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Biodiversity Conservation

Biodiversity is the variety of life that surrounds us, including all the earth’s plants, animals, their habitats, and the natural processes of which they are a part.

Biodiversity can be viewed on many levels. At the highest level, there are all the different species on the planet. On a much smaller scale, biodiversity can be viewed within Pennsylvania, in a certain forest or within a pond in a neighborhood park.

Biodiversity is the life support system of our planet -- we depend on it for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Wetlands filter pollutants from water, trees and plants absorb carbon, and bacteria and fungi break down organic material and fertilize the soil.

It has been shown that native species richness is linked to the health of ecosystems, as is the quality of life for humans.

Biodiversity Conservation Role

Much of DCNR's work focuses on the conservation of Pennsylvania’s biodiversity through program and land management goals. It is a key element in maintaining ecosystem integrity, viability, and resilience across all the commonwealth’s ecological communities. DCNR’s biodiversity conservation work falls under three main programs.

Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) provides scientific information, expertise, and assistance to support the conservation of biological diversity. PNHP tracks the occurrence and location of native plant, animal, natural community, and geologic resources, with a focus on rare and endangered species.

PNHP conducts inventories and collects data for use in guiding conservation work, land-use planning, and land development. DCNR coordinates this partnership among the department and: 

  • The PA Fish and Boat Commission
  • PA Game Commission
  • Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Wild Resource Conservation Program

DCNR’s Wild Resource Conservation Program primarily finances research and protection efforts for native, non-game, and wild plant species.

Funds from the program have:

  • Supported the reintroduction of otters, osprey, peregrine falcons, and fishers to Pennsylvania
  • Identified new plant and animal species
  • Located rare plant populations within the state
  • Researched habitat for migrating birds
  • Provided educational materials to schools

Biodiversity Management

DCNR manages approximately 2.5 million acres of forest and park land covering a variety of ecosystems and plant and animal habitats. This includes conducting management activities to benefit rare wildlife, important game species, and their unique habitats across Pennsylvania.