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You are here: Home Cooperative Our Plan Section 1: Biodiversity and Conservation Challenges Across the Appalachian Region Highly Sensitive or Vulnerable Habitats and Species

Highly Sensitive or Vulnerable Habitats and Species

Aquatic biodiversity within Appalachian streams is remarkably unique, and this region is recognized as a global stronghold for freshwater mussels.  With over 108 aquatic species listed under the Endangered Species Act, concern is high for negative influences of climate change on hydrologic regimes.  In addition, species that are less closely associated with aquatic habitats but that also require specific moisture conditions such as karst species, bats, amphibians and wetland dependent birds may also be at risk.  Species of salamander are numerous and found in most moist or arid habitats in the northern hemisphere, but they usually live in or near brooks, creeks, ponds, and other moist locations.

There is also concern for high elevation species such as the spruce-fir moss spider, and the spruce-fir forest community in general.  Populations of species having limited dispersal capabilities and specialized habitat needs may be effectively isolated from habitat patches on distant peaks. Limited habitat area means these species have small population sizes which are vulnerable to extinction. These forests were impacted around 1900 by logging and in the latter half of the 20th century by air pollution and the balsam wooly adelgid, an exotic insect that attacks Fraser firs. Logging and associated impacts may have reduced the extent of these forests by 50%, and mortality rates of fir due to pollution and the adelgid by a range of 45-90% (White et al. 1993).  Most spruce-fir sites are now in public ownership and protected and managed by U.S. Forest Service or National Park Service. However, restoration efforts have met with limited success and the prognosis for the future health of this ecosystem is not positive.

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