Ecoregional Assessments for Western North America

We collaborated with partners to identify lands & waters critical to the conservation of biodiversity across western North America. Reports and GIS data are now available for 19 desert, mountain, grassland and plateau ecoregions across western North America.

Information to sustain our natural infrastructure

Natural infrastructure consists of our intact lands and waters that preserve wildlife habitat and safeguard species. These lands and waters also provide services for people, such as groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration, and recreational opportunities. They enhance our quality of life and sustain the character of our western landscapes.

Along with partners, The Nature Conservancy has completed a series of ecoregional assessments that identify core habitats within our natural infrastructure across western North America. These places represent the best remaining areas to conserve over 1,000 natural communities and over 3,000 rare, unique and endemic species.

Geographic data to provide conservation solutions

Species or subspecies with a global conservation status of globally critically imperiled, globally imperiled, or designated under the US Endangered Species Act. Click image to enlarge.

We have compiled a geographic data set which aggregates the information from 19 ecoregional assessments across western North America. The data set enables exploration of our western landscapes to answer questions such as:

  • Which places are most important to conserve?
  • Who manages our species and habitats?
  • Where are the places that support the most species at risk of extinction?

They can be used with a variety of third-party data sets to evaluate conservation & land management needs and alternative futures that seek to minimize impacts to our natural resources.

Our ecoregional data set for western North America is designed as a personal geodatabase for use with ArcGIS 9.x and Microsoft Access software. It contains geographic features that represent important lands and waters (conservation areas), tables that link these lands to the species and habitats that occur within them (targets), and relationships that allow a user to navigate from conservation areas to targets, and vice-versa.

Broad scientific collaboration

Ecoregional assessments are comprehensive and systematic efforts to identify conservation priorities. The assessments for western North America evaluated over 1 billion acres during an eight-year study period. Collectively, these assessments involved nearly 700 scientists from 125 government agencies, organizations, tribes, universities, and museums.

Many data sets were used to create the ecoregional assessments, including primary data from the scientific literature, new data collected by subject experts, and region-wide data on species and habitats from NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs and the GAP Analysis Program.