Natural communities are composed of groups of plant and animal species that regularly or often occur in association with each other in certain landscapes or physical environments. Nature is seldom divided into discrete units and is characteristically composed of a continuous mosaic of natural communities. The factors that help to define a particular community (i.e. - associated vegetation, soil, substrate, hydrology, topography, climate, fire history) usually exist along gradients, and therefore every occurrence of a natural community will be unique in some way. In developing our classification of the Natural Communities of Louisiana, levels of distinctiveness are defined according to the physical and biotic factors that occur repetitively at various locations.
A system for classifying natural communities is a prerequisite for an inventory of a region's natural resources. Both the classification system and inventory are essential for a complete understanding of the natural resources of that region, and also provide the framework for determining the area's protection priorities and research needs. Protecting natural communities preserves the ecological functions of the area while also providing the added benefit of safeguarding both the rare and common species occurring within that community type.
Natural community data for this classification was initially gathered from secondary sources such as previously existing inventories, scientific literature, and consultation with experts in the field. The resulting classification was then refined through data collected from scores of field surveys conducted throughout Louisiana since 1984 by LNHP staff. While this database is quite extensive, there are still many natural areas in Louisiana that have not been surveyed. New community records are continuously being added to the database, and current records are updated as new information becomes available. Therefore, our natural community classification is a dynamic system and individual categories may be added, preexisting ones may be subdivided or merged, or deletions may occur as additional information comes to light, and updated approximations will be periodically produced.
In the Natural Heritage methodology, classification of natural communities is followed by a continuous inventory for exemplary occurrences of each community type. The communities are prioritized through a ranking system, and strategies for protection of each particular community type are then formulated. Exemplary natural communities include all or any examples of rare types (such as LA coastal prairies) and also the highest quality examples of more common community types (such as bottomland hardwood forests). Typical exemplary forested communities have high species diversity, multiple age classes among the dominant tree species, presence of natural regeneration, standing dead snags and fallen woody debris in various stages of decomposition, an intact and fully functioning soil component, and little evidence of human disturbance.
According to LNHP's current natural community classification, Louisiana has 66 community types within the 6 ecoregions of Louisiana. Some community types are widespread across the state and while others are localized or restricted. Although much of Louisiana is still covered in native vegetation, undisturbed examples of all natural communities are rare, and many are extremely scarce. Essentially no virgin habitat remains. Threats to Louisiana communities exist from coastal erosion and associated coastal disturbance factors, urban expansion, residential and commercial development, land disturbance operations, introduction of exotic species, and many other human and some natural disturbance factors. LHNP has been a beneficial force in helping to identify areas in Louisiana that warrant protection, and through the work of the state, conservation organizations, and concerned private landowners, this has resulted in conservation of places such as the Lake Ramsey Wildlife Management Area, Copenhagen Hills, and Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area to name a few. Forest landowners and land managers who wish to maintain and enhance the natural communities and associated species in their care can follow recommendations outlined in LNHP's Guidelines for Practicing Forest Environmental Enhancement in Louisiana. Any questions, concerns, information requests concerning LA natural communities, or comments regarding our classification system are welcomed and should be directed to:
Biologist, Jennifer Coulson, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) request reports of sightings of this rare bird. Of particular interest are:
any sightings of a kite on LDWF managed lands,
areas where kites are often seen,
sightings of more than one kite,
sightings were kite(s) vocalized (giving kee-kee-kee, or klee-klee-klee calls),
kites carrying nest material or food,
nests or roosts, and
any kites found injured, ill, or dead.
Please report the following information about each sighting (if known):
Date of sighting
Time of day
Location [please be specific and include the Parish or County, nearest town and approximate distance to it, nearest road (including street address if applicable) or road junctions, nearest river or creek]
What birds were observed doing (e.g., one perched in a cottonwood while another circled overhead)
Observer's name and contact information (phone number with area code and e-mail address)
To Report a Sighting:
E-mail Jennifer Coulson: Jacoulson@aol.com
Or call her: (504) 717-3544
Jennifer Coulson is studying the population ecology of the Swallow-tailed Kite. She is trying to determine: the geographic range of this species within Louisiana and Mississippi, the current population size, and factors that may limit the current population size. Aspects of her study include nest monitoring, a radio-telemetry based survivorship study, characterization of nesting and roosting habitat, and aerial surveys of premigration roosts.
Because of the interest generated by the recent unconfirmed ivory-billed woodpecker sighting on the Pearl River WMA, we are offering these tips to help observers distinguish the extremely rare ivory-bill from the similar, but fairly common, pileated woodpecker.
