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 Featured Project


Image of EPA Level 2 Ecoregions of the central southwest and southwest, courtesy of the Houston Advanced Research Center using EPA data
EPA Level 2 Ecoregions [Image: HARC]

There are twelve different Level 2 (as designated by the EPA) ecoregions within the Southwest and Central Southwest Gulf Coast. For each ecoregion, an informational page describing the unique physical and biological characteristics that comprise the region has been developed. The discussion highlights one endangered species, one invasive species and one species typical to that ecoregion.

The Ecoregions interactive mapping application provides access to geographic distributions of all threatened and endangered species, select invasive species, political boundaries, and baseline environmental data found within the Southwest and Central Southwest Gulf Coast.



Images courtesy of NBII Life
Images courtesy of NBII Life

Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of plant and animal life in a particular region or ecosystem. Biodiversity can be discussed in terms of genetic diversity, species diversity, and habitat diversity. Habitat areas with more species, or greater diversity, have a better chance of recovering from human-induced and natural disturbances including exotic species introductions, storms, drought or flood. Increased biodiversity can lead to greater productivity, which can be translated into a greater amount of natural resources available for plant, animal and human populations.

Habitat loss is identified as a significant factor in the decline of plant and animal species in the United States. As a result, a major focus of threatened and endangered species management strategies deals directly with the conservation of vital habitats. It is important to analyze and understand vital habitats, their natural cycles, and their relationships with the human built environment to help these ecosystems thrive and to aid in species conservation.

What are the issues?

The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides for a number of activities to protect endangered and threatened species. The activities include the protection of vital habitat and the creation of a recovery plan for each listed species.

Endangered species conservation initiatives and private property rights are often in conflict. Private property owners may resist the designation of vital habitats, because they feel it could lower property values or increase the control of government agencies over private lands. Species conservationists fear that not enough areas are being designated as vital habitats, which could contribute to and accelerate species extinctions. Overall, it is important to recognize the crucial role that vital habitats play in the protection of threatened and endangered species.

 Featured Project

Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity

Image of pink octocoral (Muricea pendula), courtesy of National Undersea Research Center at UNC-Wilminton
Octocoral (Muricea pendula) [Photo: FGBNMS/National Undersea Research Center at UNC-Wilmington, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary]

The Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity interactive mapping application explores the incredibly diverse habitat in the Gulf, displaying distribution information on benthos, plankton and other marine life groups as well as provide background data on parameters such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, and others. The Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity portal explores some of the diverse phyla represented in the mapping application and has discussion on species habitat, widespread range, and life history characteristics.

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