 citations). In addition, nearly 1,000 papers have cited the wealth of data on species and natural communities we make freely available on our public website, NatureServe Explorer.