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Conserving Oregon's Rich Biodiversity
Conserving Oregon's Rich Biodiversity

 

The Pacific Northwest is known for being a bastion of conservationism. Our spectacular coastline, vast high deserts, fertile river valleys, and forested mountain ranges are some of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the country. Living within these landscapes are many threatened or endangered species of plants and animals. The office of Innovation & Intellectual Property (IIP) is proud to play a small role in conserving biodiversity in the Northwest by working with the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (ORBIC) at Portland State University to promote and support the ORBIC endangered species database.

Originally created by an act of the Oregon State Legislature, ORBIC is part of the Oregon University System’s Institute for Natural Resources. The mission of ORBIC is to support the conservation of Oregon’s rich biodiversity by maintaining the State’s most comprehensive database of occurrences of threatened, endangered, and rare species of plants and animals, biological information and status of all species in Oregon, as well as a database cataloging Oregon’s wetlands, riparian, and terrestrial ecosystems.

Heading up this effort is biologist Jimmy Kagan, Director of ORBIC since 1986. Kagan is responsible for overseeing Portland State University faculty research assistants who collect, interpret, and disseminate the data contained in the ORBIC database.

“There are approximately 31,000 records of at-risk species in Oregon,” Kagan noted, “populations we’ve mapped on the ground. As populations change, or spread to other areas, or if an area itself is changed, we alter the maps and the records.”

The ORBIC database offers precise, dynamic wildlife and plant information to support both biodiversity conservation and informed decision-making on state and federal levels, and as a member of NatureServe, a science and information focused conservation agency, ORBIC is connected with wider regional, national, and international efforts to track and distribute conservation information. State and federal agencies such as the United States Forest Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Bonneville Power Association, The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Oregon Department of Transportation have recently made use of the information contained in the ORBIC database.

The conservation of Oregon’s biodiversity, however, is not the responsibility of large governmental and corporate agencies alone. Because it is just as important for us as individuals to help conserve Oregon’s wildlife and make informed decisions about the land we use and the ways in which our activities affect ecosystems, almost all of the information contained in the ORBIC database is free and available online.

“You have to get this information to the public,” Kagan said, “because if it’s not available, the information can’t do any good.”

By visiting the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center’s website anyone can access a wide range of information detailing wildlife species in Oregon, make a request for specific information from the database, and learn about what it means for a species to be classified rare, endangered, or threatened.

For larger agencies and institutions seeking access to the database or the exact locations of all the threatened and endangered species, along with the expertise of the many professionals working at ORBIC, a license for access is available through Portland State University’s office of Innovation & Intellectual Property (IIP). More about the database and the wealth of information it contains can be found at the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center’s website at orbic.pdx.edu.