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1997 Species Report Card > Executive Summary
How are the nation's plants and animals faring? Which species
are at greatest risk and most in need of special care to ensure their survival?
Conservation of our natural resources often requires difficult choices, and
in an era of limited resources we must have clear priorities that provide answers
to questions such as these. The 1997 Species Report Card: The State of U.S.
Plants and Animals addresses this need by providing the latest figures on
the condition of our species from the scientific databases of NatureServe. [NOTE:
these figures are updated in the book Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity
in the United States (2000)].
Healthy ecosystems are key to the survival of our native plants and animals and to the well-being of our economy. Unfortunately, these natural systems face mounting pressures, and, as a result, many of the species that depend on them have suffered serious declines.
The Good News
About two-thirds of the nation's species in this report card receive satisfactory marks. These species appear to be relatively secure at present, although for some there may be cause for long-term concern. Included here are most species in such groups as birds and mammals.
The Bad News
About one-third of U.S. plant and animal species are of conservation
concern. Certain groups of organisms receive particularly poor marks. Those
animals that depend on freshwater habitatsmussels, crayfish, fishes, and
amphibiansare in the worst condition overall. Flowering plants also receive
low marks, with one-third of their many species in trouble, a disturbing 5,144
For some, it may be too latemore than 500 U.S. species
already may have disappeared forever. At least 110 species of plants and animals
are known to be extinct, with another 416 missing and feared extinct. These
losses have affected virtually every U.S. state, but some are especially hard
hit: Hawaii has suffered the greatest number of extinctions, followed by Alabama
Ongoing biological exploration is essential to improve our understanding of the nation's plants and animals, and to help us protect these biological resources. This report card presents 10 key discoveries that are among the most important and interesting finds of 1996. Some bring good news, such as the rediscovery of the Shasta owl's-clover, a flower given up for gone. Others expand the frontiers of our knowledge, including discovery of a new, yet evolutionarily old, salamander from southern California. Still others, though, bring bad news, like entry into the United States of yet another invasive pest, or reports that the last two individuals of a mussel species have joined the ranks of the living dead.
The 1997 Species Report Card assesses the condition of approximately 20,500 species of plants and animals, representing the most comprehensive appraisal available on the conservation status of native U.S. species. These assessments are based on the biological inventory work of NatureServe's natural heritage member programs, The Nature Conservancy, and many collaborating scientific institutions.
PDF file of report (505K)