Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 53.62
Liaison Michael Kensler
Submission Date Jan. 11, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Auburn University
OP-11: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Amy Strickland
Program Manager
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:

A brief description of any legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance on institution owned or managed land:

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:

The methodology(-ies) used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:
As a part of the development of the Campus Master Plan in 2013, land types on campus were assessed. All wetland areas and riparian corridors were identified and have been removed from the list of areas for potential future development.

In addition, during the development of the Parkerson Mill Creek (PMC) Watershed Management Plan in 2010 the creek itself, which runs through the heart of campus, was thoroughly assessed. The committee examined the following areas: watershed characteristics (description, climate, topography, soils, hydrology, land use, history, demographics, endangered/threatened species, ecological services, wetland areas, wildlife/habitat diversity, and recreation); current conditions of the watershed (water quality indicators -- current and historical); challenges to the watershed (usage, pollutants, threats, sources); alternative management practices, and future assessment plans.

In addition to assessments completed to support the Campus Master Plan and the PMC Watershed Management Plan, over 3 dozen students studying in Biological Sciences and/or Forestry and Wildlife Sciences have worked with Drs. Hermann and Guyer to conduct species assessments on campus holdings. Initial activities focused on trapping reptiles and amphibians on the site now occupied by the VCOM building. After that site was lost to construction, students trapped, measured and marked turtles in the pond west of the VCOM building. In addition, terrestrial herp traps were transferred to the area south (up slope) of the pond. In 2015, Guyer expanded vertebrate assessment by mounting wildlife cameras in smaller sites around campus. Camera assessments documented mammal species and some birds. This is a work in progress.

A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:
Davis Arboretum
Parkerson Mill Creek and Riparian Corridor
Weagle Woods (Old-Growth Longleaf Pine Stand)

A few species from the endangered/threaten/vulnerable list (either federal and/or state) have been identified on campus or have habitats present that would support their viability.

Documented Species of Special Concern: To date one of the most interesting species found on campus is the Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getulus getulus). We’ve documented small numbers of adults, juveniles, and even a mating pair. In Alabama, the Eastern Kingsnake is listed as a species of “High Conservation Concern” by the state, however, there are no regulations that protect this and other such species, even on public lands.

Turtles: Although the pond west of the VCOM building was constructed by AU Fisheries in 1937, likely using a natural seep or seasonally wet area. Initially it was stocked, but then not maintained for many years, although it seems likely that people fishing in the pond also unofficially stocked it. Over the last 3 years, AU undergrads have documented multiple individuals of 5 native species of turtle including a single capture of a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine). The more common species are: eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), and the pond slider (Trachemys scripta). All species are native to the state. Over the three year period over 260 individual animals were observed in the pond.

Other species of note:
The 7-acre Weagle Woods supports 18 old-growth trees of a species (Pinus palustris) that once dominated an estimated 60-90 million acres of the SE. Today less than 3% of that SE acreage remains.

A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:
The 13.5-acre Davis Arboretum displays plants growing in the special habitats that exist in the state of Alabama, such as rocky hillsides, stream bottoms, pond edges, salt-spray influenced sand dunes, pitcher plant bogs, and the alkaline soil of the Black Belt Prairie. The management philosophy in the arboretum is to allow and encourage native species and habitats, while eliminating or controlling species that are invasive.

In addition, the Campus Master Plan has designated certain areas of campus as Natural Resource Management Areas. This land use category includes floodplains, wetlands, streams, steep slopes and critical buffer areas. It is intended to support emerging policies for protecting and enhancing the water resource systems of Parkerson Mill and Town Creeks. Development in these areas is limited to teaching, research, outreach, and recreation uses that do not negatively impact the underlying natural systems.

Other areas identified for possible protection moving forward include:

Weagle Woods could be a site in need of restoration and inclusion in a long-term campus plan. In addition to the old-growth trees, healthy longleaf forests usually support multiple size (age) classes of the species as well as approximately 100-300+ species of herbaceous plants in the ground layer (or ground cover). Prior to designation as a tail-gating site, the removal of some of the unwanted understory and invasive species that were preventing natural longleaf regeneration on this site was initiated by SFWS students and by the Auburn University Society for Conservation Biology.
There was a project supported by AU Facilities to mulch the understory to remove the invasive species and make the area look better. Plans were to use prescribed fire and herbicides to aid in the restoration of the area, which would have significantly added to the biodiversity of this area.preliminary work on re-introduction of native herbaceous plants was planned, but has since been suspended until at least patches of the site could be protected from trampling during tailgating on Gamedays.

Another nearby site with potential for restoration activities to promote native biodiversity is a modest tract of land to the south of the VCOM pond. The stand of trees currently supports a weedy ground layer dominated in places by brambles. However, there are remnants of original vegetation and some native plant species were documented and salvaged from the recent construction site. These include a cactus (Opuntia sp.) that many residents of the county might find a surprising resident species. The administrator of the research building just upslope of this site has been contacted and verbally stated interest in restoration, including periodic use of fire.

The website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity policies and programs(s) is available:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.