Hundreds of New Maps Will Help Guide Conservation of North American Species


Groundbreaking work by our scientists has yielded a staggering array of maps that shed new light on birds, dragonflies, and bees in North America—showing where thousands of species are located and how that has changed in recent years. Never before have these species’ ranges been mapped with such precision, depth, and breadth.

Our hundreds of new maps include range maps for the 227 species of damselflies (above) and dragonflies that live in the northeastern United States. | Photo by Thomas Shahan

What habitat is that?

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) would like to know. Problem is, bird experts and enthusiasts have yet to establish a common language for answering that essential question. We’ve set that in motion by creating a “dictionary” of 100 bird habitats in the United States and Canada.

Creation of a useful lexicon requires the most accurate and up-to-date data available. So ABC teamed with NatureServe ecologists to create maps—the first of their kind both in their scope and in their detail—of the habitats in which more than 2,000 species of North American birds breed or spend the winter. 

The short-eared owl migrates seasonally throughout its range, which includes every continent except Australia and Antarctica. | Photo by Dave Inman.Taken together, these maps form the first comprehensive overview that places all North American bird species in their respective habitats. The scientists have now begun to rank the vulnerability of those habitats to the spread of wind farms and other development pressures. The results will bring greater consistency to bird conservation, make habitat management more rigorous, and improve analysis of how land-use changes are impacting the most sensitive bird species.

Fragile Species in Crisis

We are taking steps to better protect a suite of ecologically important species in dire risk of decline.

Thanks to funding from the Sarah K. de Coizart Perpetual Charitable Trust, NatureServe has mapped the ranges of 248 species of bumblebees, dragonflies, and damselflies living in the northeastern U.S. These maps are used by state wildlife officials to create management plans, and highlight opportunities to prevent the decline and extinction of these environmentally sensitive pollinators and aquatic species.

For bumblebees, we also ranked their population health (from “secure” to “possibly extinct”), in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, and trained state biologists to better identify and monitor these imperiled bee populations. 

Together, these initiatives provide the scientific groundwork for states to intervene on behalf of species that play indispensable roles in northeastern ecosystems.