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Evaluating and using existing models to map probable suitable habitat for rare plants to inform management of multiple-use public lands in the California desert

April 19, 2019

Multiple-use public lands require balancing diverse resource uses and values across landscapes. In the California desert, there is strong interest in renewable energy development and important conservation concerns. The Bureau of Land Management recently completed a land-use plan for the area that provides protection for modeled suitable habitat for multiple rare plants. Three sets of habitat models were commissioned for plants of conservation concern as part of the planning effort. The Bureau of Land Management then needed to determine which model or combination of models to use to implement plan requirements. Our goals were to: 1) develop a process for evaluating the existing habitat models and 2) use the evaluation results to map probable and potential suitable habitat. We developed a method for evaluating the construction (input data and methods) and performance of existing models and applied it to 88 habitat models for 43 rare plant species. We also developed a process for mapping probable and potential suitable habitat based on the existing models; potential habitat maps are intended only to guide future field surveys. We were able to map probable suitable habitat for 26 of the 43 species and potential suitable habitat for 41 species. Forty percent of the project area contains probable suitable habitat for at least one species (43,338 km2), with much of that habitat (43%) occurring on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Lands prioritized for renewable energy development contain 3% of the habitat modeled as suitable for at least one species. Our products can be used by agencies to review proposed projects and plan future plant surveys and by developers to target sites likely to minimize conflicts with rare plant conservation goals. Our methods can be broadly applied to understand and quantify the defensibility of models used in conservation and regulatory contexts.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Evaluating and using existing models to map probable suitable habitat for rare plants to inform management of multiple-use public lands in the California desert
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0214099
Authors Gordon Reese, Sarah K. Carter, Christina Lunch, Steve Walterscheid
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Series Number
Index ID 70203199
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center