Developing an Oak Openings Biodiversity Model for Conservation Planning

(2011)  The goal of this project is to produce a document and associated digital data (principally GIS data layers) that will provide the conservation community with a landscape-scale, scientifically-derived, spatially-explicit, and implementable model detailing the relative conservation value of acquisition and restoration efforts within the Oak Openings Region of the Western Lake Erie basin.

The central feature of this project will be a GIS multi-taxa habitat suitability model utilizing a suite of species selected as nested targets within the primary ecosystem targets of the region.  Whenever feasible, the values for the individual species’ models will be constructed using an inductive approach where environmental conditions in areas of known species occurrence are compared to similar sized randomly chosen areas in the region. 

Differences among these “actual” and “simulated” home ranges will be used to construct a model of habitat suitability for each species. 

These values will be then be applied back to the entire region, scoring each 30 m pixel according to the number of suitability criteria that are fulfilled within a neighborhood around that pixel.  The neighborhood size will vary with each species, matching an average home range size for that species.  When data on species’ occurrence is unavailable for the region or the species occurs at too few sites to adequately develop an “ecological signature” of habitat suitability, expert opinion and values derived from the literature will be utilized (i.e., a deductive approach).

During the process of developing the models, experts on Oak Openings flora and fauna will be invited to attend a meeting to discuss and refine the values used as input into the model. When expert opinion differs from values derived from the inductive approach or values found in the literature, the effects of these differences on the model output will be explored through sensitivity analysis.

The output of this model will be data layers identifying areas of: (1) Maximum Conservation Value, and (2) Maximum Restoration Value.  The model will also identify current and potential corridors for wildlife movement and important data gaps to be addressed for future refinement of the model.

Sponsored by The Metroparks of the Toledo Area and the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.