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


At-risk species in the Triangle


What is this?


Plant and animal species receive some protection under the Federal Endangered Species Act , after being placed on the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants . State and federal governments follow a process to determine whether to list a species, based on the degree of threat it faces.

An “endangered” species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A “threatened” species is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. The N.C. Natural Heritage Program also tracks other species or communities that have not received state or federal protection. These elements include significant or rare natural communities and animal assemblages like wading bird colonies. “These elements of natural diversity include those plants and animals which are so rare or the natural communities which are so significant that they merit special consideration as land-use decisions are made.”

Why is this important?

Monitoring the number of listed species over time can give conservation organizations an idea of where their efforts need to be focused. For example, an increase in the number of threatened mollusks, or amphibians could mean a decrease in water quality in the region. An increase in the number of listed bird species could focus efforts to protect a rare upland habitat type.

What does this measure show?

Analyzing the number of listed species over time shows an increase in the number of listed species in each of the six counties from 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2010 Figure 1, Table 1). This increase may not be specifically tied to a greater number of species being at risk, but may be due to an increase in survey efforts in each of the counties. The majority of the listed species in the Triangle are state listed species of concern. In 2010, Wake County alone had 94 state and federally listed species, including 17 state listed natural communities, several of which are considered to be in peril .



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Figure 1. At-risk species in the Triangle through time. Source: Natural Heritage Program


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Table 1. At-risk species in the Triangle. Source: North Carolina GAP Analysis Tool

How Rare Species are Ranked

State listings

E: Endangered
T: Threatened
SC: Special concern
C: Candidate
SR: Significantly rare
EX: Extirpated
P: Proposed

Federal listings –
North Carolina as a whole has 63 federally listed species with 36 animals and
27 plants listed.

LE: Listed endangered
LT: Listed threatened
PE: Proposed endangered
PT: Proposed threatened
C: Candidate
SC: Species of Concern
PDL: Proposed for delisting
SAE or SAT: Listed endangered or threatened because of similarity of appearance
PSAE or PSAT: Proposed endangered or threatened because of similarity of appearance
XE: Essential experimental population
XN: Nonessential experimental population
State and Global ranks range from S1 and G1– Critically imperiled, to S5 and G5 – demonstrably secure.
A complete list of state and global rankings can be found in the Technical Notes.

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The most current data available from the N.C. Natural Heritage Program is incorporated in this analysis. The data includes all state and federally listed species along with all elements tracked by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. This includes significant natural communites and animal assemblages that aren’t given state or federal protection, but are significantly rare.

The data shows a steady increase in the number of listed species for each county from 1996 to 2010. The majority of new listings are plants and mollusks that are state species of concern. Wake County’s number of total listings went from a total of 78 listed species of plants and animals in 1996 to 92 in 2010.

Habitat loss and habitat degradation are the greatest threats to most of the listed species in the region. Identifying the habitat types and species that are most at-risk can help focus conservation efforts and lead to better coordination between local, state, and federal governments to protect at-risk species and habitats.



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Figure 2. At-risk species in the Triangle in 2010. Source: Natural Heritage Program



Overview of endangered species

Mollusks

The largest suite of rare animals in the Triangle is freshwater mussels. There are 17 freshwater mussels listed in the Triangle, including the Dwarf Wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), and the Yellow Lance (Elliptio lanceolata), both of which are federally endangered species. Freshwater mussels are the most imperiled group of species in North America. The threats to freshwater mussels include alteration of habitat, contamination of freshwater through pollution and sedimentation, the effects of dams and roads on water quality, changes in adjacent land use, and the effects of introduced species.

Birds

There are eight species of birds in the Triangle that are state or federally listed. The red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) is the only federally endangered species in the Triangle. The red-cockaded woodpecker is listed in all six counties because there is suitable habitat in each county, but it is only present in Johnston County where the only suitable stands of mature longleaf pines in the Triangle are found. The loss of older longleaf pine habitat that the woodpecker prefers is the primary threat. For other birds, like the Bachman’s sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis), habitat loss is also the primary threat. The last colony of Bachman’s sparrows lost their preferred habitat to an expansion at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Fish

There are six state and federally listed fish species in the Triangle. The Cape Fear Shiner (Notropis mekistocholas), which is found in Chatham and Lee counties, is the only federally endangered fish in the region. In Wake County, there are no recent records for the Roanoke Bass (Ambloplites cavifrons) or the Carolina Madtom (Noturus furiosus), leading to concern that those species might have disappeared from Wake County.

Mammals

The eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata), and the southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius) are the only state listed mammals in the region. The southeastern myotis, a small bat, is the only federally listed species among mammals in the Triangle. The southeastern myotis is historic to Wake County but habitat loss is believed to have led to the abandonment of the last known colony in the county. The star-nosed mole, a state species of concern, is listed only in Wake County.

