Biodiversity is a relatively new concept in environmental study and is gaining greater public recognition. The New York Biodiversity Research Institute defines biodiversity as "the total variety of living organisms found in the state, and the natural processes that support them." State parks and historic sites provide a habitat for many of the valuable and diverse plants and animals across the Empire State. Some examples of elements contributing to New York's biodiversity include the old growth hemlock-northern hardwood forests in Allegany State Park in Western New York; the carnivorous Butterwort plant at Taughannock Falls State Park in the Finger Lakes, and the Short-eared owls at Gilgo Beach State Park on Long Island. Read about BioBlitzes and biodiversity in our parks.
Biodiversity brings important environmental services to our parks and communities The variety of plant and animal life that occur naturally in these areas help to clean and protect our environment. For example, wetlands are often areas of high plant and animal biodiversity; they clean water of pollutants and mitigate flooding. There is also aesthetic value in seeing a variety of plants and animals, making parks a popular destination for nature-lovers. It is important that we safeguard these diverse resources, so that they may continue to provide this valuable contribution to the ecosystem.
In order to better understand its biological resources, OPRHP partnered with the New York Natural Heritage Program and the New York Biodiversity Research Institute to gather comprehensive information on the state park system's biodiversity, in particular its rare species and significant ecological communities. This data gathered during the 6-year project contributes to responsible stewardship of these very important natural resources by providing a basis for management recommendations and actions.
The findings from this project were significant. State parks and historic sites are home to more than 900 occurrences of 358 different rare species and natural community types. For 104 rare species and natural community types, the OPRHP properties supports the only known occurrences of these on state public lands. Seven of these species or community types have just one known existing occurrence in the entire state! For example, the state endangered Chittenango ovate amber snail is found only in a single state park in Central New York. To find out more about the biodiversity found in New York's state parks, view the summary report of the findings of this important inventory effort.