North Carolina grew by 18.5% in the past decade. The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau puts North Carolina’s population at 9.5 million people, up from just 6.6 million in 1990. Despite that rapid growth, no one can tell you which freshwater systems are most in need of protection. Thanks to a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to the N.C. Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, that’s about to change.
The $120,000 grant will be used to assess freshwater biological diversity across North Carolina, helping to identify biodiversity hot spots as well as watershed threats. The Nature Conservancy will use this data to target areas for conservation. The grant will also take a close look at four watersheds, assessing flow data to determine what effect altered hydrology is having on the ecosystem.
“This study will give us real data to ground future conservation decisions,” said Dr. Cat Burns, the Conservancy’s Director of Science. “We don’t have the comprehensive information we need to make sure that we are protecting freshwater areas with the greatest diversity or that are the most threatened.
“This information will inform the Conservancy’s decision making,” she added. “It will also give policy and decision makers at the state level the information they need as they make decisions on issues such as water allocation or water classification.”
The Conservancy will consult with partners and review published data and reports on all 17 major North Carolina watersheds for the assessment, which will be conducted in 2011. The Conservancy has not yet chosen the four watersheds for flow data assessment; that work will be conducted in 2012.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation was established in 1936 as a memorial to Z. Smith Reynolds, the youngest son of the founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. His siblings placed their inheritance from his estate into a trust for the benefit of the people of North Carolina. William Neal Reynolds, who was Z. Smith Reynolds’ uncle, created a trust that also provides a portion of the Foundation’s annual income. Since its creation, the Foundation has made grants totaling more than $470 million in all 100 North Carolina counties.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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