MNFI has the responsibility for inventorying and collecting information about the state's "elements of biodiversity". These data are used to guide conservation and land management activities throughout the state.

The MNFI database is an ongoing, continuously updated information base, which is the only comprehensive single source of existing data on Michigan's endangered, threatened, or otherwise significant plant and animal species, natural plant communities, and other natural features. This database cannot provide a definitive statement on the presence, absence, or condition of the natural features in any given locality, since most sites have not been specifically or thoroughly surveyed for their occurrence. Furthermore, plant and animal populations and natural communities change with time. Therefore, the information provided should not be regarded as a complete statement on the occurrence of special natural features of the area in question.