NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to provide the scientific basis for conservation action.
NatureServe is an international network of biological inventories operating in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. NatureServe collects and manages local information on plants, animals, and ecosystems, and develops related information products, data management tools, and conservation services. Information developed by NatureServe is used by many sectors, such as conservation groups, government agencies, corporations, academia, and the public, to make decisions about managing natural resources.
NatureServe is an IUCN Red List partner and assesses the conservation status of plant, animal, and fungal species, as well as ecological communities and systems. These assessments lead to the designation of a NatureServe conservation status rank.
NatureServe maintains the National Vegetation Classification Standard for the United States as well as the International Classification of Ecological Communities, currently focused on the Western Hemisphere.
The NatureServe network
The natural heritage network now supported by NatureServe began in 1974 with the creation of the South Carolina Heritage Trust. After working with Patrick Noonan, president of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to arrange the donation of the 24,000-acre (97 km2) Santee Coastal Reserve, Joseph Hudson, chairman of South Carolina’s Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, wanted to identify other preservation-worthy lands in the state. He provided TNC with initial funding to amass information that could inform conservation and land-use decision-making while accounting for impacts on biodiversity.
While establishing that first program, TNC chief scientist Robert Jenkins, Jr., chose to focus on biological features in need of conservation, and to use this information to suggest priority sites for protection. Targeted features included both species and natural communities, or elements of natural diversity.
Programs in West Virginia, Mississippi, and Oregon followed in 1975. By 1976, TNC had developed a model for expanding the emerging state network: go to the states and offer to hire and train a staff of biologists, establish an operating center, and, two years later, let the state take over operations. By 1993, the U.S. network consisted of organizations in all fifty states. Programs were formed in Latin American countries in 1982, and the Canadian programs first established in 1988 now extend to all provinces and Yukon Territory.
By the early 1990s, a group of natural heritage program directors began to develop network-wide information products. This effort led to the establishment of an independent nonprofit organization devoted to promoting the products and services of the network. Incorporated in 1994 as the Association for Biodiversity Information (ABI), this membership organization created the framework for network-wide coordination. In 1999, TNC’s natural heritage network and ABI formally joined forces, with the Conservancy transferring its databases, professional staff, and scientific standards and methodology to ABI. In 2001, having grown into its present form, this new, independent nonprofit became known as NatureServe.
- Community (ecology)
- Conservation biology
- Conservation ethic
- Conservation movement
- Conservation science
- Ecology movement
- Endangered species
- Habitat conservation
- Natural environment
- Natural resource management
- NatureServe conservation status
- Renewable resource
- Sustainable development