The KNP is responsible for inventorying and monitoring natural communities throughout the Commonwealth. KNP ecologists gather data from field work, review of scientific literature and collaboration with other agencies and experts in the field.
KNP is mandated to inventory the state for our highest quality natural areas. A natural area is an area containing an aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem that has essentially retained, or recovered, its pre-European American settlement condition. These areas contain the least disturbed examples of natural communities and often harbor rare plant and animal species. Nearly all of Kentucky’s pristine natural areas have disappeared due to land conversion and land use practices. KNP seeks to include an example of each of Kentucky’s unique natural communities in the state nature preserve system.
KNP ecologists use a process called Natural Areas Inventory (NAI) to locate those few natural areas that remain intact. NAI is conducted on a county-by-county basis. This procedure begins with interpretation of aerial photos, topographic maps, satellite images, and other data sources. Using this information, sites with the highest potential are then chosen and visited by helicopter to determine whether a ground visit is necessary. After all of the potential natural areas within a county have been analyzed with GIS aerial imagery, the highest quality sites are visited on the ground and an inventory of the site is done. The best sites are then targeted for some degree of protection or recognition with permission of the landowner.
The KNP monitors exemplary occurrences of the following ecological communities. Exemplary ecological communities are relatively undisturbed or have recovered sufficiently from previous disturbances and have the flora and fauna that represents, to the best of our knowledge, the ecological communities that existed in Kentucky at the time of European colonization. This classification was last updated May 2009 and is available at the links to the right.