South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint 2.2

Overview of the Blueprint

The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint is a living spatial plan to conserve natural and cultural resources for future generations. It identifies shared conservation priorities across the South Atlantic region.

Blueprint 2.2, released in November 2017, is a totally data-driven plan based on terrestrial, freshwater, marine, and cross-ecosystem indicators. It uses the current condition of those indicators to prioritize the most important areas for natural and cultural resources across the South Atlantic geography. Through a connectivity analysis, the Blueprint also identifies corridors that link coastal and inland areas and span climate gradients. The Blueprint reflects extensive feedback from the broader cooperative community, with more than 500 people from over 150 different organizations actively participating in its development so far.

The need for a blueprint

The lands and waters of the South Atlantic are changing rapidly. Climate change, urban growth, and increasing human demands on resources are reshaping the landscape. While these forces cut across political and jurisdictional boundaries, the conservation community does not have a consistent cross-boundary, cross-organization plan for how to respond. The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint is that plan.

While spatial conservation planning is not a new concept, the Blueprint is unique in a few ways:

  1. The Blueprint was developed by the cooperative, for the cooperative–not for any one organization.
  2. The Blueprint operates at a bigger scope and scale, stitching together natural and cultural resources as well as multiple states, ecosystems, and species.
  3. The Blueprint serves as an adaptation strategy by incorporating sea-level rise and urbanization projections.

Implementing the Blueprint

The Blueprint has already been used in at least thirty different projects by organizations like the Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and many others. The Blueprint has helped members of your cooperative attract national fire resilience funding to the region, compete for coastal wetlands protection grants, plan for major disasters, provide landscape-scale context for public lands planning, and prioritize fish passage efforts. The South Atlantic LCC intends the Blueprint to eventually become a “gold standard” for guiding large landscape conservation.

Exploring the Blueprint

You can explore the Blueprint in three ways:

The Simple Viewer provides an easy way to explore summarized Blueprint and indicator information. The CPA provides detailed metadata and offers more advanced functions like overlaying multiple layers and exporting maps. You can also download the Blueprint to import directly into your desktop GIS software.

Known Issues

Here are the known issues identified with the latest version of the Blueprint:

  • Some aquatic areas, particularly smaller rivers and streams, are over-prioritized. The imperiled aquatic species indicator is at a subwatershed (HUC12) scale while the species hotspots it seeks to depict are often only a part of that subwatershed.
  • Some aquatic areas important for migratory fish are being under-prioritized in areas far upstream due to issues in the migratory fish connectivity indicator.
  • Piedmont prairie areas are under-prioritized. A new indicator that includes some piedmont prairie plants is in development and will hopefully be ready for the next Blueprint update.
  • Urban open space is poorly captured in Georgia and South Carolina. The TNC Secured Lands database used in this indicator is missing many urban protected areas in these states. An update in the near future will fill in many of these missing urban protected areas.
  • Congaree National Park is under-prioritized. This is likely due to the forested wetland bird indicator under-predicting Swainson’s warbler in the area. Methods for resolving this issue are under development.
  • Some forested wetlands are under-prioritized (e.g., some areas along the Black River in Clarendon, Sumter, and Lee Counties of South Carolina). This appears to be caused by issues with depicting both current and historic forested wetlands. A finer resolution approach for the next Blueprint, which is under investigation, should help improve this issue.
  • Sections of some rivers seem to be under-prioritized including the Nottoway, Lumber, Lynches, North Fork of the Edisto, Salkahachee, Ocmulgee, Aucilla, Lower Wakulla, Econfina, and St. Marks. Investigation of this issue is ongoing.
  • Important Carolina Bays are often included in large patches of medium priority but the bays and nearby areas should be higher priority. Different methods for resolving this issue are under investigation.
  • Some small patches of longleaf pine with good local conditions are under-prioritized (e.g., South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve). Ongoing efforts to improve fire tracking and develop a finer resolution Blueprint could improve this issue in future updates.
  • Some large patches of working lands are under-prioritized, particularly in the Big Bend of Florida. Improved working lands and patch size metrics are in development. For the Big Bend of Florida, using the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy Blueprint, which combines the South Atlantic and Peninsular Florida Blueprint, greatly improves this issue.
  • Mouths of many priority rivers are under-prioritized where they transition into the estuarine ecosystem. These open water parts of the estuary ecosystem tend to have poorer water quality and thus low scores on the coastal condition index. Additional indicators for the open water parts of the estuarine ecosystem are under development and should resolve this issue.
  • The priorities for the open water parts of the estuary ecosystem are based only on the coastal condition index and do not include a number of other important natural and cultural components of that ecosystem. Additional indicators for the open water parts of the estuarine ecosystem are under development.
  • Some deepwater coral areas that haven’t been surveyed/mapped are likely under-prioritized. Investigation into an approach that combines known areas with suitability models is ongoing.
  • Some marine areas in the far eastern part of the LCC, particularly beyond the Blake Plateau, may be under-prioritized due a lack of survey data for marine birds and mammals in that region.