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Cool Green Science Feature: Is Nature in Trouble in the United States?

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How much trouble is nature in in the United States? Much more than previously thought, according to a sobering study by TNC-LANDFIRE scientists.  The full report is published in the journal PLoS One. The link on this page takes you to The Nature Conservancy's science blog site, where a summary of the report along with commentary and quotes add to the conversation. In short:

    * The study finds that more than 50% of the United States’ original natural systems are either gone or highly altered.

    * Some places are more impacted than others. Specifically, 33% of ecosystems in the lower 48 United States — from the forests of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts to the Great Plains of the Midwest to the Great Basin of the U.S. West — are "critically endangered," meaning that more than half their vegetation has been lost or highly altered since first European settlement.

    * Merely designating areas as “protected” has not always halted the degradation — more than 20 percent of the area within our public lands have "high levels of ecosystem alteration.”

Authors:  Randy Swaty, Kori Blankenship, Sarah Hagen, Joseph Fargione, Jim Smith, Jeannie Patton. September 2011.