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Selecting islands and shoals for conservation based on biological and aesthetic criteria

January 1, 1993

Consideration of biological quality has long been an important component of rating areas for conservation. Often these same areas are highly valued by people for aesthetic reasons, creating demands for housing and recreation that may conflict with protection plans for these habitats. Most methods of selecting land for conservation purposes use biological factors alone. For some land areas, analysis of aesthetic qualities is also important in describing the scenic value of undisturbed land. A method for prioritizing small islands and shoals based on both biological and visual quality factors is presented here. The study included 169 undeveloped islands and shoals a??0.8 ha in the Thousand Islands Region of the St. Lawrence River, New York. Criteria such as critical habitat for uncommon plant and animal species were considered together with visual quality and incorporated into a rating system that ranked the islands and shoals according to their priority for conservation management and protection from development. Biological factors were determined based on previous research and a field survey. Visual quality was determined by visual diagnostic criteria developed from public responses to photographs of a sample of islands. Variables such as elevation, soil depth, and type of plant community can be used to classify islands into different categories of visual quality but are unsuccessful in classifying islands into categories of overall biological quality.