Natural Areas Analysis and Evaluation: Oak Ridge Reservation

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Oak Ridge Reservation, encompassing 33,639 acres in the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province of East Tennessee, has long been known for its unfragmented forests and high biodiversity. Many areas on the Reservation have been recognized as important natural areas, but no comprehensive treatment has been performed to evaluate the relative significance and importance of these areas compared to each other. The present study was conducted to develop a set of guidelines for evaluating the natural value of specific areas, to evaluate all the terrestrial areas that are currently delineated, and to rank all areas according to their ... continued below

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Baranski, Micahel J. November 2009.

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Description

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Oak Ridge Reservation, encompassing 33,639 acres in the Valley and Ridge Physiographic Province of East Tennessee, has long been known for its unfragmented forests and high biodiversity. Many areas on the Reservation have been recognized as important natural areas, but no comprehensive treatment has been performed to evaluate the relative significance and importance of these areas compared to each other. The present study was conducted to develop a set of guidelines for evaluating the natural value of specific areas, to evaluate all the terrestrial areas that are currently delineated, and to rank all areas according to their relative biodiversity importance. All available data, reports and site-specific information relevant to Reservation lands, including Tennessee Division of Natural Areas database information, were evaluated and field work was conducted. Methodologies and criteria for assessment and evaluation of areas were developed; categories of criteria were devised; and a ranking system for evaluation of natural areas was produced. There were 70 areas evaluated during the study. The system is flexible, dynamic and easily revised to reflect updated and new information and interpretations. Eight categories of evaluation factors were established and used to characterize each site. These were the following: size of area, number or status taxa present, number of Endangered and Threatened taxa present, rarity of the Endangered and Threatened taxa on the Reservation, community diversity, site integrity and quality, disturbance and threat levels, and other significant features and factors. Each category generally consisted of a 5-point ranking scale from 0-4, allowing for a possible composite score of 32, with higher ranked, more important, sites attaining higher scores. Highly ranked sites are representative of regional natural diversity; contain outstanding natural features, communities or geology and/or very rare taxa or other elements; are relatively large in size with mature or old-growth community composition; lack current disturbance factors or potential threats and disturbances; are in excellent condition with good buffers; are places where ecological and evolutionary processes can occur relatively unaffected by humans; and can be reasonably defended and maintained as natural areas in an undeveloped condition. Highly ranked sites are the most significant and should receive the greatest protections. Composite scores of the ranked areas ranged from 1-25.5, with a mean score of 12. The ranked areas were divided into three Priority Groups. Group I, the most highly ranked group, included 20 sites and covered 5189 acres or 15.4% of Reservation lands; Group II included 31 sites and covered 4108 acres; Group III included 19 sites covering 400 acres of Reservation lands. All sites together comprise 9697 acres or 28.8% of Reservation lands. Six sites emerged as clearly the most significant natural areas on the Reservation. The study developed a number of recommendations that should be implemented in order to enhance and refine the natural areas data for the Reservation. There is a clear need for better and standardized ecological community classification and identification. Several areas are proposed for merger into larger units, and some new areas are proposed for inclusion and recognition in a natural areas system. Various gaps and discrepancies in the existing data are described and should be corrected. Other recommendations are made, including the development of a corollary system that can accommodate aquatic natural areas. The study relied primarily on the synthesis of information from many sources and from limited reconnaissance and direct observation during field work to produce a methodology for assessing natural area importance and assigning priorities for protection. Many instances of incomplete, missing or conflicting information made it difficult to complete thorough analysis. Further review and discussion among natural resources personnel will likely reveal possibilities for refinement and some additional factors that should be included in the evaluation. Despite the limitations, this study, as conducted, illustrates the importance of the Oak Ridge Reservation for protecting the nation s increasingly threatened and declining biodiversity.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2009/201
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/1023815 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1023815
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc836277

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  • November 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • July 26, 2016, 5:52 p.m.

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Baranski, Micahel J. Natural Areas Analysis and Evaluation: Oak Ridge Reservation, report, November 2009; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc836277/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.