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Biodiversity Impacts from Urban Growth
A Report on GAP Research Project #00HQAG0009

Department of Geography, University of California-Santa Barbara

The analysis of conflicts between biodiversity and urbanization re-
quires several types of input data, collected at varying spatial scales.
Urban planners working at the county level need both fine-grain
data such as endangered species locations and, simultaneously,
coarse-filter ecoregional information and socioeconomic indicators.
Whereas much ecological research is done at relatively fine spatial
scales, other work uses tools such as remote sensing to study habi-
tats more broadly. A major problem in constructing effective deci-
sion support systems for biodiversity planning is thus the integra-
tion of data assessed over multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Work is in progress to develop a biodiversity model that minimizes
scale dependencies, allowing a wide range of normally incompat-
ible data to be integrated. Using the county as the area of analysis,
sites of potential conflict between biodiversity and predicted ur-
banization are forecast at the landscape level. The model approach
facilitates a consistent use of multiscale data and analyses.

Preliminary results are encouraging, showing that quantitative, re-
peatable assessments of biodiversity are possible at multiple spatial
scales. Following an analysis of potential urban growth scenarios,
it appears that a consistent set of species are likely to be impacted,
in spite of significant variation in growth model parameters. Typi-
cally, the 50-year forecast models identify conflicts with species
not currently protected under state or federal regulations. This type
of local, species-specific forecasting will be invaluable to conser-
vation biologists for anticipating and hopefully avoiding future losses
of biodiversity. This work is supported by a grant from the USGS
Gap Analysis Program for the integration of socioeconomic factors
with Gap Analysis and biodiversity planning.

Applications of New York GAP Data

New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Cornell
University, Ithaca, New York

During the last year the New York GAP Project has continued to par-
ticipate in the Hudson River Estuary Biodiversity Conservation Initia-
tive under contract with the New York State Department of Environ-
mental Conservation. In cooperation with the NY Natural Heritage
Program, a gap analysis is under way for the Hudson River Valley
(HRV), and a verbal interim report was presented in May 1999.

In the context of the NY Gap Analysis Project, our work in the HRV
focuses on several biodiversity content and context questions, impor-
tant for evaluating the contributions of the HRV to statewide biodiversity
and relevant to planning for biodiversity conservation in the HRV.
Among the questions we are addressing are the following:

Comparison of HRV with the rest of New York State: 1) How many
and which terrestrial vertebrates and vegetative community associa-
tions (or superalliances) are found in the HRV? 2) What proportion of
the “fine-filter” elements (i.e., species) and “coarse-filter” elements
(i.e., vegetative associations or superalliances) of NY biodiversity are
represented in the HRV? 3) Are there any terrestrial vertebrate species
or vegetative community associations (or superalliances) found only
in the HRV and nowhere else in NY? If so, what are they, and where
are they found in the HRV?

Comparison of HRV counties with each other: 1) What is the ranking
of counties in the HRV for elements of biodiversity represented within
their boundaries at both fine-filter and coarse-filter levels, from most
diverse to least diverse? 2) Which county has the most amphibian spe-

cies? reptile species? bird species? mammal species? 3) Within the
HRV, which species and vegetation types are well represented on pub-
lic lands, and which taxa are poorly or not at all represented on public
lands? 4) What is the ranking of public lands in the HRV for the ele-
ments of biodiversity represented within their boundaries, at both fine-
filter and coarse-filter levels, from most diverse to least diverse?

These kinds of questions are in addition to the traditional gap analysis
questions, which also will be addressed for the HRV: 1) Where are the
centers of high terrestrial vertebrate and vegetative diversity, and where
are they located relative to public lands? 2) Are there “gaps” where we
have regions of high biodiversity in the absence of public land status?

Additional funding was approved for new, complementary, GAP-re-
lated projects which began in April 1999. All projects are focused on
applications of gap analysis and remote sensing methodologies to the
HRV. These projects include development of a spectral signature and
status assessment for expanses of Purple Loosestrife, an invasive, ex-
otic plant species widely distributed in HRV wetlands; development of
procedures for integrating assessment of habitat-specific relative abun-
dance values for breeding birds within land cover types in the HRV,
using the GAP land cover map; and an assessment of threats to
biodiversity from urban and suburban development, based on applica-
tions of socioeconomic information derived from U.S. Census data.
We also have continued to provide GIS support and analytical services
for landscape conservation efforts in the HRV, including maintaining
the growing biodiversity database for the region, analyzing data as re-
quired for implementation of biodiversity conservation strategies, re-
fining the land cover map for the region, and providing information to
communities in the region to aid in local conservation efforts.

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