Wildlife The six-county Triangle region is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. The region is home to over 40 mammalian species, 117 avian species, 50 reptiles and 39 amphibian species. The region has of 34 state listed animal species, 8 federally endangered species and 33 federal species of concern. County Inventories All six of the Triangle Counties have completed county inventories done by the Natural Heritage Program. The NHP documents the occurrence and status of rare plants and animals in North Carolina and also documents the best examples of the more than 100 natural community types where they occur in the state. The county governments in the Triangle use the county inventories to balance the need for growth with environmental concerns. The inventories also have management and protection recommendations for the significant natural heritage sites in each county. Sidebar – TLC’s Goals Wildlife Habitat Natural areas and well-managed forests support healthy ecosystems and biodiversity in our region. Wildlife habitat balances our built environment and provides opportunities for scientific research and educational experiences. Human activities are disrupting wildlife habitat and unalterably changing the natural world that we depend on for food, air, and water. TLC will support wildlife habitat by: • identifying and conserving important natural areas and managed forests • requiring conservation plans on all privately owned natural areas and managed forests conserved by TLC, and encouraging other private landowners to manage their land likewise • ensuring that scientists and educators have access to natural areas for learning. Biodiverstiy Biodiversity, the full spectrum of life forms and the ecological processes that support them, depends on the sustainability of diverse ecosystems, such as the patchwork of forests, agricultural lands, bluffs, coastal zones and aquatic communities present in the Triangle. Biodiversity is usually considered at three different levels: genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the variability of genes within a species and variations among distinct populations of the same species. Need something more specific about genetic diversity Species diversity refers to the variety of plant and animal species and can be measured in a number of ways. Species richness, abundance and taxonomic diversity are the most common ways to measure species diversity. Species richness refers to the number of species found in a defined area. Species abundance measures the relative numbers among species in a defined area. Taxonomic diversity considers the genetic relationships between species. Different measures of diversity among species reflect the variety of characteristics and evolutionary relationships. Ecosystem diversity refers to the broad differences between ecosystem types, and variety of habitats and natural processes such as water flow. Insert language here about the diversity of natural communities in the Triangle The more types of habitat present, the greater number of species present, i.e. more species diversity. Aside from the obvious role in supporting the Triangle’s wildlife, land cover vegetation has many other values: watershed protection, recreational opportunities, provisioning of raw materials, climate control, release of oxygen to the air, and pleasing landscapes. Though not a native land cover, cultivated agricultural lands steve is going to find some info about agricultural programs USDA etc may also support extensive wildlife populations. Some wildlife species, such as white-tailed deer, have adapted so they can survive in virtually any habitat. Other wildlife species require a very select ecological niche, or even a single “host” plant species. For example, the Red Cockaded Woodpecker, a federally listed endangered species, prefers to nest in cavities occurring in stands of longleaf pine in the sandhills of Johnston County.The red-cockaded woodpecker is federally listed in all six Triangle counties, but is only currently found in Johnston County. The rarest habitat types often harbor remaining populations of many of the state’s endangered and threatened species. The Triangle has nine major upland ecological communities: mixed oak forest, oak-hickory-pine forest, southern floodplain forest, mesic pine flatwoods, oak-hickory forest, mesic mixed hardwood forest, pine/scrub oak sandhill, xeric sandhill scrub, and streambed pocosin. Each supports a general vegetation cover type, which provides habitat, food, and shelter for a distinct group of wildlife species. Source: Photo by Jeff Pippen Sidebar – losing ground Most ecosystems in the world are experiencing biodiversity loss that can be attributed to human expansion. As the Triangle region develops, some last known instances of species of concern like the Bog Spicebush (above), or Michaux’s Sumac in Wake County, have been paved over to make room for the Northern Wake Expressway. The draining of the New Hope bottomlands in Chatham County destroyed the last known habitat for black bears that resided in the Triangle. Black bears require large home ranges and are now only infrequent visitors throughout the Triangle. Why do we care? Simply said: Because human life depends on biodiversity. Biodiversity maintains ecosystems and ecosystems provide various services to maintain life on earth. Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of healthy ecosystems and our well-being is directly linked to ecosystem services, such as the provision of clean water, fresh air and food from the land. There are also intrinsic values attributed to biodiversity from the perspective of many ethical, religious, and cultural points of view. Ecosystems are of enormous value in and for themselves regardless of their value to humankind.Healthy functioning ecosystems provide these vital services to residents of the Triangle: Provisioning services: products obtained from ecosystems, for example food, fresh water, fuel, genetic resources; Regulating services: benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, for example climate and disease regulation, water purification; Cultural services: non-material benefits, for example spiritual and religious, aesthetic, inspirational; and Supporting services: services necessary for the production of all of the above, for example soil formation, nutrient cycling. These different services show how we rely on biodiversity in our daily lives, often without realizing it. Due to complex interrelationships between biodiversity and ecosystems, changes in biodiversity can influence many services of an ecosystem. Biological diversity can be difficult to measure directly. As an alternative, the number of species whose survival is at risk provides an indicator of changes in biological diversity, and therefore changes in ecosystem health. Threats to biodiversity The most important threats to biodiversity in the Triangle are natural ecosystem loss and degradation, including pollution and habitat fragmentation, introduction of nonnative “exotic” or “alien” species, and overexploitation of plant and animal species. These threats are often driven by human influences such as clear-cutting, over-fishing, population expansion and new development. Vegetative communities change naturally over time, but human influences have a dramatic impact. Development patterns greatly affect habitat quantity and quality and, therefore, wildlife diversity and populations. An obvious impact is the loss of habitat due to conversion of forests, wetlands and agricultural lands to other uses. Infrastructure to service new developments — sewer and water, roads, power lines, telecommunications towers/lines, etc.—can also cause serious wildlife impacts by the loss or fragmentation of habitats, obstruction of migration routes and increased human activity which disrupts normal wildlife behavior patterns. The transition area between developed landscapes and natural habitats can be the source of negative effects that may limit biodiversity. Corridors and fragmentation of habitat? An edge effect usually occurs for some distance into a forest ecosystem that borders developed landscapes. While many species depend on the open habitat found at the forest’s edge, newly created forest openings may result in a loss of interior-habitat species that are not adapted to the edge. An especially serious negative effect of deforestation may occur when "interior" bird species are increasingly exposed to nest predators such as raccoons, jays, and crows. Non-native invasive species including plant, animal, pathogen, and fungi compete with native species in the Triangle’s ecosystems. Non-natives are characterized by fast growth rates and have no natural predators to control their populations. As such, invasive species may out-compete native species and disrupt natural ecosystems. There are 164 non-native invasive species in Wake County alone. Global climatic warming caused by release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere may lead to reductions in biodiversity. Native species with low genetic diversity and/or migratory ability; species and species and ecosystems existing in areas fragmented by human development activities could suffer pronounced negative effects of climatic warming. Redo the absence of FIRE paragraph An endemic species, or subspecies, is one that is found only in a particular region. An endangered species or subspecies is one that is determined by federal and/or state law to be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range (i.e., geographic distribution). A threatened species or subspecies is one that is determined by federal and/or state law as likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Source: Photo by Jeff Pippen A vine with a deadly twist Japanese honeysuckle, like many invasive species, has few natural enemies which allows the plant to flourish and out-compete native plants. The honeysuckle vine can kill young trees by twisting tightly around stems and trunks, which cuts off the plant’s flow of water. Carolina Jessamine is a native alternative to the invasive Japanese honeysuckle. Number of invasive plants by county Chatham Durham Johnston Lee Orange Wake 111 164 96 106 221 164 http://www.eddmaps.org/tools/choosecounty.cfm Animal Diversity Monitoring the total number of species in the Triangle is a way to keep track of biodiversity in the region. As new species are listed by state or federal agencies as species of concern, endangered or threatened, or in some cases, delisted, it is a way to monitor the stability of species over time. How to measure it? The NC GAP analysis tool can be used to calculate the total number of species by county over time. The GAP analysis tool can also be used calculate the number of state listed species, federally listed species and GAP species of concern. A decrease in animal diversity, or an increase in the number of listed species can help focus conservation efforts on the species, or habitats most at risk. Animal Diversity in the Triangle Mammals Avian Reptiles Amphibians Total # species State listed species Federally listed species GAP species of concern Chatham 43 117 53 39 252 Durham 41 115 44 33 233 Orange 39 113 41 31 224 Johnston 49 122 59 45 275 Lee 43 115 53 44 255 Wake 45 122 50 42 259 35 27 22 48 33 37 4 4 2 8 5 6 35 33 33 36 34 34 Triangle Average Animal Diversity Amphibians 16% Mammals 17% Reptiles 20% Avian 47% There are 122 bird species in the Triangle, 45 mammals and 59 reptile species documented in the region. Animal diversity has important ecological and economic impacts. Bird watching is the fastest growing outdoor activity in the country according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.