Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.40
Liaison Parker Long
Submission Date Aug. 27, 2021

STARS v2.2

Virginia Commonwealth University
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Parker Long
Sustainability Reporting and Outreach Coordinator
Facilities Management - 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, or regions of conservation importance?:

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:
A portion of the VCU Rice Rivers Center is under a conservation easement that is held and managed by The Nature Conservancy. The Rice Rivers Center is within an area designated by the Audobon Society as the Lower James River Bird Area.

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?:

A list of endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution, by level of extinction risk:
Atlantic Sturgeon - Endangered (VCU Rice Rivers Center) Prothonotary Warbler - Vulnerable (VCU Rice Rivers Center) Bald Eagle - Vulnerable (VCU Rice Rivers Center) Osprey - Least Concern (VCU Rice Rivers Center)

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

A brief description of areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution:
Much of our research focuses on large river ecosystems, their riparian habitats and associated wetlands. Our unique location on a tidal freshwater section of the James River helps us specialize in multiple areas of study: wetlands restoration, anadromous fishes, nutrient dynamics and plankton in river food chains, the ecology of freshwater tidal creeks and public health issues concerning waterborne disease.

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or areas of biodiversity importance and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:
All wetlands on the Rice River Center property were delineated using industry methodology by a certified wetland scientist. Surveys of animals, especially insects and birds as well as plants, are and continue to be conducted to determine overall biodiversity and the presence/absence of endangered/threatened species.

A brief description of the scope of the assessment(s):
VCU observation and monitoring for biodiversity and vulnerable species spans multiple sites on the Rice Rivers center as well as sites adjacent to it, and observation data has been logged by VCU since 1987. Recent publications and posters from within the scope of the reporting period detail observation and land conservation work at neighboring sites to the Center (Presquile National Wildlife Refuge (PQNWR) - Forested tidal freshwater wetland upstream from the Rice Rivers Center, and James River National Wildlife Refuge (JRNWR) - Downstream of the Rice Rivers Center, forested tidal wetlands here mimic closely those of Harris Creek and Presquile), and at Harris Creek and Kimages creek. In addition to these biodiversity surveys, factors that impact the populations present here are monitored as well including soil accretion, water quality, and air quality (ozone, NOx, SOx, methane, and VOCs). Since these kinds of pollution lower the quality of the wetland, the data collected on them is reviewed frequently under multiple professor's ongoing projects to set baselines in the conservation work they are conducting at the Center. Full time staff perform annual rare/threatened/endangered species observation sessions during spring and fall when conditions are correct for those species to be most visible. These staff also participate in regular data collection as part of ongoing research and conservation work being conducted at the site, providing multiple additional opportunities each year for observation and logging of vulnerable species during non-optimal times of year. For example, the Atlantic sturgeon conservation project being conducted at the Center involves VCU biologists tracking more than 150 endangered Atlantic Sturgeon in the James River and Chesapeake Bay. A 2010 study analyzed sturgeon age and growth rates by comparing colonial-era sturgeon spines from middens in colonial Jamestown to modern sturgeon spines from the James River population. In contrast to current James River sturgeon, the colonial population contained older, larger individuals and showed slower growth rates, similar to modern populations living in regions with colder water. Besides VCU staff, the site is regularly made available to state wildlife officials from the Virginia DCR who use the site as a benchmark for biodiversity in the state as part of their Bioblitz programs, as well as other academic institutions including neighboring universities like William and Mary, UVA, and the Virginia Academy of Science who assist in conservation and rehabilitation work like releasing recovered bald eagles and monitoring their wellbeing in and around the Center.

A brief description of the plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats, and/or ecosystems:
There are no specific plans in effect other than the continued adherence to the terms of the conservation easement placed on some of the Center's acreage.

Estimated percentage of areas of biodiversity importance that are also protected areas :

Website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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