This file contains a series of indexed conservation parameters and a cumulative relative conservation value scores. The file was created as part of a 7-state, wildlife action plan priority standardization project. The project, directed by the Open Space Institute (http://www.osiny.org) , was designed to complete a comprehensive GIS-based assessment of critical SWAP priority land protection targets across the greater Southern Appalachian range of AL, GA, TN, NC, SC, KY, and VA. The project developed a series of uniform geospatial data layers that illustrated ecological connectivity and associated wildlife habitat corridors at landscape-scale throughout the project region, as well as a standard analytical approach to climate change vulnerability. This work supported efforts by state agencies to update their individual SWAPs for climate change. The project assembled corridors and modeled aquatic features in a series of combined resource layers and compare them to climate change vulnerability models to identify âat-riskâ habitat and potential acquisition, restoration or other opportunities to enhance land management. By highlighting interstate connectivity among SWAP priority areas and engaging key state stakeholders in the process, the project facilitated increased collaboration and communication among state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and land conservation funders. OSIâs work was designed to help focus and rationalize the regionâs SWAPS in significant ways. The project also identified key regional-scale priorities for SWAP-related land protection and restoration projects in a sub-region of the Southern Cumberland Plateau and Southern Ridge and Valley regions in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, where OSI and various foundations, including most prominently the Lyndhurst Foundation, sought to build on earlier successes and capitalize a land protection fund focused on protecting SWAP habitat. This project was built on significant prior planning and established the foundation for more comprehensive future efforts. While possessing some of the nationâs most significant wildlife habitat, the Southern Appalachians have not enjoyed anywhere near the level of attention or funding of other regions. Priority conservation forest blocks were created in a multi-step ranking process:Â
Step 1: Forest block delineation and landscape metrics â¢ Ecological systems data from the Southeast GAP Analysis project (2008) was used to create a natural landscape model at 30-meter resolution. â¢ Landscape metrics for core area, core area index, proximity, and perimeter-to-area ratios were calculated using FRAGSTATSÂ
. â¢ Metric values were joined to converted vector output files and reclassified by natural statistical breaks or equal intervals, resulting in 4 individual forest patch metric vector files. â¢ Reclassified values were assigned a rank of 1-9, where 9 equals highest valued metric score range. â¢ The 4 reclassified metric vector files were combined, creating a single file with a range of values from 1 â 38. â¢ All Forest blocks were filtered by area, where âhectares => 200â. â¢ Forest blocks < 200 ha were extracted and reclassified as matrix habitat Step 2: Forest blocks and natural landscape index â¢ Forest blocks were reclassified by natural statistical breaks to a scale of 5 - 10, where 10 = maximum combination of metric scores and 5 = the lowest. â¢ Reclassified forest blocks where combined with land cover values extracted from the 2008 GAP land cover dataset where: o 1 = Roads, Medium/High Intensity Developed, Open Water, Bare Soil, or Quarries, Mines, or Pits. o 2 = Low Intensity Developed o 3 = Open Space-Developed, Recently Disturbed, or Clearcuts o 4 = Agricultural Land Use, Or Forestry Lands Resulting combined model has a range of 1 â 10, where 10 indicates least disturbed natural landscape. Step 3: Ranking forest blocks for cumulative priority index â¢ Filtered forest blocks with values of 1 â 38 were assigned a ranking score under the attribute column heading âgridscoreâ based upon the following scheme: o values 1 â 10 = 10 o values 11-20 = 20 o values 21-30 = 30 o values 31-38 = 40 Step 4: Ranking forest blocks for natural heritage occurrences â¢ Forest blocks were assigned a value of 10 to the ânat_herâ field in the attribute table for all features intersecting a natural heritage occurrence of selected SWAP greatest conservation need species (GCN) . A value of 0 = no GCN species present Step 5: Ranking forest blocks for modeled GCN species â¢ Forest blocks were assigned a value of 10 to the âgapâ field in the attribute table for all features intersecting modeled terrestrial vertebrate habitat models produced by the GAP Analysis Project (http://gapanalysis.usgs.gov) for select project GCN species. A value of 0 = no GCN modeled species distribution present. Step 6: Combined ranking of SWAP GCN species â¢ A value of 10 was assigned to all forest blocks containing a value of 10 for the ânat_herâ field or the âgapâ field. A value of 0 = no modeled or documented GCN species present in feature Step 7: Ranking forest blocks for modeled CircuitScape corridors â¢ Circuitscape (http://www.circuitscape.org/Circuitscape/Welcome.html) was used to model corridors of high current (movement potential) using a reclassified inverse version of the natural landscape index (described in previous section). The top half of modeled current values were extracted and converted into a vector format for selection and ranking of intersecting forest blocks. These intersecting forest blocks serve as the anchors and hubs of modeled landscape corridors. A value of 10 was added to the âcs_corrâ field for features containing selected modeled Circuitscape results. A value of 0 = no modeled Circuitscape results. Step 8: Ranking forest blocks by aquatic SWAP priorities â¢ Aquatic SWAP priority values were added to a field named âAquaSWAPâ when forest blocks that contained intersecting buffers of streams were located within a watershed containing SWAP GCN species. A value of 10 indicates that a forest block contains a stream buffer. A value of 0 = no stream buffer. Step 9: Ranking forest blocks by vulnerable aquatic SWAP species â¢ A value of 10 was assigned to a field named âCCVI_aqâ when forest blocks intersected buffers of streams located within watersheds containing climate change vulnerable GCN species. Climate change vulnerability was assessed by expert reviewers using NatureServeâs Climate Change Vulnerability Index, http://www.natureserve.org/prodServices/climatechange/ccvi.jsp . A value of 0 = no climate change vulnerable aquatic species habitat present. Step 10: Ranking forest blocks by vulnerable terrestrial SWAP species â¢ A value of 10 was assigned to a field named âVulnerableâ when forest blocks intersected modeled or documented species occurrences or habitat. Climate change vulnerability was assessed by expert reviewers using NatureServeâs Climate Change Vulnerability Index, http://www.natureserve.org/prodServices/climatechange/ccvi.jsp . A value of 0 = no climate change vulnerable GCN terrestrial species present in forest block. Step 11: Calculating cumulative relative conservation value score â¢ A value of 30 â 90 was assigned to the âind_scoreâ field in forest blocks by combining ranking values calculated by the sum of [gridcode] + [SWAP] + [AquaSWAP] + [Corridor] + [CCVI_aq] + [Vulnerable] . A value of 90 represents the highest priority of conservation targets on the landscape. A value of 30 represents the lowest priority of conservation targets. It should be noted that all forest blocks ranked represent the largest remaining intact habitat blocks. Scores were not assigned to matrix habitat.