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The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program (NC NHP) collects information on occurrences of rare plants and animals, exemplary or unique natural communities, and important animal assemblages (e.g., heronries and colonial waterbird nesting sites). Collectively, these plants, animals, natural communities, and animal assemblages are referred to as "elements of natural diversity" or simply as "elements".

Specific occurrences of these elements are referred to as "element occurrences".

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