of the Union
States of the Union > Executive Summary
of the Union: Ranking America's Biodiversity
A NatureServe Report, April 2002
Pride in place is a powerful impulse. And with its dazzling
array of wild species and natural habitats, America has much to be proud of.
Indeed, to find world-class biodiversity we need not look to foreign shores-it
is right here in our own backyard. But while the concept of biodiversity has
global connotations, conservation is a quintessentially local activity. To place
conservation efforts in context, States of the Union: Ranking America's Biodiversity
offers new information on state patterns of biological wealth and risk-where
our wild plants and animals are found, and how they are faring.
Each of America's 50 states maintains an important part of
the nation's biological heritage. Taking best advantage of conservation opportunities,
however, requires an understanding of the varying roles each state can play.
States of the Union offers a striking picture of the "state of the states,"
based on an analysis of more than 21,000 plant and animal species. Providing
new insights into the scale of the nation's conservation challenges and opportunities,
these analyses find that in one out of every four states, more than ten percent
of native species are at risk.
Our rankings of the 50 states and the District of Columbia
focus on several key biological characteristics: diversity of species; levels
of rarity and risk; distinctiveness of the flora and fauna, termed endemism;
and number of species already lost to extinction.
Four states in particular emerge from these analyses as having
exceptional levels of biodiversityCalifornia, Hawaii, Texas, and Alabama.
Looking at specific groups of plants and animals, however, reveals some surprising
nuances. For instance, while freshwater fishes are most diverse in the rain-drenched
southeastern United States, Arizonaa state more commonly associated with
cactileads the nation in proportion of at-risk fish species.
The condition of nature in America reflects an interplay between
natural history and human history. And it is the breadth and intensity of this
interaction that tends to define a geography of risk for wild species. As States
of the Union demonstrates, each state has a vital role to play in sustaining
America's plants and animals for future generations. But for the many U.S. species
that are at risk of extinction, time is running out. With sufficient knowledge,
resources, and commitment, the nation's remarkable biodiversity can be safeguarded,
leading to a more perfect union.
of report (202K)