What lives here? Where is it? What's common? What's at risk? The answers lie scattered among books, reports, computers, museums and even the memories or journals of Vermonters now living or long passed. The average department store knows more about its inventory than we know about what lives in Vermont. In the information age, this is troubling.
As human activity profoundly alters the map of life on local and global scales, our response requires knowledge of plant and animal distributions across vast landscapes and over long periods of time. Vermonters cannot respond effectively to climate change, natural disasters, invasive species, and other environmental threats without a new understanding of the state's living resources. At stake is nothing less than the health of our natural world, economy, and human life itself.
It started with a simple question. How many species occur in Vermont? You’d think we’d know this for a small state steeped in a rich tradition of naturalists going back to Zadock Thompson’s seminal work on the natural history of Vermont in 1842. But, the simple answer was, no one really knew.
We do know how many species there are of some of the popular taxonomic groups like birds (currently 382) or mammals (58). But how many invertebrates are there in Vermont? A back of the envelope estimate puts it at just over 21,400 species! There are about 2,150 species of plants, with approximately 1,400 native plants. We share Vermont with at least 26,000 species, although no one knows for sure just how many.
The list continues to grow as we discover new native and introduced species across the state. For example, citizen naturalists helped the Vermont Butterfly Survey (2002-2007) discover 12 new butterflies in the state and create a conservation watch list based on our newfound knowledge. We don’t have to go far to discover new and amazing species. In 2012 a new plant never described was discovered in the Green Mountains.
The mission of the Vermont Atlas of Life is to bring over 150 years of accumulated knowledge of the biodiversity of Vermont into currency for science and society. Imagine a biodiversity warehouse where all of this was gathered and shared. Where students could learn, citizen naturalists and professional biologists could contribute new information, and conservationists could use the latest information to help protect and manage Vermont’s natural heritage. A place where anyone, anywhere, anytime, could explore, learn and share Vermont’s unique biodiversity. We hope you’ll join our efforts.
BREAKING NEWS – A vastly expanded web site coming soon! Interactive species maps, checklist of species and their conservation status, beetle atlas, dragonfly and damselfly atlas and more.