In this informative webinar, Joe Lamaris, the GIS and Data Manager for the SC Natural Heritage Program, shares his expertise on data-driven decision making for conservation in McCormick County, SC. Lamaris discusses the role of the South Carolina National Heritage Program, the importance of maintaining species data, and the conservation ranks assigned to different species. He also highlights the various types of preserves managed by the program and their significance in protecting unique ecosystems and species.
Overview of the South Carolina National Heritage Program
The South Carolina National Heritage Program is part of a larger network of heritage programs across the United States and the western hemisphere. Each program aims to understand and address the threats faced by species of concern across political boundaries. The program in South Carolina was the first of its kind and serves as a model for other states. NatureServe, an overarching program, connects heritage programs and maintains a master dataset of species data.
The Role of Data in Conservation
Lamaris emphasizes the importance of data in making informed conservation decisions. The SC Natural Heritage Program collects and manages species data, incorporating both historic and current data to create a comprehensive database. Currently, the database contains over 30,000 records and is continually growing. Each species is assigned a conservation rank based on predefined criteria set by NatureServe. The conservation ranks help prioritize conservation efforts and range from one (most critically impaired) to five (most secure).
Preserves and their Significance
The SC Natural Heritage Program not only manages species data but also maintains various types of preserves across the state. These preserves serve as critical habitats for unique species and significant cultural resources. The program currently oversees 75 properties, including natural and cultural heritage preserves. Some examples of these preserves include Isaquina Falls in Snowpass Tunnel Heritage Preserve, Table Rock State Park, Lake Jocassee, and Rockville Blackjack Heritage Preserve.
Isaquina Falls, located in Snowpass Tunnel Heritage Preserve, features granitic outcrops, hardwood coves, mountain bogs, and waterfalls. The preserve is important for its biodiversity, particularly bat species that utilize the tunnel system in the area. The program utilizes lidar data, a high-resolution dataset that penetrates through the canopy, to identify potential habitat areas for bats.
Table Rock State Park, although not owned by the program, has a designated heritage site due to the presence of a cave that houses cave-dwelling bat species such as the northern long-eared bat. Lake Jocassee offers habitats for highly sought-after species like the Oconee bells, which are rare and found only in certain regions of South Carolina and North Carolina.
The program also focuses on preserving unique ecosystems and habitats like seepage forests, granitic outcrops, piedmont cove forests, and piedmont prairies. These habitats are home to various plant and animal species that rely on specific ecological conditions. For example, 40 Acre Rock Heritage Reserve is known for its seeps on top of granitic outcrops, which support isolated populations of unique plant species.
In the coastal regions, the program works to protect bottomless hardwood forests, Atlantic white cedar bogs, sandstone outcrops, longleaf pine ecosystems, and Carolina bay ecosystems. Active fire management programs are employed to maintain fire-dependent ecosystems and enhance habitat for species in these areas.
The South Carolina National Heritage Program plays a vital role in data-driven decision making for conservation in McCormick County, SC. By collecting and managing species data, assigning conservation ranks, and maintaining various preserves, the program ensures the protection of unique ecosystems and species. Through collaborations with other heritage programs across the country, the program help maintain a comprehensive dataset and work towards the overall conservation and preservation of natural habitats and cultural resources.