Conservation Science Partners Inc.

Fort Collins, CO, United States

Conservation Science Partners Inc.

Fort Collins, CO, United States
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Dickson B.G.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Zachmann L.J.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Albano C.M.,University of California at Davis
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

With ongoing global change, there is an urgent need to expand existing networks of important conservation areas around the world. In the western United States, vast areas of public land, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), present substantial conservation opportunities. For 11 contiguous western states, we used a novel multiple-criteria analysis to model and map contiguous areas of roadless BLM land that possessed important ecological indicators of high biodiversity, resilience to climate change, and landscape connectivity. Specifically, we leveraged available spatial datasets to implement a systematic and statistically robust analysis of seven key indicators at three different spatial scales, and to identify the locations of potential conservation priority areas (CPAs) across 294,274km2 of roadless BLM land. Within this extent, and based on conservative thresholds in our results, we identified 43,417km2 of land with relatively high conservation value and 117 unique CPAs totaling 6291km2. Most CPA lands were located in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Nevada. Overall, CPAs had higher species richness, vegetation community diversity, topographic complexity, and surface water availability than existing BLM protected areas. CPAs often corresponded with locations known to have important wilderness characteristics or were adjacent to established areas of ecological, social, or cultural importance. These CPAs represent a diverse set of places that can be used by multiple stakeholders in ongoing or future landscape conservation and special designation efforts in BLM and adjacent ownerships. Our methodological framework and novel weighting approach can accommodate a wide range of input variables and is readily applicable to other jurisdictions and regions within the U.S. and beyond. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Dickson B.G.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Dickson B.G.,Northern Arizona University | Roemer G.W.,New Mexico State University | McRae B.H.,Nature Conservancy | Rundall J.M.,Northern Arizona University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

The impact of landscape changes on the quality and connectivity of habitats for multiple wildlife species is of global conservation concern. In the southwestern United States, pumas (Puma concolor) are a well distributed and wide-ranging large carnivore that are sensitive to loss of habitat and to the disruption of pathways that connect their populations. We used an expert-based approach to define and derive variables hypothesized to influence the quality, location, and permeability of habitat for pumas within an area encompassing the entire states of Arizona and New Mexico. Survey results indicated that the presence of woodland and forest cover types, rugged terrain, and canyon bottom and ridgeline topography were expected to be important predictors of both high quality habitat and heightened permeability. As road density, distance to water, or human population density increased, the quality and permeability of habitats were predicted to decline. Using these results, we identified 67 high quality patches across the study area, and applied concepts from electronic circuit theory to estimate regional patterns of connectivity among these patches. Maps of current flow among individual pairs of patches highlighted possible pinch points along two major interstate highways. Current flow summed across all pairs of patches highlighted areas important for keeping the entire network connected, regardless of patch size. Cumulative current flow was highest in Arizona north of the Colorado River and around Grand Canyon National Park, and in the Sky Islands region owing to the many small habitat patches present. Our outputs present a first approximation of habitat quality and connectivity for dispersing pumas in the southwestern United States. Map results can be used to help target finer-scaled analyses in support of planning efforts concerned with the maintenance of puma metapopulation structure, as well as the protection of landscape features that facilitate the dispersal process. © 2013 Dickson et al.

PubMed | The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Science Partners Inc., Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Gage Cartographics and The Wilderness Society
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

Conservation scientists emphasize the importance of maintaining a connected network of protected areas to prevent ecosystems and populations from becoming isolated, reduce the risk of extinction, and ultimately sustain biodiversity. Keeping protected areas connected in a network is increasingly recognized as a conservation priority in the current era of rapid climate change. Models that identify suitable linkages between core areas have been used to prioritize potentially important corridors for maintaining functional connectivity. Here, we identify the most natural (i.e., least human-modified) corridors between large protected areas in the contiguous Unites States. We aggregated results from multiple connectivity models to develop a composite map of corridors reflecting agreement of models run under different assumptions about how human modification of land may influence connectivity. To identify which land units are most important for sustaining structural connectivity, we used the composite map of corridors to evaluate connectivity priorities in two ways: (1) among land units outside of our pool of large core protected areas and (2) among units administratively protected as Inventoried Roadless (IRAs) or Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). Corridor values varied substantially among classes of unprotected non-core land units, and land units of high connectivity value and priority represent diverse ownerships and existing levels of protections. We provide a ranking of IRAs and WSAs that should be prioritized for additional protection to maintain minimal human modification. Our results provide a coarse-scale assessment of connectivity priorities for maintaining a connected network of protected areas.

