Species of the Longleaf
"Oh my! With all of those people that have moved into the region, it has really changed. There is a lot less forest. What has happened to the plants and animals that live there?"
The longleaf pine ecosystem is among the most diverse ecosystems in North America! There are still a lot of plants and animals living in these forests, which is why it's important to restore and conserve the ecosystem. In fact, more than 40 plant species have been documented in a single square meter, and as many as 170 species in 1000 square meters, or ¼ acre. This level of diversity is very high for ecosystems in the temperate United States, and is among the most diverse in North America. More than 300 species of plants AND animals living in the longleaf ecosystem are considered under pressure of disappearing forever, including the cool plants and animals shown below. That's why they need YOUR help!
How much trouble are these plants and animal species in?
Plant and animal species around the world, including those living in the longleaf forest, are scored by scientists according to their risk of going extinct. Groups of scientists use different scales and different terms. For this Quest, we are using a scale used by a group called NatureServe. They score species at the national and state level. Plants and animals fall into four categories on this scale, which you'll see as you explore species in the Explore stage of the Quest.
Now that we have UNCOVERED a lot of information about the longleaf pine forest and ecosystem, the next step in our Quest is to EXPLORE the species of plants and animals that live in this fragile ecosystem and figure out how we can help them.