Tell Me More About Significant Natural Communities

Disclaimer : The locations displayed in the Significant Natural Communities data layer are not the only places in New York with rare or significant natural communities; they are only the places we know about and have documented in the New York Natural Heritage Program’s Biodiversity Databases. Not all of New York State has been surveyed, so if your area of interest shows no locations of significant natural communities, we can’t definitively say there are none there; all we can say is that NY Natural Heritage has no information about that area.

The layer Significant Natural Communities displays locations of rare or high-quality wetlands, forests, grasslands, ponds, streams, and other types of habitats, ecosystems, and ecological areas. NY Natural Heritage calls these different types of habitats or ecosystems “natural ecological communities.” NY Natural Heritage documents only those locations of natural communities where the community type is rare in New York State; or, for more common community types, where the community at that location is a high-quality example and meets specific, documented criteria for state significance in terms of size, undisturbed and intact condition, and the quality of the surrounding landscape. (A few significant natural communities are associated with sensitive rare animals and plants, and therefore their locations are included in the Rare Plants and Rare Animals data layer.)

The layer Natural Communities Vicinity shows areas within ½ mile of significant natural communities. The Vicinity layer alerts viewers that there are significant natural communities nearby.

NY Natural Heritage keeps track of locations of significant natural communities because they serve as habitat for a wide range of plants and animals, both rare and common; and because natural communities in good condition provide ecological value and services. The conservation of high-quality examples of all the natural community types in each region of New York State will help ensure that all New York State’s plants and animals are preserved.

A natural ecological community is defined as an assemblage of interacting plant and animal populations that share a common environment; the particular assemblage of plant and animal species occurs across the landscape in areas with similar environmental conditions. Freshwater wetland, estuarine, and upland natural communities are classified according to their dominant vegetation and their physical setting; aquatic, marine, and cave natural communities are classified according to their physical setting and their dominant flora and fauna. Examples of community types include deep emergent marsh, red maple-hardwood swamp, dwarf shrub bog, hemlock-northern hardwood forest, and tidal creek.

More detailed information about some of the natural community types in New York, including identification, dominant and characteristic vegetation, distribution, conservation, and management, is available in NY Natural Heritage’s Conservation Guides. For descriptions of all community types, visit NY Natural Heritage’s Ecological Communities page and click on “ DRAFT Ecological Communities of New York State”.

The sources of natural community records in the New York Natural Heritage Program’s Databases are information and maps from field surveys and from aerial photo interpretation by Heritage staff.

If there is NOT a proposed action or project, and you have a question regarding the areas shown in the Rare Plants and Rare Animals and Significant Natural Communities data layers:
Please contact the New York Natural Heritage Program
625 Broadway, Albany , NY 12233-4757
NaturalHeritage@dec.ny.gov