Biodiversity encompasses the variety of life, including the variety of species, biological communities and landscapes. Within Oklahoma’s borders there is a remarkable array of environments, from the wetlands of the southeast to the mesas of the western panhandle. These environments harbor a broad spectrum of biological communities and thousands of animal and plant species. This rich and diverse natural heritage is one of Oklahoma’s most valuable resources. In order to protect this resource, we must know where the elements of biodiversity occur.
The Oklahoma Natural Heritage (ONHI), a program of
the Oklahoma Biological Survey, was established by the state Legislature in 1987 to serve as a centralized repository for information on Oklahoma’s rich and diverse natural heritage. The ONHI maintains a dynamic database of the best scientifically based information on biodiversity within the state to meet the changing needs of citizens, organizations and government agencies in the state, and to assist in wise natural resource use, management and conservation planning.
Why is it needed?
- To help the people of Oklahoma make informed decisions on the use of their land.
- To preserve valuable biological resources in Oklahoma. • To comply with existing laws and regulations.
- It is a centralized repository. Information previously scattered among agencies, academic institutions, museums, private individuals and other sources are gathered into a single database.
- It is fast. Information is stored in a computer and map files for rapid and easy retrieval.
- It is informative. A professional staff of biologists works to interpret the information for specific applications.
- It is ongoing. Information is continuously updated. Old records are verified, new areas are searched, known sites are monitored and changes in land use are recorded.
- Environmental Impact Assessment. Many important biological resources have been destroyed inadvertently because land- use decisions were made without sufficient information. A professionally staffed inventory with a centralized database facilitates informed decisions before costly planning investments are made. For the same reason, compliance with laws and regulations is facilitated.
- Resource management. Wise management of Oklahoma’s parks and wildlife management areas requires knowledge of sensitive biological features. Information maintained on these areas may be used to improve existing management practices.
- Land protection. Information from the inventory helps us focus attention on Oklahoma’s most significant features for priority in conservation and protection.
Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory University of Oklahoma
111 East Chesapeake Street
Norman, OK 73019-5122