You are here

Wildfire Risk

Conservation Strategy Species

It is nearly impossible, and certainly impractical, to attempt to inventory and manage every species in Oregon. An alternative approach is to use a coarse filter, focused on conserving natural communities, with a fine filter that addresses needs for low and declining species. These approaches complement each other, with coarse filters proactively addressing the needs for broad suites of species and fine filters addressing the needs of individual species that might otherwise be overlooked.

In the Conservation Strategy, Strategy Species are the fine filter. These species have small or declining populations or are otherwise at risk. Additionally, Strategy Species addresses conservation of native plants and invertebrates; extirpated species; general data gaps that apply to a broad array of species; naturally-occurring fish and wildlife diseases; and animal concentrations, which are locations where animals gather for important activities such as breeding, migrating or wintering.

Why Conserve Plants?

Oregon harbors a huge and diverse number of native wildflowers and other plants, many of which occur primarily or exclusively in the state. In fact, Oregon ranks fifth in the nation for the number of naturally-occurring plant species. These Oregon natives, especially adapted to the region's unique habitats and climate, are an important facet of the state's natural heritage. Nature enthusiasts from around the world visit Oregon to admire, study, and photograph its rich flora. Scientists have scarcely begun to investigate the potential economic uses of local native plants in agriculture, medicines, and horticulture. Although most of Oregon's plant species are still abundant and compatible with human activities, a few others are extremely rare and susceptible to such threats as invasive non-native species (introduced pests, diseases and weeds) and habitat degradation, and habitat loss.

Peregrine falcon (Joe Kosack/PGC Photo); Checker-Mallow (Bruce Newhouse); Turtles (ODFW)

Peregrine falcon (Joe Kosack/PGC Photo); checker-mallow (Bruce Newhouse); turtles (ODFW)

Why Conserve Invertebrates?

High plant diversity translates directly into high invertebrate diversity. Insects make up a large percentage of invertebrates but this class of creatures also includes worms, spiders, centipedes, mites, snails, starfish, and sea urchins.

Native invertebrates benefit people in many ways, from providing food to supplying vital ecological services. Crabs, clams, and mussels, essential components of healthy marine and estuarine ecosystems, are valued as seafood and support a significant Oregon industry. The interactions of invertebrates with other species form the biological foundation of all ecosystems. Worms and other soil invertebrates cycle nutrients, maintain soil structure, and improve water filtration. Bees, butterflies, beetles, and other insects pollinate crops, wildflowers, and other plants. Ants disperse plant seeds. Lacewings, ladybird beetles, predatory wasps, and hoverflies control populations of other invertebrates that damage crops. Some invertebrates can serve as indicators of ecological health. For example, aquatic insect larvae can indicate water quality, and butterfly diversity can indicate grassland health. Invertebrates are the primary food source for a variety of fish and wildlife, including birds, bats, shrews, lizards, frogs, and trout. Invertebrates supply vital ecological services for people and ecosystems.

What about Extirpated Species?

Some Oregon native species no longer occur throughout their historic range. These species are considered extirpated. In contrast, extinct means that the species no longer occurs anywhere. Extirpation can be thought of as extinction at the local level. Some species may never return to Oregon due to habitat loss or other factors. Others may return through natural dispersal or intervention by people such as active reintroductions of animals from other states or by restoring native plant communities. With the exception of plants, species that no longer occur in Oregon were excluded as Strategy Species in order to focus efforts proactively on species that still occur in Oregon and need conservation attention.

View the complete list of the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and plants included in the Conservation Strategy Species list

Compiled from the The Oregon Conservation Strategy by John Ame, science writer.