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Evaluation of landscapes for ecological quality.
WHITE, MARY1, MAURICE, CHARLES1, 1
ABSTRACT- Is it possible to quantitatively assess the quality of ecosystems at a landscape scale over a large (6 state) area? The Critical Ecosystems Team of EPA Region 5 was charged with this task in order to prioritize areas for Regional protection and restoration efforts. Three criteria were identified that would be necessary in an ecosystem in order to consider it a "critical ecosystem". These are 1) high biodiversity 2) self-sustainability and 3) rare or endangered species, features or communities. A GIS based model was developed using data layers to populate each of these criteria. In many cases, the actual data for the criteria did not exist at a regional level, and appropriate proxies were used. The results identify ecosystems that satisfy all three criteria, as well as a distribution of ecosystem "scores". These results can be immediately applied in at least two intriguing ways. 1) The ecosystems identified can be evaluated for threat, so that agencies and interest groups with a stake in the area can be alerted to the vulnerability, and 2) the distribution of "scores" can be used as a base line to which future protection and restoration efforts can be compared.
KEY WORDS: landscape, criteria, GIS, ecosystems