Why should we be concerned?
The Southern Appalachian Ecoregion (which encompasses the Blue Ridge Mountain Section) contains an estimated 80 species of amphibians and reptiles, 175 species of terrestrial birds, 65 species of mammals, 2,250 species of vascular plants, and possibly as many as 25,000 species of invertebrates. These organisms live in low- and high- elevation forests, caves, bogs, waterfalls, wetlands, grassy balds, rock outcrops, cliffs, and seeps.
The Blue Ridge Mountains contain the highest number of federally listed and proposed threatened and endangered terrestrial species in the Southern Appalachian chain. Most occurrences of federally listed species are associated with rare community groups, such as spruce-fir, high-elevation rocky summit, southern Appalachian bog, montane alluvial, and spray cliff.
Extinction is a natural process that has been occurring since long before the appearance of humans on the planet. Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation at about the same rate that other species become extinct. However, because of air and water pollution, forest clearing, loss of wetlands, and other human-induced environmental changes, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds the speciation rate. Since 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies, and varieties of our nation’s plants and animals have become extinct. By contrast, during the 3,000 years of the Pleistocene Ice Age, all of North America lost only about 90 species.
How can we sustain biological diversity?
All species and natural communities are important for the region’s biological diversity. The maintenance of large scale habitats and micro-niches will require a range of activities from prescribed burning (since wildfire is largely controlled) and vegetation manipulation to protection from human use and development.
Since habitat is found on mixed ownership, it is critical that landscape scale planning is adopted and implemented. We must work together to adopt policy and cooperative decision frameworks that encourage biodiversity. To reach private landowners, we need educational tools that offer adaptive management strategies based on the best available knowledge about how to provide a sustainable balance among biological diversity, economic uses, and cultural values.
GX = Believed to be extinct
GH = Of historical occurrence throughout its range, may be rediscovered
G1 = Critically imperiled globally because of extreme rarity (five or fewer occurrences or less than 1,000 individuals) or because of extreme vulnerability to extinction due to some natural or man-made factor.
G2 = Imperiled globally because of rarity (6 to 20 occurrences or less than 3,000 individuals) or because of vulnerability to extinction due to some natural or man-made factor
G3 = Either very rare and local throughout its range (21 to 100 occurrences or less than 10,000 individuals) or found locally in a restricted range or vulnerable to extinction from other factors
G4 = Apparently secure globally (may be rare in parts of range)
G5 = Demonstrably secure globally