SDE Feature Class
habitat suitability, land facet, patch configuration, Mohave Desert, patch size, Sonoran Desert, least-cost corridor, California
The primary objective of this effort is to identify lands essential to maintain or restore functional connectivity among wildlands for all species or ecological processes of interest in the California deserts and as a vital adaptation strategy to conserve biodiversity during climate change.
The rapidly increasing demands being placed on our deserts points to the urgent need for a comprehensive habitat connectivity assessment that spans jurisdictional boundaries and promotes the partnerships needed to implement a regional conservation strategy for this diverse and striking landscape. The primary goal of the California Desert Connectivity Project is to identify areas where maintenance or restoration of ecological connectivity is essential for conserving the unique biological diversity of California's deserts. Identification of these key areas of connectivity will help inform land management and conservation decisions, infrastructure improvements and mitigation options in the face of future land-use pressures as well as climate change. Another goal of the project was to produce implementable linkage designs and provide the necessary data and information to inform land management, land acquisition, restoration (e.g., habitat restoration and restoration of permeability across transportation barriers), and stewardship in connectivity zones. In 2009, SC Wildlands brought together regional ecologists to conduct a formal evaluation of 47 linkages associated with the California deserts. The evaluation was designed to assess the biological irreplaceability and vulnerability of each linkage (sensu Noss et al. 2002). Irreplaceability assessed the relative biological value of each linkage, including both terrestrial and aquatic criteria: 1) size of habitat blocks served by the linkage; 2) quality of existing habitat in the smaller habitat block; 3) quality and amount of existing habitat in the proposed linkage; 4) linkage to other ecoregions or key to movement through the ecoregion; 5) facilitation of seasonal movement and responses to climatic change; and 6) addition of value for aquatic ecosystems. Vulnerability and threat was primarily evaluated by comparing proposed renewable energy projects and study areas, and proposed road projects that might disrupt animal movement among targeted Landscape Blocks (i.e., areas protected from energy development and roads). Landscape Blocks include BLM Wilderness Areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), national and state parks, federal and state wildlife refuges, private conservation reserves, and military reservations. This process identified 23 crucial linkages that were each defined by a pair of Landscape Blocks that should remain connected. One of the 23 linkage planning areas, the Mojave National Preserve to Joshua Tree National Park, was determined to be redundant with a previously delineated linkage design between Joshua Tree-Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base (Penrod et al. 2008) and the linkage planning area between Mojave National Preserve and Twentynine Palms. Thus, this process focused on 22 linkages that could be irretrievably compromised by development projects over the next decade unless immediate conservation action occurs (Figure 1). The biological integrity of several thousand square miles of wildlands in the California desert would be irreversibly jeopardized if these linkages were lost.
Produced for the Bureau of Land Management and The Wildlands Conservancy. Produced by Science and Collaboration for Connected Wildlands, Fair Oaks, CA www.scwildlands.org and Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona http://oak.ucc.nau.edu/pb1/ .
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