Key Terms

Ecosystem Functions:

Referes to habitat, biological or system properties or processes of ecosystems. Examples include the storage and retention of water, retention of soil, and regulation of global temperature, precipitation and other biologically mediated climate processes.

Ecosystem Services:

Represents the benefits human populations derive, directly or indirectly, from ecosystem functions. Examples include food and raw materials production, waste assimilation and treatment, and climate regulation.

 

The Science Initiative will seek to develop science-based biodiversity information products to guide decision-makers in making informed decisions about protecting and managing Delaware’s living resources.

Objectives

  • Use existing data to identify and to map for land use decision-makers those land and water areas essential for the long-term protection of native plants, animals and natural communities by July 1, 2001.
  • Conduct an inventory and assessment of existing biodiversity data and information to determine critical inventory, monitoring and research needs by July 2002.

    Osprey
    These fish-eating raptors nest in tall trees or nesting platforms in the marshes and behind sand dunes. There are 52 active osprey nests in Delaware.

  • Apply annual or bi-annual updates to the biodiversity conservation map to ensure that the best available data is used to identify areas most critical for the conservation of native plants, animal and natural communities.
  • Provide technical guidance to biodiversity partners, decision-makers and the agency designated to maintain a clearinghouse for biodiversity data, information and decision-support tools.

Priority Actions

1. Define “native.” Develop lists of native communities and species to help guide land management decisions.

Defining “native” and listing those species and communities that are native will be critical to the success of the initiative in order to deliver a clear and consistent message about what we are targeting for protection, management and restoration. Our focus on these elements of biodiversity should not be mistaken for an attempt to eliminate non-native species that are related to, for example, agriculture or horticulture, except when these species are considered invasive.

2. Develop a statewide assessment of biodiversity by conducting workshops with public and private sector scientists to identify and evaluate existing data and information related to plant and animal populations and natural communities through-out the state, with particular emphasis on identifying data limitations, data quality deficiencies and data gaps.

The science implementation team will acquire information on plant and animal populations and natural communities to determine if and how they can be used to identify areas critical for biodiversity conservation. The assessment phase will tell us what we know and don’t know about biodiversity in Delaware, from which we can begin to 1) identify critical gaps in biodiversity information, and 2) determine which components of biodiversity are in greatest need of protection (e.g., through acquisition, management, restoration, policies, legislation).

3. Using the results of the biodiversity assessment, produce maps that identify opportunities for statewide biological resource protection through targeted incentive and legislative programs, resource management, land acquisition, restoration and  education and outreach activities by December 2002. Update and create new State Resources Areas (SRA) and Natural Areas to target for protection those lands and waters critical for biodiversity conservation. Produce biodiversity conservation over-lay maps that depict areas in need of restoration and opportunities for creating links among State Resource Areas and the Natural Areas Inventory through biological corridor protection and/or restoration.

State Resource Areas established in 1989, are lands targeted for protection not only because of their biological value but also for their historical significance and access to recreational opportunities. As part of this Initiative, updated and new SRAs will clearly reflect those areas critical for biodiversity conservation. Additionally, the results of the biodiversity assessment will be integrated into the Natural Areas Inventory (NAI). Overlay maps will build upon the SRA and NAI by identifying restoration opportunities including, but not limited to, reforesting and restoring wetlands on marginally productive lands, re-establishing riparian buffers, linking forested and wetland tracts, reconfiguring streams and other waterbodies to a natural geomorphic condition, restoring streams degraded by urban development to re-establish natural functions (e.g., improving fish habitat and water quality, restoring aesthetic values) and creating wetland treatment facilities for nutrients and sediments associated with streams and other waterbodies.

4. Develop and provide biodiversity information and decision-support tools in formats accessible to decision-makers. Provide associated technical assistance to governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to help guide state decision making.

For biodiversity information to be incorporated into policy, management and planning decisions at the state and local levels, it must be in a format that decision-makers can interpret and use. Availability of data alone will not ensure use. Rather, data must be tailored to meet the needs of its potential and intended users. If existing science-based assessment programs are not providing information in an appropriate format for

those whose decisions affect biodiversity, valuable data will fail to have significant on-the-ground effects. In addition, because decision-makers and/or organizations are often ill-informed or ill-equipped to adequately use and interpret biodiversity information, on-going technical training and support are critical. Without adequate guidance or tools, this information may fail to be incorporated into state decision-making or may be interpreted inappropriately.

5. Identify leadership within an existing program and provide funding to support periodic re- assessments of biodiversity and create a central clearinghouse for state biodiversity information and technical assistance.

Several programs and agencies are using their own resources to develop parallel projects aimed at guiding biodiversity protection in Delaware. While parts of an assessment and plan are already being addressed independently or with limited part-nears, dedicated funding will be needed to ensure these efforts are coordinated.  A coordinated effort would facilitate and encourage communication and make more efficient use of limited resources. Furthermore, it would be vital to have at least one full time position to help (1) develop a comprehensive biodiversity assessment and plan, and (2) determine the needs of decision makers and integrate these needs into customized tools for different uses. Dedicated staff time will be needed to complete development of tools and to ensure these tools continue to be developed, as better information becomes available.

Because our scientific knowledge base and available tools are ever-changing, the biodiversity assessment, plan and decision-support tools must evolve as more and better data becomes available. Currently no mechanism exists to ensure this will happen. A formal program would help to establish institutional memory, which will be needed for a multi-agency effort to survive. With dedicated coordination, motivated leadership and committed resources, we can keep the momentum going and develop a plan that will guide biodiversity conservation for Delaware into the 21st century.

 

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