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Georgia's Natural Heritage

Georgia's Natural Heritage

Famous eighteenth and nineteenth century pioneer naturalists such as the Bartrams and the LeContes were among the first to describe the natural beauty of Georgia. These early explorers noted the diversity of habitats found here, and discovered plants and animals never before known--such as the showy Franklinia tree (Franklinia alatamaha), the hairy fever-tree (Pinckneya pubens), and LeConte's sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii). Since then, amateur and professional naturalists alike have extolled the physical and biological diversity of this state.

Five distinct physiographic provinces are represented in Georgia: the Cumberland Plateau, the Ridge and Valley, the Blue Ridge, the Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain. These physiographic provinces differ with respect to geology, soils, and vegetation types. In addition, each province has associations of plants and animals unique to Georgia or the southeastern U.S. Examples of these natural habitats with high numbers of rare species include granite outcrops, cedar glades, pine savannas, pitcherplant bogs, and sandhills.

Full restoration of highly-disturbed ecosystems is impossible. Therefore, in order to conserve the natural diversity of our state, we must protect viable, representative examples of relatively undisturbed habitats and species assemblages. The recreational, aesthetic, and cultural values of our remaining wild areas, their usefulness for research and education, and their unknown resource potential will all be lost to future generations without careful protection efforts. The ultimate success of these protective endeavors depends upon an accurate assessment of natural diversity based on documented occurrences of plants, animals, and biological communities, as well as an understanding of the ecological processes that support this diversity. These are the goals of the Nongame Conservation Section, Georgia's natural heritage program.

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