IDENTIFYING FUNCTIONAL CONNECTIVITY FOR CONSERVATION PLANNING
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The Washington Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is interested in creating a method by which to identify statewide functional connectivity in order to guide a more effective conservation planning process. Past conservation planning efforts by TNC had established conservation priorities separately for terrestrial and freshwater habitats, and did not consider functional connectivity as a necessary component of conservation targets. I developed this method using geospatial analysis and NHDPlus, a free geospatial data package, to identify focal habitat in western Washington in relation to stream reaches using hydrological catchments. I also identified the effect of high-impact land use on water quality in those catchments. I created a graph network of focal habitat, and analyzed it in order to identify patches and scales important for maintaining connectivity. The result is a method that uses readily available, standardized data to identify functionally connected habitat for multiple focal species at many spatial scales. It includes a hydrological component that incorporates freshwater protection. With additional study, the method can be used to incorporate a functional connectivity perspective in conjunction with existing conservation planning strategies. By identifying functional connectivity as an integral component of conservation planning, conservation efforts will better protect biodiversity by allowing for functional, viable populations to exist.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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