- research on plants, animals, and ecological communities of conservation importance;
- collection and dissemination of information through various biological databases;
- educational opportunities for UNM undergraduate and graduate students, through participation in database and research efforts; and
- participation in local and regional conservation planning, in cooperation with governmental and non-governmental entities.
A major strength of NHNM is its participation in a nationwide database network of biodiversity information. NHNM is a member of the NatureServe™
, a network linking databases from Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers in 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces, and 12 Latin American countries. This powerful network uses standardized methods to summarize data at regional, national, and international scales. The information is compiled and maintained in a computerized database which provides information on the status, locations and level of protection of these rare organisms and communities.
Why NHNM was Established
Accurate and reliable information is essential to the responsible management and conservation of the natural biological resources of New Mexico. In recognition of this need, the New Mexico Natural Heritage Program was established in 1990, as a joint project of the University of New Mexico and The Nature Conservancy
. NHNM is now entirely integrated into the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico. The mission of NHNM is to contribute to the responsible management of New Mexico's biological resources through research, education, information dissemination, and planning.
Natural Heritage New Mexico staff, in cooperation with scientists and experts throughout the state, have identified New Mexico's most vulnerable vertebrate animals, vascular plants, and natural plant communities. Information on the biology, conservation status, and individual locations or "occurrences" of each element is systematically collected. Each of these rare and endangered species and plant communities is assigned a global
conservation status rank, according to an objective set of criteria established by the Association for Biodiversity Information. Once identified, these rare elements of biodiversity are "tracked" in the NMNH Natural Heritage Information System (NM Biotics)
. NHNM also compiles records on protected areas in the state, such as National Parks, State Parks, Ecological Reserves, Nature Trust Properties, and Wildlife Management Areas. When an endangered species or natural plant community occurs within a protected area, the records are linked, making it possible to determine if this rare entity is in need of conservation action, or if it is already adequately protected.
NM Biotics is integrated with the other important functions of NHNM. Basic and applied research contribute data to NM Biotics and specialized databases and to planning efforts, and NM Biotics provides information necessary for research efforts and management. Student technicians gain valuable experience while contributing to research and database projects.
Advantages of NHNM Approach
A Centralized Data Source: At NHNM, information is available from a single source. Staff collect and assemble information from museums, herbaria, universities, published and unpublished reports, scientists, natural history groups, and the ongoing work of NHNM staff and contractors.
Reliable, Objective Information in a Consistent Format: All records accepted for entry in NHNM databases have been carefully screened and verified by information specialists. Each location record for a rare species or natural plant community is systematically augmented with a standard set of spatial, ecological, and administrative boundary attributes and rated for level of geographical precision and protection. Rigorous quality control procedures minimize transcription and data entry errors.
Continually Updated Information: NHNM databases are permanent and dynamic. Records are entered and edited on a daily basis using specialized database management software, and the data collecting process is continuous. The value of the database increases with each year of operation.
Sensitive Data is Protected: NHNM databases contain records which are sensitive for ecological, academic, or other reasons, or because they occur on private property. These records fall under the exemption provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and WILL NOT be released to the public. Such records are normally listed in reports without location information attached, but with a contact address provided so the reason for protection of the record can be discussed. Exceptions are made only under specified circumstances, with the understanding that this information will not be released to the general public.
Easily Accessible Information: A primary goal of NHNM is to make data available, and software is specifically designed to generate customized reports. Information is provided to anyone by submitting an information request. In most cases, the information required will be available within two to three weeks.