Identifying Focal Wildlife Conservation Areas on Private Lands in North Carolina
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There are over 1,200 threatened or endangered animal species in the U.S, of which 36 are located in North Carolina. To address this problem of species imperilment, all 50 states developed State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP). As requested by Congress, each SWAP is to identify priority conservation areas in which limited resources can be directed towards. The North Carolina WAP lacks priority conservation areas. This paper identifies focal wildlife conservation areas on private lands in Moore, Hoke, Richmond, and Scotland counties for the purpose of maintaining and protecting biodiversity and assisting the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in WAP implementation. A geographic information system (GIS) was used to conduct the analysis. Three principal datasets were used in identifying focal areas: 1) North Carolina Gap Analysis Project (NCGAP) wildlife distribution models, 2) North Carolina land cover from 2001, and 3) NCGAP protected land boundaries. The focal areas were ranked individually based on three metrics: betweenness, area, and distance to protected land. Betweenness is based on the Euclidean distance between pairs of patches. A habitat patch with high betweenness is significant ecologically, because it indicates how important a particular patch is in maintaining linkages among other patches. The area of a patch is important in assessing whether a species would be able to survive a large-scale natural disturbance. Also, larger patches generally support a greater number of species or individuals. Finally, conserving patches of land that are close to protected lands increases the likelihood that species associated with the patches will continue to persist (i.e., species are more able to disperse throughout the landscape). Thirty-three potential wildlife conservation sites were identified. This information can assist conservation planners when dealing with limited funding and personnel. The approach of my analysis can be applied more broadly in order to establish habitat conservation or connectivity at a regional scale.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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