February 2012

R5 Science Seminar Series 2012

Date: Thursday, February 23, 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m., Northeast Region Office Large Auditorium.

Title: Providing Science and Tools in Support of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative: Designing Sustainable Landscapes for Wildlife

Presenter: Kevin McGarigal, Professor, Department of Environmental Conservation, UMass Amherst

Abstract: There is an increasing need for conservation planning over broad spatial extents that accounts for uncertainty in the effects of future climate, urban growth and other land use changes on ecological integrity and wildlife habitat capability. To address this concern in the Northeast under the auspices of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), we are developing a modeling framework that will allow us to 1) simulate landscape changes driven by climate, urban growth and other disturbance processes, 2) assess the consequences of those changes to ecological integrity (coarse filter) and habitat capability for representative species (fine filter), and 3) identify priorities for land protection (e.g., what lands to protect to get the biggest bang for the buck), land management (e.g., what should be the management priorities on existing conservation lands), and ecological restoration (e.g., where should we place a wildlife road crossing structure or upgrade a stream culvert to achieve the greatest improvement in ecological integrity). Here, we will present the status of the first phase of this project designed to build the core components of the landscape change and assessment model and apply it to three pilot watersheds distributed throughout the region; however, we will focus on the diversity of potential products and applications of this modeling framework to inform conservation planning and management in the region.

Bio: Kevin McGarigal is a Professor and Director of the graduate program in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research focuses on identifying and quantifying spatial patterns in the distribution of resources and the agents responsible for those patterns, how these patterns affect variation in the distribution and abundance of wildlife, how these patterns and processes change over time under natural and anthropogenic influences, and how to apply this knowledge to manage natural resources. Because animals live in heterogeneous environments that are constantly changing in response to disturbance and successional processes, knowledge of how the spatial pattern of habitat influences animal movements and population dynamics is essential in order to predict and responsibly manage wildlife. Consequently, much of his work involves spatially-explicit modeling of wildlife populations in heterogeneous and changing environments, including work on a wide variety of species such as marbled salamanders, eastern spadefoot toads, and piping plovers, to name a few. A particular emphasis of his work is on developing software tools for decision support, including programs such as FRAGSTATS for quantifying landscape structure, RMLands for simulating landscape disturbance and succession, and CAPS for quantifying ecological integrity. Currently, he leads the UMass team developing the landscape change, assessment and design model (aka, designing sustainable landscapes project) for the North Atlantic LCC.

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