Report (52k pdf) - Biodiversity Assessment of the North Highlands, Philipstown, Putnam County, May 28, 2003
The foundation of a healthy environment that can sustain itself and thrive over generations is biological diversity. Biodiversity is defined as the variety of plants, animals and habitats that make up an ecosystem, and the interconnectedness of the system. One species depends on many other species and habitats to live in balance - and to be sustained - including we humans. For example, we rely on wetlands that function well and control flooding, and filter pollutants, and bees and other insects to pollinate fruit trees and flowers.
A lack of diversity makes the system vulnerable and directly effects human health. For example, in fragmented forests (loss of habitat) the white footed mice population will increase in response to a lack of predators and competitors most of which require unfragmented forests for habitat (decrease in species diversity). White footed mice population can increase by as much as 7 times in the fragmented forest landscape.
The white footed mouse is the prime carrier of black ticks which carry Lyme disease. As the forest system can no longer sustain healthy populations of predators and competitors of the white footed mouse, human health continues to be at risk. Lyme Disease is not as much of a threat in areas where there are large tracts of woodlands that can support small mammals such as voles and mice.
The Hudson Highlands is a region rich in natural resources, and citizens and local governments need to plan to maintain these resources through land use planning that promotes biodiversity. The first step is to do assessments to identify areas that are rich in biodiversity . Then there are a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory measures to protect habitat that benefit biodiversity - and therefore an environment that is sustainable. By preserving biodiversity we will also protect the scenic landscapes that define the Highlands and give our communities so much of their character.