Indicators:: Animal Diversity :: At-risk species :: Breeding bird survey :: Significant Natural Heritage Areas
Landscape Habitat/Indicator Guilds :: Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment

Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment

What is this?

Biodiversity is a difficult thing to quantify. Even when the presence or absence of species can be determined, that often doesn’t give an idea of the status of a population’s well-being. With space becoming increasingly scarce, the components and dynamics of the landscape must be frequently reexamined in order to evaluate how to best preserve the resources that remain.
The Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment was generated by Natural Heritage Program staff to identify and quantify quality wildlife areas/habitat across North Carolina. The assessment includes aquatic and terrestrial species and communities, landscape elements (connectivity), and lands of specific value for ecosystem function, such as wetlands and riparian buffers. There are several components that are included in the assessment (see sidebar), each serving to represent one or more of these key indicators of diversity and habitat quality.

Why is this important?

The Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment is one of six GIS assessments that make up the OneNCNaturally Conservation Planning Tool. The Conservation Planning Tool was developed to inform decision-makers, landowners and land-use planners of the importance of conservation planning as population growth and development in North Carolina continue to skyrocket. The Conservation Planning Tool was also intended to provide easy-to-access information regarding the state’s highest quality ecosystems. The Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment prioritizes intact ecosystems which are thought to harbor the greatest number of species. Highlighting the location of unique and irreplaceable natural resources will help guide decisions for land use planning and conservation.

What does this measure show?

The Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment is rated on a relative basis, intended to indicate lands of varying conservation urgency (Figure 1). For the purposes of this report, we calculated only the highest quality habitat value, 9-10 (Table 1 and Figure 2). Wake County has the largest percentage of high quality habitat conserved (Figure 2), but it should be noted that the majority of the high quality habitat is found at a single site, William B. Umstead State Park. Similarly for Durham County, much of the high quality habitat is associated with Jordan and Falls Lakes. Eighty percent of Lee County's high quality habitat is not under conservation management, but perhaps this does not warrant as much conservation focus as Johnston County's 64%, as the former only has 1/12 as much high quality habitat as the latter.

Figure 1. Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment. (Colors retained from online tool:

Table 1. High quality habitat: Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment levels 9-10 (acres).


Figure 2. Percent (%) of high quality habitat under conservation management in the Triangle.

Limitations and Further Research

These data regarding percentage of important lands for wildlife will be particularly useful in analyzing trends of conservation thoroughness and priorities over time. No trend is available for high quality habitat under conservation management; that will require a future examination.

Authors & Reviewers

Authors:: Steve Allen, Jessica Stocking and Amanda Willis :: N.C. State University :: 2010.05.07

Reviewers:: Jacquelyn Wallace :: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Dr. Dean L. Urban :: Duke University
Dr. Christopher Moorman :: N.C. State University

Technical Notes

This assessment is an attempt to combine data from different sources and different years. It includes two of the other indicators, Significant Natural Heritage Areas and Core Areas. See below for links to components and an explanation of the ranking.

Conservation land files (conland0709.shp and easements0709.shp) and Biodiversity and Wildlife Habitat Assessment data were downloaded from

Analyses performed in ESRI ArcMap 9.3:
  • Merge: Combined lands under conservation management.
  • Select: Isolated high quality habitat.
  • Intersect: Isolated high quality habitat that is being managed for conservation.
  • Calculate geometry: Calculated areas of high quality habitat under conservation management.

Spreadsheet of Core Areas:

Assessment component table:

Assessment ranking: