Conserving the state's unique wildlife diversity is a major challenge. In 2001, funds were made available through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to support the enhancement of non-game programs. In February of 2002 the Nevada Department of Wildlife non-game biologists became part of the new Wildlife Diversity Division, and on July 1, 2002 NDOW began focusing on the non-game resources of the state.
Unfortunately, we are losing much of Nevada's biodiversity. There are 29 native species listed as threatened or endangered in Nevada. Many natural ecosystems have been degraded to the point that they no longer provide essential products or services.
Biodiversity -(which means a variation in natural ecosystems, native species, and the genetic variation within each species), comprises a vital resource for Nevada. Natural ecosystems perform critical services including regulation of the climate and hydrologic cycle, replenishment of soils and their fertility, and detoxification of wastes. Native species provide timber, forage, harvestable fish and wildlife, and are integral to ecosystem function.
It has been the responsibility of the personnel in the Wildlife Diversity Division to compile division data on the abundance and distribution of many of the less well-known wildlife species of Nevada. The division has taken historical wildlife records, records of scientifically collected specimens, records of commercially collected specimens, and other wildlife related data and created several large databases. These databases are distributed to biologists around the state and also shared with other agencies to help everyone make well-informed decisions on the management of natural resources.
Nevada Wildlife Action Plan
View a USFWS list of Nevada's threatened and endangered species
Geographic Information System
In addition to assembly and distribution of wildlife data, the Biodiversity Section houses the division's Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a new and rapidly emerging technology that provides the Division with an extremely powerful tool with which to analyze wildlife and their habitats. Each of the division's three regions has a GIS capable workstation. Regional GIS workstations are assigned to a regional biologist who is trained in software operation. The GIS allows biologists to view animal distributions through time and space, looking for changes in distribution, abundance, and behavior.
Once data is entered and a map is created, the new map can be overlaid with up to 38 other maps and can then be queried for any number of attributes. In a project containing maps of topography, vegetation, land ownership, streams, lakes, and roads, a person could select on any of a unique set of conditions. For example, the GIS could be asked to display only those areas that are publicly owned lands between 6000' and 9000' elevation, with bitterbrush, sagebrush, serviceberry, and mountain mahogany, within 25 miles of a road and 10 miles of water. In a project completed for the Game Bureau, total area (sq. miles) for each of the hunt units was calculated with the GIS as well as total area (sq. miles) of each land ownership class in each of the hunt units. Eventually we may calculate areas of each vegetation type on public and private lands within each hunt unit.
Map Analysis Shows Species/Habitat Relationships
With any species population or distribution data, we can create a map to explore relationships between species and their habitats, or species and other species. We can perform these type of analyses for any species for which we have or can collect data. Long term data sets are particularly useful in elucidating habitat/species and species/species relationships, as cause and/or effect of changes in distributions through time are often evident. For example, total area (sq. miles) of high quality deer winter forage could be calculated for any given wintering area and compared with total number of deer occupying that area. An analysis such as this can be used to identify factors limiting a species growth, distribution, or even the carrying capacity of the range in some instances.
We have a vegetation map of the entire state with sixty-five cover-types defined. Therefore, in any analysis, vegetation can be analyzed as an individual species, i.e. bitterbrush, or grouped as multiple species, i.e. bitterbrush, sagebrush, serviceberry, and mountain mahogany. By analyzing and interpreting data on ecosystems and species distributions, we can identify which segments of land are better suited for different uses.
A sustainable future for Nevada depends upon the proper management of its biological resources. As the state's population continues to grow, so do conflicts over management and resource use. Equitable solutions to these conflicts are facilitated by the accurate data and objective science the Biodiversity Section is committed to provide.