Northwest Boreal LCC and BEACONs Release Conservation Framework for Region

Northwest Boreal LCC and BEACONs Release Conservation Framework for Region

WMI’s partners in Alaska and Canada have developed a new approach for proactive planning for landscape conservation that incorporates adaptive management in the context of uncertainty and change across the boreal forest. The result is a scientific framework for comprehensive conservation planning that includes consideration of both protected areas and lands managed for a variety of economic and cultural values.

The analysis includes the identification of a suite of candidate benchmark networks options for ecoregions across the study area. The network options can be ranked and refined to best contribute to regional land use plans and associated conservation goals.

The BEACONS (Boreal Ecosystems Analysis for Conservation Networks) team has released a ground-breaking analysis of ecosystem and species dynamics across more than 300 million acres of Alaska and Northwest Canada. They teamed up with the Northwest Boreal LCC (NWB LCC), whose 30-plus public-private partners –Canadian and United States federal agencies, province/territorial governments, First Nations/Alaska Native Tribes, academic, and non-governmental organizations – are advancing science and sharing innovative ways of working across boundaries. The project asks, “If sustainable land management is a grand experiment, what are the controls?”

“We recognized that conventional approaches to conservation planning were not well-suited to the challenges and opportunities facing boreal systems in Alaska and Canada, and that sustaining these dynamic ecosystems required a different approach,” said Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow, Principal Investigator for BEACONs. Integrating the fields of conservation science and resource management allows us to identify solutions for achieving sustainability that embraces shared stewardship of these systems.”

Within an adaptive management framework, benchmark areas serve as reference areas or controls for detecting and understanding the influence of human activity on ecological systems. They can support identification of management practices that sustain the many environmental, cultural, and economic values associated with the northwest boreal region, and help to manage risk.

The design of ecological benchmarks considers landscape condition and variability, natural disturbance (e.g., fire), terrestrial and hydrologic connectivity, focal species habitat, and resilience to climate change. Candidate benchmark areas can be further evaluated based on cultural and socio-economic values, or other attributes of interest. The NWB LCC region has high potential for the establishment of a comprehensive benchmark network with contributions from existing protected areas. The team identified benchmarks for 30 ecoregions and each includes numerous network options.

Product Summary:

  • Reports on the identification of benchmarks and use of focal species in the design and selection of benchmark networks.
  • Transboundary datasets associated with fire, hydrology, various landscape measures (e.g., land cover, gross primary productivity), and climate change.
  • Habitat layers for 10 priority species and species guilds.
  • Website with interactive maps and tables for exploring benchmark options in relation to landscape measures, climate change, and focal species, and links to associated documentation and downloadable datasets.
  • Ranking tables that assess the relative suitability of benchmarks with regards to climate change resilience and focal species. Users have the flexibility to re-rank benchmark options using selected characteristics
  • Shapefiles of benchmark options, and all other project datasets are available for download.

For more information, contact: Kim Lisgo or Fiona Schmiegelow. Training events are being planned for early 2018. You can also explore the project online.

Photo Credit
Juri Peepre, Creative Commons
December 15, 2017