Balancing Energy Development and Conservation: A Method Utilizing Species Distribution Models
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- Jarnevich, C.S. & Laubhan, M.K. Environmental Management (2011) 47: 926. doi:10.1007/s00267-011-9651-2
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Alternative energy development is increasing, potentially leading to negative impacts on wildlife populations already stressed by other factors. Resource managers require a scientifically based methodology to balance energy development and species conservation, so we investigated modeling habitat suitability using Maximum Entropy to develop maps that could be used with other information to help site energy developments. We selected one species of concern, the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LPCH; Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) found on the southern Great Plains of North America, as our case study. LPCH populations have been declining and are potentially further impacted by energy development. We used LPCH lek locations in the state of Kansas along with several environmental and anthropogenic parameters to develop models that predict the probability of lek occurrence across the landscape. The models all performed well as indicated by the high test area under the curve (AUC) scores (all >0.9). The inclusion of anthropogenic parameters in models resulted in slightly better performance based on AUC values, indicating that anthropogenic features may impact LPCH lek habitat suitability. Given the positive model results, this methodology may provide additional guidance in designing future survey protocols, as well as siting of energy development in areas of marginal or unsuitable habitat for species of concern. This technique could help to standardize and quantify the impacts various developments have upon at-risk species.