Large white patch on back of bird perched
Back of bird perched with wings folded is almost all black
Upper surface of wings in flight has large white area on trailing edge
Upper surface of wings in flight is mostly black
Under surface of wings in flight has white area on leading edge and large white area on the trailing edge seperated by black down the middle of each wing
Under surface of wings in flight has large white area on the leading edge only
The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is considered of historical occurrence in Louisiana. The historic range included eastern Texas or western Louisiana and the east lower Mississippi River Valley through the southeastern states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and parts of Tennessee and South Carolina). Even though numerous sighting reports continue to surface annually throughout its historic range, it is unlikely that viable populations of the Florida panther presently occur outside Florida. Each year the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program (LNHP) receives calls reporting puma sightings, most of these reports remain unconfirmed because of the lack of evidence.
If you believe you saw a cougar, check for the following:
Tracks (below you will find drawings of tracks of cougars and other carnivore species that will help you to identify cougar's tracks). If possible, take a picture and/or make a cast of the track, and/or draw the track on a hard clear plastic with a permanent marker.
Scats (collect the scats and keep them in a clean plastic bag)
And remember that black panthers are not native to North America.
For more information on cougars, go to the Eastern Cougar Network website.
Louisiana's Natural Heritage Program (LNHP), within the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is the lead state program for the identification, ranking, and conservation of Louisiana's rare species and native natural communities. Since the LA Natural Heritage Program's inception in 1984, our staff botanists have compiled data for the list of rare plant species from various sources such as herbarium specimens, scientific literature, reports from expert and amateur botanists, and extensive surveys conducted by LNHP staff. While this database is quite extensive, there are still many natural areas in Louisiana that have not been surveyed. New plant records are continuously being added to the database, and current records are updated as new information becomes available. Over the past two decades, rare plant identification and mapping by LNHP has been instrumental in the creation of numerous conservation areas around Louisiana such as the Lake Ramsey and Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Areas, and the CC Road Savanna Preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, to name just a few.
Our listing of the Rare Plant Species of Louisiana, identifies those native plant species that are currently considered among Louisiana's rarest and most in need of conservation efforts. The purpose of this report is to provide the public with a listing of the rare plant species in Louisiana and their current rarity status, to solicit further information and input concerning these species, and to promote conservation of these species.
The list is arranged alphabetically by scientific name with associated common name. The state and global rarity ranks are listed in the third and fourth columns, respectively, with the fifth column containing wetland code. Explanations of these rankings and codes may be found following the listing of species. The sixth column provides a listing of parishes where each plant species is currently found, and the final column describes the natural community types for each species.
The LA Natural Heritage Program welcomes and encourages input concerning the rare species lists. If you would like to take an active part in protecting Louisiana's rare plant species, please contact us (225-765-2821) with any of the following information:
Mapped location information for any rare plant populations. Please fill out our rare species reporting form and mail it to the address listed on the form, or call or send an e-mail message to our staff.
Any data indicating that a species should be either added or removed from our listing.
Documentation of existing habitat pressures that threaten populations of rare plants.
Literature citations, references or other information on the biology and ecology of our state's rare plant species.
Any other information that might be helpful in supporting the conservation, protection and/or management of LA's rare plant species and their habitats.
Any questions, concerns, information requests concerning LA rare plants are welcomed and should be directed to:
Louisiana Natural Heritage Program
Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries
P.O. Box 98000
Baton Rouge, LA 70898
The Louisiana Natural Heritage Program (LNHP), within the LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), is part of the Natural Heritage Network. This network, originally developed by The Nature Conservancy and now coordinated by NatureServe, is designed to gather, organize and distribute standardized, detailed information on the biological diversity across all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and also parts of Latin America.
The LNHP was founded in 1984 through a partnership with the state of Louisiana and The Nature Conservancy, and is now maintained by LDWF. LNHP was founded with the goal of developing and maintaining a database on rare, threatened and endangered (r/t/e) species of plants and animals and natural communities for Louisiana. In the process of working toward this goal, we have accumulated over 6,000 occurrences of r/t/e species, unique natural communities and other distinctive elements of natural diversity, and identified some 380 ecologically significant sites statewide. A detailed Element Occurrence Record (EOR), which includes precise locations, species population status, and habitat conditions and characteristics, is entered for each species occurrence in the LNHP Biological Conservation Database (BCD). Location for each element is mapped on USGS 7.5' topographic maps, and element locations may also be downloaded from the BCD and mapped in a Geographic Information System (GIS) format. Information for element occurrence records is generally gathered from LNHP staff field surveys, but is also obtained from survey contracts, state and federal government agencies, research studies, university contacts, herbaria, and Louisiana nature enthusiasts. While LNHP has created an extensive database documenting Louisiana's native biological diversity, there are many natural areas in the state that have not yet been surveyed. Records for new occurrences are continuously being added to the database, and current records are updated as new information becomes available. LNHP data is applied to land use decisions, environmental impact assessment, resource management, conservation planning, endangered species review, research and education.
LNHP's work has also expanded beyond inventory, to include research on threatened and endangered species, and involvement in diverse conservation issues concerning nongame wildlife species and plants. The job is not complete, and because habitats change, the nature of the task is dynamic.