Eastern Fox Squirrel - Sciurus niger

Federal Status: --
NC State status: SR
In The Triangle: Only currently found in Johnston and Wake counties.
The fox squirrel is found in the sandhills and coastal plain and in the mountains.
Fox squirrels are locally common in the sandhills and coastal plain.
The fox squirrel’s habit consists primarily of longleaf pine, turkey oak sandhills characterized
by large, well-spaced pines and an understory of scattered or clumped oaks .
Source: www.basic.ncsu.edu/ ncgap/sppreport/amafb07040.html
Photo source: Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Pippen

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Vascular Plants

Vascular plants make up the greatest number of at-risk species in the Triangle with 101 species listed. There are four federally endangered vascular plants: harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum), Michaux’s sumac (Rhus michauxii), smooth coneflower (Echinacea laevigata) and the bog spicebush (Lindera subcoriacea). There are also 16 species of vascular plants that are designated federal species of concern. Of the 31 plants that were tracked by the Natural Heritage Program at the time of the 2003 Wake County Inventory, eight of the 31 species were believed to be extirpated from the county.

Reptiles

Only two reptiles are listed in the Triangle. The timber rattlesnake (Croatus horridus) is a state species of concern in Durham County, and the southern hognose snake ( Heteron simus) is a federal species of concern in Wake County. The protected lands surrounding Camp Butner in Durham County benefit the timber rattlestnake. The hognose snake has suffered loss of habitat and is feared to be extirpated in Wake County.

Amphibians

Four amphibians are at-risk in the Triangle. The eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), the four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum), the Neuse River waterdog (Necturus lewisi) and the pine barrens treefrog are all state listed species. Water quality degradation and habitat loss are two of the greatest threats to amphibian species.

Neuse River Waterdog

Scientific name: Necturus lewisi
Taxa: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Proteidae
NatureServe Global
Rank: G3
NatureServe State Rank: S3
Federal Status: --
NC State status: SC
The Neuse River waterdog is found only in North Carolina. It is found in the main streams and tributaries of the Neuse and Tar Rivers. The waterdog lives in swift flowing streams with high oxygen levels and high water quality.
Because of their sensitivity to low oxygen and polluted waters, they’re found in relatively clean, flowing streams that don’t dry up during droughts.
Source: www.basic.ncsu.edu/ ncgap/sppreport/amafb07040.htm
http://naturalsciences.org

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Limitations and Further Research

This data shows the number of documented at-risk species over time in each county. The increase in some cases may be due to an increase in survey efforts and not an increase in the threat level for a particular species. The numbers may not represent the total number of at-risk species distribution and abundance because survey efforts may not have been comprehensive in each county. As survey efforts increase, more species are likely to be added.


Technical Notes


The Natural Heritage Program provided historical data on the number of at-risk species in the Triangle in 1996, 2000, 2005, and 2010. The original data classified species as plants, vertebrate animals, invertebrate animals, and natural communities. For a more detailed look at the breakdown of at-risk species in the Triangle, we separated the classifications into amphibians, birds, crustaceans, fish, insects, mammals, mollusks, non-vascular plants, vascular plants and reptiles.

To obtain an overall count of at-risk species in the Triangle, the individual county lists from 2010 for each county were combined into an overall Triangle spreadsheet. The county category was expanded to include all counties where a species was listed and the duplicate entries were removed to give a total overall count for the Triangle. Tracking newly added species in each county would allow this list to be updated as species are added to have the most current list available.

2010 At-risk species in the Triangle: A complete list of species and natural communities tracked by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program for 2010.Triangle List species 2010.xlsx

2010 At-risk species in the Triangle chart: A chart of the number of species tracked by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program for 2010. triangle at-risk2010 chart.xlsx

Natural Heritage Program Methodology

The Natural Heritage Program follows methodology developed by The Nature Conservancy and shared by the Natural Heritage Network and NatureServe . By consolidating information about hundreds of rare species and natural communities, the program is able to ensure that the public is able to get the information that is needed, to weigh the ecological significance of various sites, and to evaluate the likelihood and nature of ecological impacts. This information supports informed evaluations of the trade-offs associated with biological diversity and development projects before plans have been finalized. Finally, this information facilitates the establishment of priorities for the protection of North Carolina's most significant natural areas. For more information on the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program visit their web site at http://www.ncnhp.org/Pages/mission.html |Natural Heritage Program]] follows methodology developed by The Nature Conservancy and shared by the Natural Heritage Network and NatureServe. By consolidating information about hundreds of rare species and natural communities, the program is able to ensure that the public is able to get the information that is needed, to weigh the ecological significance of various sites, and to evaluate the likelihood and nature of ecological impacts. This information supports informed evaluations of the trade-offs associated with biological diversity and development projects before plans have been finalized. Finally, this information facilitates the establishment of priorities for the protection of North Carolina's most significant natural areas.


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

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