Project Profile for A Decision Support System for Identifying and Ranking Critical Habitat Parcels On and In the Vicinity of Department of Defense Installations

Client/Sponsor Strategic Environmental Research and Defense Program (SERDP)
Collaborating Organizations
  • Department of Biology, Virginia Tech
  • Duke University Marine Lab
Project Location Southeastern US Department of Defense Lands
Period of Performance April 2006 - June 2008
CMI Personnel Associated Personnel
Paige Marie Baldassaro

Habitat fragmentation continues to impede threatened and endangered species management, especially in the southeastern United States, where land development has removed much of the viable habitats connected to Department of Defense (DoD) installations. Because of its endangered status and large area requirements, the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) has become the focal point for TES conservation on military installations and affects natural resource management and training activities more than any other species in this region. Extensive knowledge of the RCW's biology supports development of effective management tools. By arming DoD managers with tools to assess the conservation value of RCW habitats on and in the vicinity of their installations, appropriate management actions can be implemented to maximize the use of these lands.

The objective of this project is to develop a user-friendly geographic information system (GIS)-based, spatially explicit decision support system (DSS) from RCW habitat and population information to help DoD identify and prioritize habitat parcels on and in the vicinity of installations in the southeastern United States. With this system, users will be able to assess the effects of landscape fragmentation, habitat loss, habitat restoration, and no management action on RCW populations, now and in the future.

Using state-of-the-art spatial modeling and GIS technologies, this project will couple an existing, validated, and peer-reviewed individually based, spatially explicit RCW population model with actual landscape features on and in the vicinity of study installations. Although these technologies are not new, they have never been combined in this way to create a management tool. To start, landscape and habitat data for Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and their surrounding areas will be compiled within a GIS raster environment. For each study installation, a habitat suitability surface will be created based on foraging and nesting requirements of the RCW. The value of land parcels within this surface then will be assessed through simulations of the population model, which will be modified to incorporate new information on RCW dispersal behavior and to create an interface with the habitat layer. The end result will be a user-friendly DSS that combines the parameters and algorithms contained in the RCW model with the spatial representation of the real landscape. The DSS first will be tested on a small portion of Fort Bragg, then applied to a large portion of the landscape on and surrounding Fort Bragg, and subsequently to Camp Lejeune. The conservation value of land parcels will be measured in terms of their projected contribution to RCW population behavior.

This project will provide a powerful tool, focused on the species that drives natural resource management in the southeastern United States, for enhancing DoD efforts involving the landscape surrounding each installation. The system will provide installations that can create a GIS data layer containing the locations of all existing woodpecker groups the capability to analyze potential interaction of that population with any land parcel for which the habitat condition is known. Additional criteria related to military training easily can be combined with the results of this project to determine which parcels offer the greatest synergy between endangered species management objectives and management of encroachment in the surrounding area to support future training requirements.

The transition plan for this work is based largely on the need for DoD installations to implement the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) plans. This product will directly assist Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune with their ACUB prioritization and provides a framework for similar analysis for any installation to incorporate endangered species information into their ACUB strategy. The DSS is portable across landscapes and species groups assuming appropriate information is available to construct realistic model component scores for population and habitat. We anticipate future efforts that build on this one further our understanding of managing endangered species while simultaneously supporting the military training mission.

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