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Information Management

A major strength of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program is its development of a scientific framework to guide decision making and set priorities. Key to this scientific underpinning is the ability, through the Information Management Section, to maintain and make available the data and information necessary to make and validate conservation decisions.

The Information Management section manages all natural heritage resource data in a highly integrated information management system called Biotics 5. Specifically designed for biodiversity data and information management, Biotics 5 is the platform used throughout the Natural Heritage Network: Canadian provinces, the United States as well as Central and South American countries. Biotics 5 consists of an Oracle database backend and an ArcGIS Server front end. The database backend allows the management of various attributes and interrelated computer files pertaining to thousands of locations of rare, threatened and endangered species, their habitats and exemplary natural communities (i.e. Natural Heritage Resources). Use of ArcGIS Server enables analysis and query of these data in an interactive mapping environment. This system is extremely powerful in its capabilities for data retrieval, data manipulation, and report generation. Well-organized, cross-referenced archive files hold additional extensive data on natural heritage resource locations, natural heritage resource elements, priority conservation sites, and managed areas (such as parks, nature preserves, and conservation easements).

Virginia Natural Heritage Program data are widely used, both within DCR-DNH and by other land and resource managers and citizens in the Commonwealth:

  • to establish and refine the lists of rare elements of Virginia's biodiversity;
  • to set biological diversity protection priorities for the roughly 2000 conservation sites identified by the Natural Heritage Program;
  • to conduct site-specific environmental review;
  • to provide a scientific basis for land management and conservation planning.
The Information Management section also develops and maintains a variety of publicly available, map-based, statewide conservation planning tools. Examples include the seven models that comprise Virginia ConservationVision, the Conservation Lands database and the Virginia Wetlands Catalog. These valuable conservation planning tools can be obtained by request, or directly accessed via interactive mapping websites including LandScope Virginia and the Virginia Natural Heritage Data Explorer (NHDE).

Click to see the staff list of the Information Management section.