stvincentnwr_prescribedfiredrybararea_usfws_smallFor many conservation or resource management organizations, understanding how to measure the impacts of management actions is an important task and the South Atlantic LCC is no exception. The endpoints are clear–the Blueprint indicators– so the task becomes modeling how management actions (e.g., prescribed burning, ecosystem restoration, land acquisitions) affect them. I am one of a team of researchers at Duke University that is tackling this question.

Some of you joined us this past month during the monthly web forum for an update on the projects progress. Briefly, we have two goals for this project: (1) to assess direct and indirect changes to indicators caused by management actions and (2) to demonstrate how to embed those changes into a decision framework to aid decision-making processes. To tackle this problem, the South Atlantic developed a number of use-case scenarios that represent questions the South Atlantic LCC thinks organizations in the southeast are asking. We are working with two at the moment:

1. Impacts of prescribed burning. Our goal is to develop a geospatial tool that will demonstrate changes to the pine and prairie ecosystem indicators caused by prescribed burning. Users will input a shapefile of areas that will or have been burned and the tool will output updated indicator rasters and change rasters highlighting which cells have changed values.

2. Impacts of land acquisition. The goal for this use case is a second geospatial tool that will output updated indicator rasters and change rasters for all indicators affected by a land acquisition. Land acquisition is an avoided conversion problem – so the question we are asking is how the indicators would change if that land were developed or converted to agriculture.

Both of these tools are under development and we make be able to tackle additional use case scenarios in the coming months. We also hope to work on assessing changes in connectivity caused by management actions–at the scale of the LCC, most individual projects are likely to have important, but localized impacts on the indicators. However, changes in connectivity could be more substantial and capturing those would be great information.

We’ve been working on this project for most of this year and will continue working on it for much of next year. I’ve had the pleasure of being the liaison between the Duke team and the South Atlantic LCC team since the start of the project, but will be passing the torch to Mariano Gonzalez-Roglich for the next several months while I pursue a temporary opportunity in Tanzania. Mariano is a post-doc with Duke and has extensive experience with geospatial analysis and remote sensing, so he will prove to be a great asset to the South Atlantic LCC!