NBCI releases online tool to aid native plant selection

NBCI releases online tool to aid native plant selection

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AGFC) – Landowners and managers now have the power to choose the proper vegetation to plant for the comeback of the northern bobwhite available on their desktop or their phone, thanks to the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative's NatiVeg application.

NatiVeg (www.quailcount.org/NatiVeg) is a remote, Internet-based tool that works on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Developed by NBCI and University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Information Technology Service and beta-tested by a variety of outside reviewers, NatiVeg is a database that, within the 25-state initiative's range, delivers the proper native plant choices for a specific location and the user's specific purposes, whether wildlife, forage, biomass, pollinators, critical area planting, restoration or soil conservation. Users can manually enter a location or use their mobile device's GPS system to get the information for that area. The provided recommendations discriminate, for instance, between a big bluestem grass adapted to Texas and one adapted to Alabama, based on location.

"Promoting native vegetation is going to be vital for the recovery of quail," said Chris Colclasure, assistant deputy director for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "And resources such as this being available to private landowners as well as government agencies and special interest groups can help move the needle back to promoting this once great gamebird."

An eight-month project, NBCI first captured the database for the 126 Natural Resource Conservation Service's major land resource areas (eco-regions) for the 25 NBCI states and secured the NRCS database of plant materials identified as suitable for conservation purposes. NBCI deleted from that list all non-native species, tree species and other species not applicable to the NBCI states, leaving only native grasses, shrubs, forbs and legumes in an eventual 306-species menu. NBCI then folded in a plant hardiness zone database into the mix. Also provided is a species "Location Assistance" button that delivers information from the respective state wildlife agency, including contact information for experts.

"There are still shortcomings to overcome," said Don McKenzie, NBCI director. "For instance, there are many plants that NRCS has not done any work with, so are not included. In addition, there won't be as many choices east of the Mississippi River because NRCS has worked more on western species. So, NatiVeg is a work in progress.

"We encourage landowners and resource managers to check out this new tool," McKenzie said, "to help improve their native grassland restoration efforts, and we ask for feedback from users, to help NBCI continually improve this unique wildlife conservation service."

Visit www.bringbackbobwhites.org for more information on NBCI and the NatiVeg tool.