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.
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.
Biodiversity in New York's State Park System