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Article

Including Condition into Ecological Maps Changes Everything—A Study of Ecological Condition in the Conterminous United States

1
Wicked Solutions Environmental LLC, Boulder, CO 80304, USA
2
NatureServe, Arlington County, VA 22201, USA
3
Tetra Tech Inc., Pasadena, CA 91101, USA
4
Environmental Defense Fund, New York, NY 10001, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Richard C. Smardon
Land 2021, 10(11), 1145; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111145
Received: 25 September 2021 / Revised: 20 October 2021 / Accepted: 25 October 2021 / Published: 27 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Identifying Endangered Terrestrial Ecosystems)
In 2021, the Biden administration signed an executive order to protect 30% of American lands by 2030. Accomplishing this ambitious goal in the U.S. requires understanding the relative contribution of public and private lands toward supporting biodiversity. New approaches are needed because existing approaches focus on quantity of habitat without incorporating quality. To fill this need, we developed a 30 m resolution national habitat condition index (HCI) that integrates quality and quantity measures of habitat. We hypothesized that including an evaluation of the quality of habitat at landscape scales, both in conservation-focused preserves and working lands would provide a better assessment of the value of geographies for conservation. We divided the conterminous U.S. by major land cover type and into natural and cultivated lands and then spatially mapped multiple anthropogenic stressors, proximity to aquatic habitat, and vegetation departure from expected natural disturbance regimes. Each map layer was then scored for site impact and distance decay and combined into a final national index. Field observations providing scored relative ecological conditions were used for HCI calibration and validation at both CONUS and regional scales. Finally, we evaluate lands by management (conservation versus working lands) and ownership (public versus private) testing the value of these lands for conservation. While we found regional differences across CONUS, functional habitat was largely independent of protection status: working lands provide clear habitat and other values. These results are relevant for guiding strategies to achieve the U.S. 30 by 30 goals. Where similar data exist in other countries, analogous modeling could be used to meet their national conservation commitments. View Full-Text
Keywords: landscape ecology; conservation; habitat quality; conservation planning landscape ecology; conservation; habitat quality; conservation planning
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MDPI and ACS Style

Knight, K.B.; Comer, P.J.; Pickard, B.R.; Gordon, D.R.; Toombs, T. Including Condition into Ecological Maps Changes Everything—A Study of Ecological Condition in the Conterminous United States. Land 2021, 10, 1145. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111145

AMA Style

Knight KB, Comer PJ, Pickard BR, Gordon DR, Toombs T. Including Condition into Ecological Maps Changes Everything—A Study of Ecological Condition in the Conterminous United States. Land. 2021; 10(11):1145. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111145

Chicago/Turabian Style

Knight, Kevin B., Patrick J. Comer, Brian R. Pickard, Doria R. Gordon, and Theodore Toombs. 2021. "Including Condition into Ecological Maps Changes Everything—A Study of Ecological Condition in the Conterminous United States" Land 10, no. 11: 1145. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111145

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