Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 74.49
Liaison David Cullmer
Submission Date Dec. 17, 2020

STARS v2.2

Pennsylvania State University
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" 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, or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

Millbrook Marsh is a 62-acre protected area owned by Penn State and operated by the Centre Region Recreation Authority. It is located on the edge of the University Park campus. The site consists of a 12-acre farmstead that includes a Nature Center plus an adjacent 50-acre wetland with marsh and fen habitats. This latter portion is held in a conservation easement between PSU and ClearWater Conservancy. The World Database on Protected Areas shows Millbrook Marsh Nature Center to be in IUCN management category III, Natural Monument or Feature. These areas are "generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value." The adjacent Millbrook Marsh Fen is in IUCN management category V, Protected Landscape/ Seascape. See https://www.protectedplanet.net/555656646 and https://www.protectedplanet.net/555556591


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A list of endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution, by level of extinction risk:

The 2002 Natural Heritage Inventory lists Millbrook Marsh BDA as an area of Exceptional Significance. The following endangered and vulnerable species are listed:
Bebb’s sedge (Carex bebbii): Pennsylvania Endangered
Slender sedge (Carex lasiocarpa): Pennsylvania Rare
Prairie sedge (Carex prairea): Pennsylvania Threatened
Open sedge (Carex stricta, C. prairea, C. lacustris)


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A brief description of areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution:

In addition to Millbrook Marsh (described above), other areas of biodiversity importance mapped by the Natural Heritage Inventory are Big Thompson Meadow/Spring, near the water treatment facility; Big Hollow, north of the Penn Stater Conference Center; and Overlook Heights, behind the Arboretum and part of the Big Hollow corridor.

The Campus Master Plan map designates Environmental Resource areas/ Environmentally Sensitive Areas/ Protected Areas. This land use category was created in recognition of the importance of maintaining the quality of both potable and surface waters and the need to protect local ecological communities. Approximately 860 acres of land are in this land use category. These areas include the Natural Heritage Inventory sites, as well as wellhead protection areas, major stormwater infiltration areas, waterways, floodplains, and other natural habitat areas.

In addition to the above-mentioned areas that fall within our designated boundary for this STARS report, Penn State owns two other nearby properties that are notable in that they are managed for conservation purposes. The Shaver's Creek Environmental Center and adjacent Stone Valley Recreation Area - about 15 miles from campus - provide environmental education and recreational opportunities for students and community members, and preserve natural forested habitat. Another area - a 355 acre parcel only about 5 miles from central campus - is the subject of a current study known as the Musser Gap to Valleylands project. This project aims to develop a design and management plan that will provide source water protection, ecosystem restoration, agricultural integrity, and recreational use for this area that was historically farmed.


The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or areas of biodiversity importance and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

The Natural Heritage Inventory for Centre County, which includes Penn State, was surveyed by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 2002, and results are reported in the "Centre County Natural Heritage Inventory" http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/CNAI_PDFs/Centre%20County%20NHI%202002-WEB.pdf Methodology for the Natural Heritage Inventory included the following steps: (1) gathering existing information, (2) aerial photo and map interpretation, (3) aerial reconnaissance, (4)ground survey, (5)data analysis.
Areas identified in this survey were subsequently incorporated into the Penn State Master Plan.


A brief description of the scope of the assessment(s):

The Natural Heritage Inventory for Centre County covers the entire county.


A brief description of the plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats, and/or ecosystems:

See above description of Millbrook Marsh. This area is part of a protected nature reserve. Protection efforts include control of invasives and encouraging native species. An annual watershed cleanup is held each spring.

Natural Heritage Inventory areas are mapped in the Campus Master Plan, which stipulates that "these areas be kept as undeveloped landscapes, free of building and parking facilities, and reserved for resource protection and for the enjoyment by the public".

As part of the Water Reclamation Facility renewal project, an area of forested riparian buffer along the Thompson Spring/Headwaters of Thompson Run was recently restored. This project involved the suppression/elimination of invasive species from approximately 1.2 acres of land, leaving only native trees; installation of a deer fence; planting of several various size native species trees; and ground cover restoration.

The Arboretum Ecological Restoration Group organizes work sessions in which volunteers help to stop the spread of nonnative shrubs such as honeysuckle, privet, and multiflora rose in the understory of the Hartley Wood, an historic woodlot in the Arboretum. These efforts have now been extended into other areas of the Arboretum in Big Hollow, which is one of the Biological Diversity Areas indicated on the Campus Master Plan. The vision for the Arboretum also includes restoring native habitat and providing educational outreach on the area's land use history. See http://www.arboretum.psu.edu/conservation/index.html


Estimated percentage of areas of biodiversity importance that are also protected areas :
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Website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.