Ray C.T.,Northern Arizona University | Dickson B.G.,Northern Arizona University | Dickson B.G.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Sisk T.D.,Northern Arizona University | And 2 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2014

Wildlife species of conservation concern can present forest managers with a particular challenge when habitat needs appear to be in contrast with other management objectives, particularly fuel reduction to reduce wildfire risk. Proposed actions can be opposed by stakeholders, delaying management activities until a resolution is met. In the southwestern USA, the primary goal of forest management is to reduce the risk of severe wildfire through forest restoration treatments. The USDA Forest Service has designated the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) a management indicator species in this region. However, it has been difficult to achieve a common understanding of goshawk habitat needs among forest stakeholders. We combined two separate and complementary modeling approaches - a statistically based occurrence model and alternative forest treatment models - to yield predictions about forest management effects on the goshawk in ponderosa pine-dominated forests (Pinus ponderosa) on the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona. Forest treatment models were developed based on USDA Forest Service recommendations for goshawk habitat and post-treatment data from ecological restoration experiments, both of which were also components of forest treatment guidance from the Kaibab Forest Health Focus collaborative planning effort. All treatment alternatives resulted in a 22-26% reduction in estimated goshawk occurrence, but the declines were not uniform across the study area, varied by forest type, and were not as large as the effects of recent and severe wildfire (44% reduction in occurrence). Considering the controversial history of forest management with respect to the goshawk, it is prudent to interpret results from this study in the context of tradeoffs between wildfire risk reduction and wildlife habitat quality that can be effectively evaluated through science-based collaborative assessment and planning. While developed for a specific, high-profile species in the southwestern USA, the approach is applicable to many other species whose occurrence has been monitored over multiple years. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Theobald D.M.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Theobald D.M.,Colorado State University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Land cover maps reasonably depict areas that are strongly converted by human activities, but typically are unable to resolve low-density but widespread development patterns. Data products specifically designed to resolve land uses complement land cover datasets and likely improve our ability to understand the extent and complexity of human modification. Methods for developing a comprehensive land use classification system are described, and a map of land use for the conterminous United States is presented to reveal what we are doing on the land. The comprehensive, detailed and high-resolution dataset was developed through spatial analysis of nearly two-dozen publicly-available, national spatial datasets predominately based on census housing, employment, and infrastructure, as well as land cover from satellite imagery. This effort resulted in 79 land use classes that fit within five main land use groups: built-up, production, recreation, conservation, and water. Key findings from this study are that built-up areas occupy 13.6% of mainland US, but that the majority of this occurs as low-density exurban/rural residential (9.1% of the US), while more intensive built-up land uses occupy 4.5%. For every acre of urban and suburban residential land, there are 0.13 commercial, 0.07 industrial, 0.48 institutional, and 0.29 acres of interstates/highways. This database can be used to address a variety of natural resource applications, and I provide three examples here: an entropy index of the diversity of land uses for smart-growth planning, a power-law scaling of metropolitan area population to developed footprint, and identifying potential conflict areas by delineating the urban interface. © 2014 David M.

Brown M.L.,University of Vermont | Donovan T.M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Schwenk W.S.,University of Vermont | Theobald D.M.,Colorado State University | Theobald D.M.,Conservation Science Partners Inc.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

Forest loss and fragmentation are among the largest threats to forest-dwelling wildlife species today, and projected increases in human population growth are expected to increase these threats in the next century. We combined spatially-explicit growth models with wildlife distribution models to predict the effects of human development on 5 forest-dependent bird species in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, USA. We used single-species occupancy models to derive the probability of occupancy for each species across the study area in the years 2000 and 2050. Over half a million new housing units were predicted to be added to the landscape. The maximum change in housing density was nearly 30 houses per hectare; however, 30% of the towns in the study area were projected to add less than 1 housing unit per hectare. In the face of predicted human growth, the overall occupancy of each species decreased by as much as 38% (ranging from 19% to 38% declines in the worst-case scenario) in the year 2050. These declines were greater outside of protected areas than within protected lands. Ninety-seven percent of towns experienced some decline in species occupancy within their borders, highlighting the value of spatially-explicit models. The mean decrease in occupancy probability within towns ranged from 3% for hairy woodpecker to 8% for ovenbird and hermit thrush. Reductions in occupancy probability occurred on the perimeters of cities and towns where exurban development is predicted to increase in the study area. This spatial approach to wildlife planning provides data to evaluate trade-offs between development scenarios and forest-dependent wildlife species. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Harrison-Atlas D.,Colorado State University | Theobald D.M.,Colorado State University | Theobald D.M.,Conservation Science Partners Inc | Goldstein J.H.,Colorado State University
International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystems Services and Management | Year: 2016

