By: Steve Young- Chief Botanist, New York Natural Heritage Program

We know that invasive species negatively affect biodiversity and we know which invasive species we need to work on; however, it can be difficult to know exactly what you are protecting when you control invasive species. So, what are the special ecological communities and species that comprise the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario region (SLELO)?

SLELO has an amazing diversity of landforms, land use, ecological communities, plants, and animals. All these different natural and human aspects of our environment have been used to delineate ecoregions throughout the state and these characteristics can tell us a lot about what makes SLELO special.

The Environmental Protection Agency has created a very informative map and set of descriptions in poster form for all the level III and IV ecoregions in New York. The ecoregions comprising SLELO are: the Ontario Lowlands, the St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Upper St. Lawrence Valley, the Mohawk Valley (in eastern Oneida County), the Finger Lakes Uplands and Gorges (southwestern Oneida County), the Glaciated Low Allegheny Plateau (southern Oneida County), the Tug Hill Transition, the Tug Hill Plateau, the Northern and Western Adirondack Foothills, and the Acid Sensitive Adirondacks— the last two in northern Lewis County. Because the SLELO ecoregions are so diverse, from the beaches of Lake Ontario to the mountains of the Adirondacks, they also support a large diversity of ecological communities and rare plants and animals that are tracked by the New York Natural Heritage Program.

There are 49 rare and significant ecological communities in SLELO, like the Alvar Pavement Grasslands and Great Lakes Dunes, to the Dwarf Shrub Bogs and Northern White Cedar Swamps of the Adirondacks. SLELO also supports 81 rare plants, from the diminutive livid sedge standing less than a foot tall to the rock elm that can grow up to 80 feet tall in the right conditions. There are 70 rare animals in SLELO from fish like the blacknose shiner to dragonflies like the horned clubtail to beautiful rare birds like the whip-poor-will, piping plover, and black tern.

These and many other important ecological rarities have been under increasing threat from invasive species. The staff and volunteers of Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management, in SLELO and across the state, play a big part in protecting these rarities. Thank you and keep up the good work!

There are many resources to learn more about protected and unique habitats.  The  Environmental Resource Mapper is an interactive mapping application that shows general locations of protected rare plants and animals and important natural communities. To learn more about the plants and animals in a specific town or watershed check out the New York Nature Explorer. Additionally, the New York Natural Heritage Program has detailed conservation guides available for download.

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