Products & Services
NatureServes staff of experienced ecologists classify and help map ecosystems using the International Vegetation Classification, a consistent and flexible classification system that can be applied to terrestrial ecological communities throughout the world. These standard classification units are the building blocks of conservation planning and action, allowing multiple agencies and scientists to work together. Related conservation services available through NatureServe include:
- Landscape-scale analysis and mapping
- Standard classifications for terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal-marine habitats
- Rapid Ecological Assessments
- Viability assessments for species and populations
About the Ecological Classification
The U.S. National Vegetation Classification, a component of the International Classification, was developed by The Nature Conservancy and NatureServe in collaboration with partners from the academic, conservation, and government sectors. Begun in the 1990s, the classification continues to grow as more and more community types are found and analyzed. Work is now underway to extend the classification to Canada. For a detailed description of the classification, see the publication Seeing the Forest and the Trees. Key points include:
- The first such consistent classification on a scale fine enough to be useful for the conservation of specific sites.
- Can be used to classify all types of communities, from verdant wetlands to arid deserts, from pristine old-growth forests to human-disturbed habitats.
- Includes more than 4,500 vegetation types.
- Adopted by the Federal Geographic Data Committee for use by all U.S. federal agencies.
- NatureServe is building on this work by developing an ecological systems classification a mid-scale classification useful for conservation planning.
Key Uses of the Ecological Classification
- Determining which community types are intrinsically rare or have been severely degraded by human activities.
- Identifying the best remaining occurrences of natural communities across their geographic ranges.
- Conservation planning at multiple scales local, regional, ecoregional.
- Mapping parks and natural areas in order to manage them more wisely.
- Predicting species occurrences across entire ranges.
Case Study: Vegetation Mapping at National Parks
NatureServe is a primary partner in the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service effort to classify, describe, and map vegetation communities in more than 250 national park units across the United States, using the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. To date, work is either complete or ongoing at some 45 national parks, including Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, and Mount Rushmore.