Webinar: Assessing the integrity and climate resilience of collaborative conservation priority areas in the Columbia Plateau ecoregion

Event Type: 
GNLCC Webinar
Date and Time: 
Oct 6, 2015 12:00 pm MDT

Presenters: Tom Miewald, USFWS; Sonia Hall, SAH Ecologia LLC; Madeline Steele, USFWS
Co-author: Patrick Crist, NatureServe

This project builds from a body of work to support conservation planning and design for the Arid Lands Initiative (ALI) in the Columbia Plateau ecoregion. Previous work identified a suite of habitats and species along with their associated viability and stressors, as well as a portfolio of Priority Core Areas (PCAs) and high priority connectivity corridors. This previous work represents a design that, if realized, would improve protection of the current distributions of species, habitats, and connectivity corridors.

This current project describes methods and results for assessing present and future condition of these PCAs. This project can be seen as an intermediate step between the identification of priority areas and the ultimate goal of designing and implementing conservation delivery strategies for the ALI partnership. The outputs of this project are intended to guide decisions for strategy development and implementation.

This project consists of 4 components to provide decision support for implementing landscape scale conservation:

  • The testing of a rapid, field-based approach to assess the current condition of priority conservation areas using an Ecological Integrity Assessment protocol that is adapted for roadside assessment.
  • A spatially explicit climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) was conducted for the ALI core priority areas.  The primary question the analysis was designed to answer is: are particular priority areas expected to be relatively resilient to climate change in to the future? 
  • Development of "scorecards" that summarize elements of connectivity, climate change vulnerability, and current condition for each priority conservation area, and
  • Development of a NatureServe Vista project to support scenario development and future planning needs.

About the presenters:

Tom Miewald is a Geographer and Conservation Planner with the USFWS, focusing on landscape-scale conservation planning and design efforts. Tom has been working for over 20 years in the fields of landscape ecology, planning, and vegetation mapping. 

Sonia Hall has a background in agronomy and landscape ecology, and a passion for helping science inform management decisions at multiple scales. Sonia has worked in conservation of arid lands for over 10 years. She is currently coordinating the Arid Lands Initiative, and working as a liaison between the ALI and science projects with direct applications to the ALI's efforts to coordinate conservation delivery across the Columbia Plateau.

Madeline Steele, a GIS Specialist at SWCA Environmental Consultants, has been providing spatial decision support to the US Fish & Wildlife Service for over two years. She has a master's degree in geography from Portland State University, and enjoys writing mini autobiographies.

Patrick Crist is Director of Conservation Planning and Ecosystem Management for NatureServe, an international non-profit organization specializing in the conservation of biodiversity. Dr. Crist oversees a variety of programs including conservation planning, the EBM Tools Network, and the NatureServe Vista decision support software. His work ranges from local to ecoregional scales and from developing methods and guides to conservation and adaptation plans.



Map of the relative vulnerabilty of the Arid Lands Initiative's Priority Conservation Areas to climate change in the Columbia Plateau ecoregion.