Coastal Habitat Assessment
The Coastal Habitat Assessment project encompasses the 11 first- and second-tier coastal Georgia counties and is part of the greater Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative, a collaboration between Georgia Conservancy, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and DNR. When completed, the habitat assessment and the larger initiative will be used by county governments, municipalities and conservation organizations to maximize the conservation of critical and imperiled natural communities and wildlife habitat, while balancing development concerns and growth on the coast.
The habitat assessment entails aerial photo interpretation of ecological community types based on the U.S. National Vegetation Classification System and accompanied by field data collection. Work began in December 2007 with the hiring of two natural resources biologists. Over the last three years, this team, with assistance from other Nongame Conservation Section staff, has completed habitat maps for the 11 coastal counties.
Significant findings include the discovery of seven previously undescribed natural communities and the discovery of bottomland post oak (Quercus similis), a species not previously recorded in Georgia. Indicating its rarity in Georgia, the bottomland post oak will likely be listed as an S2 species, or imperiled within a region. More than half of the associations from the habitat assessment fall in the G3-G1 categories, ranging from globally vulnerable to extinction to critically imperiled.
In the past three years, the Nongame Conservation Section has coordinated with private landowners, conservation organizations, soil scientists, other state employees, and experts in botany and community ecology; enlisted the help of volunteers; and given talks to conservation groups, forestry professionals and college classes. The habitat assessment maps have been used widely by local planners and conservation groups. Data from this regional assessment are being used to develop decision-support tools to facilitate land-use planning that will help conserve the region's significant ecological resources.
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