A bright spot on a dark map

A screenshot of the map published by The New York Times that shows where biodiversity is most at risk in America. Green areas reflect federal, state, and local biodiversity protections. Shades of red indicate where biodiversity is at risk, with the deepest red indicating places most at risk of losing plant and animal species.

The Adirondacks region stands out as a conservation leader on the national biodiversity map

By Cayte Bosler

Deep red heralds death on a new National Wild Things map.

The color scale ranges from dark green to blood red based on declining biodiversity in the continental United States, showing areas at risk for plants and animals at risk of extinction. To the northeast, the Adirondacks provide refuge for eyes that scan the map, with its splash of vivid green in the unsettling vastness of red.

The map, published by The New York Times, is the result of a partnership between Esri, a pioneer in digital mapping, and NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation research group. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t save it,” says the axiom of sustainability.

Visuals like these give policymakers and the public a chance to understand where species are most at risk and take action next.

Without intervention, places shaded red remain vulnerable to loss of non-human life. Based on a complex collection of data such as species distribution, population size and habitat preference, this comprehensive picture is like a balance sheet of biodiversity – the variety of species and their genetic diversity in an ecosystem. The green areas on the map have achieved a level of wildlife and plant protection that has become mostly an aspiration for much of the country.

biodiversity of new york
A map showing biodiversity in New York State. Darker green areas indicate higher biodiversity. Data from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website. Cartographic representation by Cayte Bosler

The Adirondacks are a bright spot

The Adirondacks arguably serve as a world-class model and leader in the United States on how to manage public lands to conserve nature. Conservation values ​​are codified in the “Forever Wild” clause of the 1894 New York State Constitution. again, to the rest of the nation.

These strict environmental guidelines are helping to stem the decline of wildlife whose primary global threat is habitat destruction. Because environmental protections are enshrined in the state constitution, it is much more difficult to amend, bend or ignore compared to other national legislation such as the states Endangered Species Act (ESA) States, or even the Global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a framework without binding laws.

According to the United States Geological Survey, approximately 13% of the country is classified as protected and managed for biodiversity. The Biden administration wants that number to reach 30%, as part of the planetary push known as “30 by 30,” to strengthen legal protections for 30% of the world’s land and water by 2030.

Biodiversity of Bicknell's Thrush

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Biodiversity seen as a buffer against the impact of climate change

The study behind the biodiversity map follows a damning report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in sections during the first week of March. It is the most comprehensive assessment on climate change since 2014 and clearly shows that without meaningful coordinated action, the world is on track to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming – a threshold which, according to scientists, is likely to cause catastrophic and irreversible effects. “Any further delay,” the report says, and humans miss a chance “to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

This future must also include the non-human world, the report stresses. If protected by sound land management policies and practices, intact ecosystems teeming with biodiversity could also protect us. As biodiversity declines, human communities are more vulnerable to sudden environmental changes like floods, droughts, wildfires and an increased risk of diseases from invasive species, a lack of fresh water and healthy food.

“If you were to randomly remove parts from a computer or a car, everyone knows that both of these systems will become less reliable or most likely stop working,” said Shahid Naeem, director of the Earth Institute Center for Environmental. Sustainability. “The same thing happens to ecosystems when they lose their species.”

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