U.S. National Park Service land managers face a variety of challenges to preserving the biodiversity in their parks. A principle challenge is to minimize the impacts of surrounding land use on park condition and biodiversity. In the absence of ideal sets of data and models, the present study develops methods and results that demonstrate a coarse-filter approach to understanding the effects of land use change on habitat types for four pilot study-areas. The area of analysis for each park is defined by a protected-area-centered-ecosystem. Habitat types were defined by biophysical factors assumed to represent the distribution of vegetation communities as they may have existed prior to European settlement. Present-day land use was overlaid on historical habitat and change in area and pattern was quantified for private and public lands separately. Results suggest that patterns of development are affecting study-areas differently. Therefore, the conservation challenges faced by each study-area are distinct to their landscape contexts. For some parks, the primary challenge is to work towards maintaining ecosystem condition in its present or near-present state while paying particular attention to habitats that are underrepresented on public lands. For other parks, the challenge is to address spatially aggregated land use that is affecting only a few habitat types. For still other parks, the challenge is to maintain connectivity with a regional network of protected lands and to undertake restoration projects where feasible. The present methods and results help to focus conservation attention on habitats that have been most impacted by land use change.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation