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Land-use threats and protected areas: a scenario-based, landscape level approach

April 8, 2014

Anthropogenic land use will likely present a greater challenge to biodiversity than climate change this century in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Even if species are equipped with the adaptive capacity to migrate in the face of a changing climate, they will likely encounter a human-dominated landscape as a major dispersal obstacle. Our goal was to identify, at the ecoregion-level, protected areas in close proximity to lands with a higher likelihood of future land-use conversion. Using a state-and-transition simulation model, we modeled spatially explicit (1 km2) land use from 2000 to 2100 under seven alternative land-use and emission scenarios for ecoregions in the Pacific Northwest. We analyzed scenario-based land-use conversion threats from logging, agriculture, and development near existing protected areas. A conversion threat index (CTI) was created to identify ecoregions with highest projected land-use conversion potential within closest proximity to existing protected areas. Our analysis indicated nearly 22% of land area in the Coast Range, over 16% of land area in the Puget Lowland, and nearly 11% of the Cascades had very high CTI values. Broader regional-scale land-use change is projected to impact nearly 40% of the Coast Range, 30% of the Puget Lowland, and 24% of the Cascades (i.e., two highest CTI classes). A landscape level, scenario-based approach to modeling future land use helps identify ecoregions with existing protected areas at greater risk from regional land-use threats and can help prioritize future conservation efforts.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Land-use threats and protected areas: a scenario-based, landscape level approach
DOI 10.3390/land3020362
Authors Tamara S. Wilson, Benjamin M. Sleeter, Rachel R. Sleeter, Christopher E. Soulard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Land
Index ID 70100985
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center