Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks

Organizations that work at a landscape scale need tools to be able to prioritize their conservation efforts, and these tools should ideally take into account both the ecology of and stakeholder preferences about the ecosystem. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and partners examined how a landscape level organization like a landscape conservation cooperatives (LCC) might begin to incorporate ecosystem services on private lands into their conservation planning. The project assessed: landowner priorities, the network of organizations that work with private landowners, and how ecosystem services vary spatially across 12 states that make up the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LLC to develop a model for how landscape scale oriented organizations such as LCCs can cost-effectively integrate ecosystem services into their decision making and prioritization processes. Researchers used a survey, social network analysis, and a geospatial mapping analysis to assess these three factors. The methods developed could be transferred and adapted for any other region in the U.S. for large landscape scale assessment.

Landowner priorities were assessed through a survey that gathered information about what ecosystem services landowners value, and what services landowners are concerned with losing. It was conducted so that responses could be mapped by landowner zip-code, and answers could be examined by how they vary spatially.

The second part of the project, the social network analysis also utilized answers from the landowner survey, but examined landowner engagement with land management organizations and programs. It will help identify which organizations or programs can have the most impact in the GPCO region based on how they are connected to both the landowners and other organizations. These “central organizations or programs” could be used by the LCC as targets to help spread information or enact conservation programs.

The third part of the project used GIS to map ecosystem services in the GPCO region at a landscape scale using data only from publicly-available, national-scale sources. Though these maps are somewhat coarse, they provide a useful way for managers to scan the landscape and find areas where ecosystem services of interest could be conserved or restored. These maps can be used to identify where to target further resources for finer-scale analyses. Because this methodology uses publicly-available, national-scale data it can be repeated by other organizations working anywhere in the United States. Read the final report.

This project was conducted by the Nicholas Institute in collaboration with Mississippi State University and with support from the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC).