Wouldn't it be great if there was a tool you could use to see how a broad range of natural, cultural, and even socioeconomic resources could be affected by future threats like climate change, sea level rise, and urban growth? What if you could use that same tool to see how different conservation actions like corridors, riparian buffers, and longleaf restoration could change that future landscape? The Optimal Conservation Strategies prototype is going to be a first attempt to create a tool to do just that. The good news is that everything's on schedule to have a version for review by the end of the year.
The prototype certainly wont be perfect and there'll be some big gaps and things that need to be expanded (that's why it's called a prototype). The idea is to get something out to you early so you can have a hand in making sure the tool addresses the questions most important to you.
This version should include models of:
- Future change: Downscaled climate change, urban growth, sea level rise
- Natural resources: Integrity of various South Atlantic Ecosystems as measured by 3 representative species or guilds each ( 1 bird, 1 fish, and 1 herp). The initial representative species or guilds for the prototype were provided by Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, and Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. The representative species/guilds are eventually intended to represent the larger suite of species in the habitat and include Wildlife Action Plan, game, and endangered species. None of these are "set in stone" and expect a larger effort at identifying these and other targets next year.
- Cultural resources: Impacts on key historic/cultural landscapes (e.g., longleaf) and important cultural sites
- Socioeconomic resources: Variation in the economic value of forest and agricultural land. Helps identify best "bang for the buck" and economic benefits of working lands. Drinking water quality model may also included.
- Information for all of this is coming from a ton of different sources including the Southeast Regional Assessment Project, National Fish Habitat Action Plan, Forest Service, National Park Service, EPA, SWAP plans, and a number of Partnerships.
The fun thing about having a prototype is trying it out on some real world problems. So, as of a few weeks ago I've started talking with folks about the kind of conservation questions they'd like this type of tool to answer. Here are a few of the things I've heard so far:
- What would a network of habitat capable of supporting wildlife populations into the future look like?
- Where are the best places for riparian buffers?
- Where are the best places for restoring key habitats (longleaf, poccosin)?
- Where are the best and most cost effective places for acquisition/easements in the face of sea level rise, climate change and urban growth?
- Where are the next likely places that dams will be built?
- What would be the effect of increasing prescribed fire on private land on both natural resources and $ saved from a reduction in catastrophic wildfire?
- How will agricultural change affect aquatic systems?
- How will humans react to climate change and how will that impact natural resources?
- Where are the best places to put infrastructure?
- Where are the best places for biofuels?
If you have other ideas, either before or after you see the prototype next month feel free to call or email me. You can also put your suggestions in the comment box below.