Conservation Science

Protecting Pennsylvania’s Plants and Animals

Special Places

A steep, shale slope in Fulton County that supports some of our rarest plants. A large patch of forest in Potter County where the northern goshawk nests. These special places provide unique habitats that certain plants and animals need to survive.

Many of these places may all fall under the common designation of “Natural Heritage Areas,” but their value to the plants and animals that live there is anything but common. These places are particularly special from a biodiversity conservation perspective, as they are often specialized and sometimes rare communities that host many rare and endangered species.

The Natural Heritage Program finds these special places and maps them to share with conservation agencies, counties and the public. We continue to visit new places and revisit existing ones to see if and how they are changing.

Erie Coast

The bluffs on Lake Erie and Presque Isle provide refuge for migratory, shore and wading birds.

Limestone Habitats

A small portion of the state contains calcium-rich limestone, making it a special place on which nearly 200 plant species rely.


A unique group of wetlands often found in northern Pennsylvania created by organic matter under water-logged conditions.

Shale Barrens

This globally rare ecosystem supports many uncommon plants and animals in its unique community structure.

Vernal Pools

Small, seasonal wetlands that are home to amphibians and crustaceans.

Youghiogheny Scour

Scours in the Youghiogheny River Gorge provide habitat for the majority of the rare plants found in the Ohiopyle area.

State Line Serpentine Barrens

Unique and globally rare plant communities in southern Lancaster, Chester and Delaware counties in Pennsylvania are known as the State Line Serpentine Barrens.

For More Information:

Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program
Rachel Carson State Office Building
5th Floor
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17105


Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
800 Waterfront Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15222