Presented by: Aram Calhoun and Mac Hunter, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, & Conservation Biology
Small Natural Features (SNFs) are analogous to keystone species in that they have ecological importance that is disproportionate to their small size. Consider coral heads in a sea grass dominated bay, groundwater springs in a desert, or the narrow riparian zones that line streams. The recognition and management of SNFs can be an efficient way to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. In particular, while the small size of SNFs can engender threats (e.g., they are often overlooked and are relatively vulnerable to complete destruction), small size also leads to special conservation opportunities (e.g., integration with resource uses such as forestry or fisheries). In practice, conservation of SNFs should be complementary to traditional, larger-scale, forms of conservation by engendering creative, constructive efforts to conserve some seemingly minor features; features that have previously unknown or unappreciated roles critical to their broader ecosystems and to biodiversity.