Savannah River National Environmental Park



Natural Resources and Biodiversity

Covering 800 km2, or roughly 1% of the total land area of South Carolina, the Savannah River NERP preserves examples of all major upper Coastal Plain ecosystems, including old fields, fall-line sandhills, upland hardwoods, pine forests, bottomland hardwood forests, swamp forests, Carolina bays, and freshwater streams and impoundments. Even in unlabeled aerial imagery the outline of the Savannah River NERP is clearly visible as a large circle of forest within a matrix that has mostly been cleared for agriculture and other human activities.

The SRS NERP is home to >1300 species of vascular plants (Batson et al. 1985), >100 species of reptiles and amphibians; 50 species of mammals; nearly 100 species of fish; and provides permanent habitat or migratory rest for >250 species of birds (Mayer et al. 1997 and unpublished data; cited in Kilgo and Blake 2005). Nearly 600 species of aquatic insects can be found in Upper Three Runs Creek alone (Voelz and McArthur 2000), and in recent decades several new species have been described from SRS streams and wetlands. The SRS also provides habitat for a number of sensitive species, including wood storks, red-cockaded woodpecks, and smooth purple coneflowers (all federally endangered), and at least 30 plant species of state or regional concern (Knox and Sharitz 1990; SCDNR 2006).

The Savannah River NERP protects over 300 Carolina bays and other depression wetlands (Kirkman et al. 1996; R. Lide, pers. comm.), most of which have no other form of protection under current wetland law. (Legislation is pending.) Four major freshwater streams flow through the SRS, one of which contains the highest reported species richness of aquatic insects for any stream in the Western Hemisphere (Upper Three Runs Creek, Voelz and McArthur 2000). Retired cooling reservoirs on the SRS also provide habit for an abundance of alligators, turtles, and migratory waterfowl.

The SRS NERP also protects more than 1300 known archaeological sites (SRARP n.d.).

More information on SRS biodiversity and natural communities is available through the NERP Program publications.



Batson, W. T., J. S. Angerman, and J. T. Jones. 1985. Flora of the Savannah River Plant: An inventory of the vascular plants on the Savannah River Plant, South Carolina. Savannah River Plant National Environmental Research Park Publication. SRO-NERP-15. 64p.

Kilgo, J. C. and J. I. Blake (eds.). 2005. Ecology and Management of a Forested Landscape: Fifty Years on the Savannah River Site. Washington: Island Press. 479p.

Kirkman, L. K., R. F. Lide, G. Wein, and R. R. Sharitz. 1996. Vegetation changes and land-use legacies of depression wetlands of the western Coastal Plain of South Carolina: 1951-1992. Wetlands 16(4): 564-576.

Knox, J. N. and R. R. Sharitz. 1990. Endangered, Threatened, and Rare Vascular Flora of the Savannah River Site. Savannah River Plant National Environmental Research Park Publication. SRO-NERP-20. 147p.

[SCDNR] South Carolina Department of Resources. 2006. South Carolina rare, threatened, and endangered species inventory: All species found in South Carolina [Internet]. Available at: Accessed 2009 Jul 8.

[SRARP] Savannah River Archaeological Research Program. (no date) [accessed 2009 Jul 7]. Introduction to SRARP [Internet]. Available from:

Voelz, N. J. and J. V. McArthur. 2000. An exploration of factors influencing lotic insect species richness. Biodiversity and Conservation 9: 1543-1570.

Savannah River Ecology Laboratory