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Wednesday, 21st June 2006

Resource of the Week: NatureServe Explorer

Resource of the Week
by Shirl Kennedy, Deputy Editor

Would you be interested in "an authoritative source for information on more than 65,000 plants, animals, and ecosystems of the United States and Canada" that features "in-depth coverage for rare and endangered species"? You know you'll want to bookmark this one.

NatureServe Explorer
"NatureServe represents an international network of biological inventories—known as natural heritage programs or conservation data centers—operating in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Together we not only collect and manage detailed local information on plants, animals, and ecosystems, but develop information products, data management tools, and conservation services to help meet local, national, and global conservation needs. The objective scientific information about species and ecosystems developed by NatureServe is used by all sectors of society—conservation groups, government agencies, corporations, academia, and the public—to make informed decisions about managing our natural resources." There is A LOT OF CONTENT on the main site; we're going to take an in-depth look at NatureServe Explorer, "an online encyclopedia of life."

This is an easy-to-use resource that will be helpful in most general library situations. "Search the database for species or ecological communities & systems." The customized search forms make it simple, with a variety of check boxes, radio buttons, drop-down menus... And on both search forms, you'll find tabs at the top that take you to pages where you can specify geographic location and/or status (e.g., extinct, imperiled, secure, etc.). Note that these options are also available as live links as you scroll down the search page.

I did a simple plants/animals search for "scrub jay" just to see what the results page would look like. At the far right side of the screen, for each result, you can choose summary (report), distribution (map), status, image (if available), or a comprehensive report which includes everything. You can also retrieve a comprehensive report by clicking on the name of the species in the list of results. A drop-down menu allows you to move around to different sections of the report.

There are lots of search options here, really. You can "search for rare plant and animal species by U.S. county or watershed". Searchable data is available for "nearly 600 ecological systems of the United States." A concise summary of available data is available. If you're looking for information "on the birds, mammals, and amphibians of Latin America and the Caribbean," a link on the home page will take you to InfoNatura, a similar site that is also available in Spanish and Portugese.

Besides Explorer and InfoNatura, there are other databases available from the NatureServe site"
+ Local Program Data from "natural heritage programs and conservation data centers" in the U.S. and Canada
+ Global Amphibian Assessment, which is the "first-ever comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of the world's 5,918 known species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians"
+ Ecology Data, including Ecological Systems of the United States, Ecological Systems of Latin America and the Caribbean, Geographically Isolated Wetlands in the U.S., Coastal and Marine Classification, and Ecological Integrity Assessments of Wetlands
+ Animal Data, including digital distribution maps of birds, mammals, and amphibians; and Distribution of Native U.S. Fishes by Watershed
+ Plant Data, including invasive species distribution

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