Global threats to freshwater resources are prompting widespread concern about their management and implications for well-being. In recent decades, hydrologic ecosystem services (HES) have emerged as an innovative concept to evaluate freshwater resources, providing opportunity for researchers to engage in decision-relevant science. We conducted a systematic review of studies published within the last decade, documenting approaches for mapping and quantifying HES and classifying the decision context. To gauge the relevance of HES science, we evaluated 49 case studies using multiple criteria for credibility, legitimacy, and saliency. We found compelling evidence that much of the variability in the quantification of HES can be explained by research motivations and scoping, reflecting the decision-oriented framing of the ecosystem services concept. Our review highlights key knowledge gaps in the state of the science including the need to articulate beneficiaries and to make connections to policy and management more explicit. To strengthen the potential for impact of HES science, we provide recommendations to assist researchers, practitioners, and decision-makers in identifying goals, formulating relevant questions, and selecting informative approaches for quantifying HES. We argue that sustained progress in applying HES requires critical evaluation and careful framing to link science and practice. © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Hegeman E.E.,Conservation Science Partners Inc | Dickson B.G.,Conservation Science Partners Inc | Dickson B.G.,Northern Arizona University | Zachmann L.J.,Conservation Science Partners Inc | Zachmann L.J.,Northern Arizona University
Landscape Ecology | Year: 2014

The frequency and size of wildfires within the Mojave Desert are increasing, possibly due to climate and land cover changes and associated increases in non-native invasive plant biomass, as measured by normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). These patterns are of particular concern to resource managers in regions where native plant communities are not well adapted to fire. We used an information-theoretic and mixed-model approach to quantify the importance of multiple environmental variables in predicting, separately, the probabilities of occurrence of all fires and the occurrence large (>20 ha) fires in five management units administered by the National Park Service in the Mojave Desert Network and based on fire ignition data obtained for the period 1992–2011. Fire occurrence was strongly associated with areas close to roads, high maximum NDVI values in the year preceding ignition, the desert montane ecological zone, and high topographic roughness. Large fire probability was strongly associated with lightning-caused ignition events, high maximum NDVI values in the spring preceding ignition, high topographic roughness, the middle-elevation shrubland ecological zone, and areas further from roads. Our probabilistic models and maps can be used to explore patterns of fire occurrence based upon variability in NDVI values and to assess the vulnerability of Mojave Desert protected areas to undesirable fire events. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Gray M.E.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Dickson B.G.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Dickson B.G.,Northern Arizona University
Landscape Ecology | Year: 2016

Context: Strategic placement of fuel treatments across large landscapes is an important step to mitigate the collective effects of fires interacting over broad spatial and temporal extents. On landscapes where highly invasive cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is increasing fire activity, such an approach could help maintain landscape resilience. Objectives: Our objectives are to 1) model and map fire connectivity on a cheatgrass-invaded landscape, as well as the centrality of large cheatgrass patches, in order to inform a landscape fuel treatment (i.e., a network of greenstrips); and 2) evaluate the modeled greenstrip network based on changes to cheatgrass patch centrality. Methods: Our analysis covers 485-km2 on the Kaibab National Forest in Northern Arizona. We apply a circuit-theoretic model of fire connectivity between all pairs of large cheatgrass patches. Based on these results, we calculate a measure of centrality for each patch to inform fuel treatment placement. We evaluate the modeled greenstrip network by comparing the pre- and post-treatment centrality of each patch. Results: After modeling fire connectivity across the landscape, we identify 25 of 68 large cheatgrass patches with relatively high centrality. When we simulate greenstrips around these focal patches, model results suggest that they are effective in reducing the centrality for at least 19 of the 25 patches. Conclusions: Fire connectivity models provide robust network centrality measures, which can help generate multiple, landscape fuel treatment alternatives and facilitate on-the-ground decisions. The extension of these methods is well suited for landscape fuels management in other vegetation communities and ecosystems. © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

Hegeman E.E.,Utah State University | Hegeman E.E.,Conservation Science Partners Inc. | Miller S.W.,Utah State University | Mock K.E.,Utah State University
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | Year: 2014

The habitat requirements of many native freshwater mussels remain unclear despite their imperiled status and ecological importance. To explore scale-specific habitat associations in the three genera of mussels found in the western United States (Anodonta, Gonidea, and Margaritifera) we used a multiscale random forest modeling approach to assess functional habitat parameters throughout a 55 km segment of the upper Middle Fork John Day River in northeastern Oregon. We characterized mussel occurrence and density with respect to the hierarchical, hydrogeomorphic structure by sampling reaches of varying valley confinement and channel units nested within individual reaches. Each genus exhibited unique longitudinal trends and channel unit-use patterns. In particular, the large-scale longitudinal trends in Margaritifera occurrence were associated with hydrogeomorphic characteristics at the reach and channel unit scale, with Margaritifera densities peaking in narrow valley segments and in riffles and runs. At the scale of the channel unit, all mussel genera responded to variation in physical habitat characteristics, particularly those that indicated more stable parts of the channel. Our results suggest that spatial patterns in freshwater mussels are associated with the hierarchical structuring of the lotic ecosystem and may provide guidance to restoration efforts. © 2014 Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. All rights reserved.

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