Good news, everyone! A new draft of Blueprint 2.0 is now ready for review. Please submit your comments by 5/26. This will be the last review draft before the Steering Committee meets in early June to approve a final version.
For those of you that reviewed an earlier draft of Blueprint 2.0 at the workshops, this new version includes a number of major improvements based on workshop feedback. That feedback not only prioritized which improvements we worked on but also helped decide between different analysis options. For example, after rerunning some options for the freshwater aquatic prioritization a few weeks ago, I was sitting on the floor with my laptop looking at the results for the Piedmont and surrounded by all the different maps/comments from the groups reviewing that area. Those comments on missing areas were the deciding factor on the option that made it into this draft.
Here are the major improvements since the Blueprint 2.0 workshops
- Improved marine and estuarine priorities. These are now closer to the original expert-driven Blueprint 1.0 and better incorporate key ecosystem features in the shelf break and Gulf stream that are not hardbottom.
- Improved marine and estuarine connectivity, including connectivity between estuaries and the Gulf stream / shelf break.
- Improved onshore connectivity. This new version uses >300 hubs both inside and outside of the LCC boundaries. The previous version only used 50 hubs within the LCC boundary. This version also prevented corridors from going through medium or high density urban areas and used priority areas as hubs instead of just protected areas.
- Stronger integration of freshwater aquatic priorities and better coverage of smaller streams.
- Mapping errors removed from historic register. A few linear mapping errors in the register were biasing the priorities and corridor routes. These were removed and ecosystem models in those areas rerun.
There also one small error that crept into this review draft. While improving the open water estuaries priorities, a few sections of salt marsh and open water got left out of the prioritization. This is something that will be fixed in the final version.
Dealing with urban growth and sea-level rise
Just one more thing left to cover: how this draft deals with sea-level rise and urban growth. If you were at one of the workshops, you’ll remember the discussions and voting on strategies for dealing with change. Everyone reviewed high priority areas predicted to become urban or transition to a different ecosystem due to sea-level rise by 2050. In the end, everyone voted on what type of strategy they as individuals wanted to be part of. The option ranged from high urgency (prioritize working where change is happening) to low risk (focus on areas not predicted to change by 2050).
The results were really interesting. 82% of the votes supported for working in either sea-level rise transition areas, urban growth areas, or both. This wasn’t a small sample size either. It included 184 people from 64 different organizations. For this reason, the draft Blueprint 2.0 includes priorities both inside and outside of those areas that are predicted to change. Filters in the Blueprint viewer based on urban growth and sea-level rise (coming soon), will help you find your part of the overall strategy for dealing with change.
Reviewing the draft
Alright, it’s review time. Below you will find a link to view draft Blueprint 2.0, a list of known issues, and a link to a form for providing feedback. It might be possible to address some of your comments before the final version of 2.0. Other comments that are more difficult to address will inform the known issues list and future improvements for version 2.1 and beyond. As you all know, even the final version of Blueprint 2.0 won’t be perfect. That is why this version of the Blueprint has a known issues list displayed prominently in the Blueprint description and metadata.
Link to view draft Blueprint 2.0
- Coarse and missing data for marine priorities: Indicator data for much of the marine environment was especially coarse, with large areas of missing data. Non-hardbottom nearshore areas and areas east of the shelf break should be viewed with particular caution.
- Undervalues certain areas near high priority hubs with strong restoration potential: Some areas near, but not directly adjacent to, high priority hubs, have strong potential for restoration and broad landowner support for conservation actions. Ideally, these would have been prioritized more highly in the Blueprint. One example of where this occurred is the Black River Mingo Creek area near Winyah Bay.
- Does not sufficiently incorporate benefits of upstream actions on downstream watersheds: In most cases, conservation actions in a particular watershed have a stronger ecosystem impact on downstream watersheds than upstream watersheds. This was not accounted for in the current Blueprint.
- Does not include waterscapes aquatic connectivity indicators: The two waterscapes indicators (salt and freshwater connectivity, resident fish connectivity) were not used in this version of the Blueprint. They were removed due to technical challenges and counterintuitive results from using them in the prioritization. During validation, versions of the Blueprint using these indicators performed poorly when compared to comments and feedback from aquatic resources specialists at the Blueprint 2.0 workshops.
- Insufficient aggregation of patches in some areas with multiple embedded ecosystems: In some areas, priorities within adjacent ecosystems diverged enough from each other that it created a speckling of high priority areas near hubs of highest priority. The area near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a good example of this issue. This speckling occurred despite the inclusion of landscape indicators covering multiple ecosystems.
- Indicator models: The GIS depiction of each indicator has unique issues and limitations. More details on the modeling of each indicator is available in the metadata for each layer.