Modeling the impact of future development and public conservation orientation on landscape connectivity for conservation planning
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Recent papers on the spatial assessment of conservation opportunity have focused on how social values for conservation may change modeled conservation outcomes. Accounting for social factors is important for regional wildlife corridor initiatives as they often emphasize the collaborative aspects of conservation planning.
We present an approach for characterizing the potential effects of public conservation orientation and projected future development land use scenarios on landscape connectivity.
Using public participation GIS techniques (mail-based surveys linked to a mapping component), we classified spatially explicit conservation values and preferences into a conservation orientation index consisting of positive, negative, or neutral scores. Connectivity was then modeled using a least-cost path and graph-network approach for a range of conservation orientation and development scenarios in the Lower Hunter region, Australia. Scenarios were modelled through either adding vegetation (positive orientation) or removing vegetation (negative orientation, development).
Scenarios that included positive conservation orientation link the isolated eastern and western reaches of the Lower Hunter, even when negative conservation scores were included in the model. This outcome is consistent with proposed connectivity corridors identified in regional strategies. The development scenario showed connectivity patterns similar to only modelling negative conservation orientation scores, with greater fragmentation across the region.
The modeled outcomes showed consistency between the public’s conservation orientation and the ecological rationale for increasing connectivity within the region. If conservation orientation can be translated into conservation initiatives, the result will be enhanced regional landscape connectivity that is both ecologically beneficial, as well as socially acceptable.
KeywordsPublic participation GIS, social research, connectivity, dispersal Least-cost paths Graph theory Land use planning, conservation planning Scenario planning Urbanization
This project was funded by the Australian Government Sustainable Regional Development Program in conjunction with the National Environmental Research Program. We would also like the thank Hunter Environment for the provision of the future development spatial data. Finally, we would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive feedback.
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