20 Ecoregional Assessments and Conservation Priorities

Time is money. Time, money, and commitment are what make habitat management happen in stands, landscapes, regions, and around the globe, but those resources are limited. Every forest manager has a budget and personnel limitations. Consequently, a manager will need to know where to invest those resources to have the greatest impact on the resources of interest. Getting the “biggest bang for the buck” is the approach that most managers want to take. For instance, consider a forest manager in Alabama with three primary goals: bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer, and timber. Patterns of food patches interfaced with cover are important to deer and quail (albeit at different spatial scales), but making a profit is important as well, so the problem becomes one of optimizing habitat qualities for the two game species, while ensuring profitable timber production. One way to approach this problem is to view habitat for the two species as constraints on the timber production, or alternatively, view timber production as a constraint on habitat for the two species. In either case, the resulting decision is one where one group of resources is given more value than another, and the decision resulting from the analysis can be implemented over space and time to achieve the desired goals (assuming some natural disturbance does not come along and change everything).

Now consider problems likely to occur over much larger areas of space and time. How would you decide where to provide habitat for rare species throughout their geographic range, in order to minimize risk of extinction? Or decide which parcels to buy before they are turned into housing developments? Or decide which nuclei of forests to protect from invasive species before they are overrun? Or decide how to coordinate management actions among landowners over a region to achieve biodiversity goals? Just as landscapes provide the context for stand prescriptions and regions provide the context for landscape management plans, global patterns of biodiversity provide the context for regional conservation strategies (Buchanan et al. 2011). Global patterns of biodiversity will only be conserved if the strategies are implemented among stands over landscapes and among landscapes over regions. Strategies are developed from the top down and implemented from the bottom up. Think globally, act locally. Within this context, it is often difficult to know where to invest the time, money, and commitment to achieve these regional goals (Loyola et al. 2009). Regional assessments can provide the context, and prioritization analyses can provide the guidance for investments.

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