Kentucky’s Forest Biodiversity Assessment Program: A Model for Capturing Trends and Distribution of Forest Medicinals and More

Kendall McDonald, Tara Littlefield, Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves

The Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves (OKNP) is the natural heritage and natural areas program for Kentucky. OKNP maintains the Kentucky rare species database, and acquires and manages natural areas and nature preserves that host high quality communities and rare species. In 2019, OKNP created the Kentucky Forest Biodiversity Program (KFBP) in order to more efficiently address conservation concerns of Kentucky’s forests such as a conservation status of forest medicinal plants and other species of conservation concern, forest health, floristic quality, and increases in invasive species. OKNP conducted forest assessments at long term monitoring sites in approximately 20% of Kentucky’s counties. 20% of counties will be surveyed each year, completing the state wide inventory after 5 years (2019-2023). The KFBP focuses on surveys of rare and conservative forested plant species, forest community diversity and structure, herbaceous diversity, forest medicinal plants/species of commercial concern, invasive species and other threats. With creation of new partnerships, OKNP was able to increase staff and resources to make the KFBP possible. By leveraging existing resources of several statewide projects, creating an efficient data collection standard and building a larger database for all species and communities (biodiversity database), OKNP was able to create a more comprehensive program that addresses core biodiversity questions of Kentucky’s forests and meets the data needs for various partners throughout the state.