Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 65.35
Liaison Christa Rieck
Submission Date Nov. 23, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of Houston
OP-11: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Gabriel Durham
Graduate assistant
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:

The University of Houston Coastal Center contains 300 acres of coastal tallgrass prairie. This habitat is highly endangered, with less than one tenth of one percent remaining. The UHCC prairie has a high plant diversity and so is considered more valuable than other prairie properties in Texas that may be larger but do not have high plant diversity.

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:

The land for the Coastal Center was originally a United States Army base known as Camp Wallace, which housed some 16,000 soldiers. During this time extensive land use jeopardized the original coastal ecology and by the time the university acquired the land in 1960, significant disturbance had occurred; including the introduction of invasive species. While the land was intended to serve as the site for a new campus, in 1970 the site was re-purposed to serve as an environmental field education site. It was at this point that Dr. Richard Aumann was assigned directorship of the property. With funding from over 20 federal and state agencies, and Dr. Aumann's focus on the study of invasive species, resulting publications, studies, and facility installments at the center have produced voluminous data on the biodiversity and endangered nature of the coastal prairie ecosystem.

These types of studies are ongoing and now under the direction of Dr. Steve Pennings and his postdoc Dr. Chelse Prather. A brief list of present assessments include: the impact of the Deep Water Horizon Spill on coastal biodiversity as seen through terrestrial arthropods, the impact of encroaching Chinese Tallow groves on biodiversity, and the consequences of mangrove invasion into salt marsh habitats on the Texas coast. For a thorough discussion of the methodologies involved, please visit the link below to view the published articles from the coastal center.

A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

The Coastal Center itself is an identified environmentally sensitive area known as a "coastal tallgrass prairie" with less than one tenth of one percent of the original habitat remaining according to the United States Geological Survey Research Program.

While much of the native animal life may not be directly threatened, studies of biodiversity and resiliency of their food webs directly gauge the ecological health of this threatened ecosystem. For example populations of Prokelisia sp. planthopper, Chaetopsis sp. fly, and Conocephalus aigialus, are not threatened, but the substrate (coastal grasses) supporting their food webs is. Thus, by generating assessments of these arthropods food webs, the Coastal Center is able to gauge the impact of various detrimental ecological events. Again, links to publications of these studies are available below.

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

So long as the Coastal Center continues operations the resulting studies and environmental stewardship of this highly threatened area will continue. Perhaps one of the most long term programs to positively affect the coastal prairie habitat is the continual stocking and redistributing of seeds from threatened plant species in the center. These seeds are stored for coastal center use in replanting or distributed to both private and public entities for their use in further restorative efforts of coastal prairie across the country. For more information on this program see Innovation - 3.

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

See the U.S. Geological Survey coastal prairie research program site and publications for information on coastal prairie species, biodiversity and endangerment:

Visit the publications and past lab member sections for more information on biodiversity and other assessments at the Coastal Center: http://nsmn1.uh.edu/steve/

Archive Information: http://archive.thedailycougar.com/vol66/12/features/features-index.html

UH magazine article on the Coastal Center: http://www.uh.edu/magazine/2015-spring/feature-stories/going-coastal.php

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.