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Friday, August 13, 2010 - 11:05am

Coastal Map Details Biodiversity

State biologists are discovering new habitats as they take a plant census of Georgia's coast.

Researchers hope a new map guides future growth.

Two biologists are using aerial photographs and on-site visits to make a detailed map the coast's natural habitats.

Mapping down to fractions of acres, they've found 124 different plant habitats so far, each with their own unique collection of species.

Eammon Leonard of the Department of Natural Resources describes a never-before-documented plant community in rural Camden County.

"No one really knew it was there," Leonard says. "And we brought biologists and botanists from our other offices to check it out and they were pretty astounded by it."

The map is aimed a local policy-makers, since although development has slowed in the recession, it could pick-up.

When it does, biologists want planners aware of what they might protect.

"I'm hoping it'll give people a better understanding of what's on our coast," Leonard says. "It's more than just pine plantation and the marsh. There's a lot of diversity going on in between."

The project cost, just under a million dollars, is paid mostly by a private grant.

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