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Strategic conservation assessment tool suite: a science-based conservation framework for the Us Gulf of Mexico region
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2020 Authors: Samiappan S., Shamaskin A., Evans K., Liu J.

The overwhelming consensus among the conservation experts is the immediate requirement for efficient science-based geospatial conservation tools that can help guide or optimize the dollars spent on conservation based on the ecological benefits. In this work, we demonstrate a suite of conservation tools for conservation prioritization and visualization that enables integration of 1) openly available peer-reviewed data from federal and state agencies, 2) the priorities and values identified in local and regional plans with those identified by stakeholders representing local and regional agencies and organizations, and 3) a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) based optimization framework for assessing potential conservation projects. The framework developed as part of this work is implemented as geospatial web tools. The tool was developed and tested with five conservation goals proposed by the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) Restore Council and was used as a framework for grouping the identified conservation plans and projects. The goals are 1. Restore and Conserve Habitat, 2 Restore Water Quality, 3. Replenish and Protect Living and Marine Resources, Enhance Community Resilience, and Restore and Revitalize the Gulf Economy. The tool suite consists of three tools, 1) conservation inventory tool (CIT), 2) conservation prioritization tool (CPT) and 3) conservation visualization (CVT). The CIT is the first large-scale regional assessment of conservation planning efforts across governmental and non-governmental organizations encompassing all ecosystem types in the GoM. This comprehensive inventory tool is vital to understand the key factors that may drive existing conservation efforts, as well as identify potential gaps in conservation planning efforts. The CPT is using existing data with the MCDA to provide decision support to search for the project or ranking of all the alternatives based on decision-makers' preferences. Decision-makers prefer a decision support method that doesn't require explicit preference information from them due to several political and apolitical reasons. The CPT can provide decision support merely on potential land parcels and publicly available peer-reviewed or government-provided data can alleviate any bias and thereby provide purely science-based support. The CVT is developed to enable the users to explore the data behind CPT to identify potential regions using MCDA for conservation in the GoM. The CVT does not require potential project footprints to perform CPT like analysis rather it is performed on small hexagon parcels of 1 square km size spread across GoM.

2017 MWRRI Annual Report
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