The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) has taken another significant step in the recovery of native vegetation and habitats on the landscape across the 25 NBCI states with the release of a new decision-making tool, NatiVeg, NBCI Director Don McKenzie announced today.
“With restoration of native grasses, wildflowers and shrubs across the landscape being a critical means to the recovery of bobwhite, grassland bird and pollinator populations, NBCI’s NatiVeg will make it significantly easier for landowners and resource managers to select the right native plants for their specific location and specific purpose,” said McKenzie.
NatiVeg (www.quailcount.org/NatiVeg) is a remote, Internet-based tool that works on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Developed by NBCI and University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Information Technology Service and beta-tested by a variety of outside reviewers, NatiVeg is a database that, within the 25-state initiative’s range, delivers the proper native plant choices for a specific location and the user’s specific purposes, whether wildlife, forage, biomass, pollinators, critical area planting, restoration or soil conservation. That location can be specified either manually or by a connected mobile device’s GPS system. And the provided recommendations discriminate, for instance, between a big bluestem grass adapted to Texas and one adapted to Alabama based on location.
An eight-month project, NBCI first captured the database for the 126 Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Major Land Resource Areas (eco-regions) for the 25 NBCI states and secured the NRCS database of plant materials identified as suitable for conservation purposes. NBCI deleted from that list all non-native species, tree species and other species not applicable to the NBCI states, leaving only native grasses, shrubs, forbs and legumes in an eventual 306-species menu. NBCI then folded in a plant hardiness zone database into the mix. Also provided is a species “Location Assistance” button that delivers information from the respective state wildlife agency, including contact information for experts.
“There are still shortcomings to overcome,” McKenzie said. “For instance, there are many plants that NRCS has not done any work with, so are not included. In addition, there won’t be as many choices east of the Mississippi River because NRCS has worked more on western species. So, NatiVeg is a work in progress.
“We encourage landowners and resource managers to check out this new tool,” McKenzie said, “to help improve their native grassland restoration efforts, and we ask for feedback from users, to help NBCI continually improve this unique wildlife conservation service.”