Aquatic ecosystems continue to be the most threatened of North Carolina's natural systems. As a result, more than 50% of the mussel species, 25% of the fish species, and 20% of the crayfish species native to North Carolina have been listed by either the state or federal government as endangered or threatened with extinction. Accelerated conversion of natural environments into human-oriented environments makes it necessary to frequently update information regarding distribution and status of these rare aquatic species.
The Natural Heritage Program's aquatic ecologists combine skill in the inventory of freshwater natural areas with experience in conservation planning to address issues related to rare aquatic species in North Carolina.
Through field inventories and diligent consolidation of existing aquatic species and ecosystem data, staff ecologists identify Significant Aquatic Natural Heritage Areas and the rare aquatic species they support.
Working with biologists from the Wildlife Resources Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NHP ecologists conduct biological surveys of the rare species located in streams and rivers throughout the state.
The resulting survey data is shared with partner agencies and organizations, such as the Tar River Land Conservancy and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to strengthen their aquatic conservation programs and increase opportunities to protect aquatic habitats.
Information about such aquatic surveys is available through data services to assist corporations, agencies and citizens complying with rules regarding federally protected aquatic species.