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Modeling Wildlife Habitat Corridors in the Greater Grand Staircase-Escalante Ecosystem

Published Aug 18, 2010

Side canyon off of Escalante Canyon

Researchers at the Center for Landscape Analysis used Gap Analysis data to identify potential animal movement corridors for black bear, bald eagle, desert bighorn sheep, mountain lion, and peregrine falcon. The Greater Grand Staircase-Escalante Ecosystem was established as a National Monument in September, 1996; partially due to the role it plays as a a landscape connector between Glen Canyon, Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks. However, the location and size of key connectors were unresolved in the initial Managaement Plan for the monument.

Potential travel corridors for species were analyzed according to the spatial relationship between roads and the species’ preferred habitat. Species habitat suitability models were obtained from the Utah Gap Analysis Project. The Utah GAP vegetation coverages were also used. A “distance to water” buffer was added to the habitat models, to correct distributions for species closely linked with water. Using ARC/INFO, a cost surface grid was derived for each species in the study using the habitat suitability data. Once developed, each cost surface was modified to increase costs according to the influence of roads.

The Result

A total of 20 corridors were identified–one for each species between four points. These were combined by adding the values for individual grid cells to create a composite corridor. This is a predictive method only, but seems to make biological sense in predicting where species are likely to move across the southern Utah landscape.

References:

Modeling Wildlife Habitat Corridors in the Greater Grand Staircase-Escalante Ecosystem.Hartley, D. and G.H. Aplet. in van Riper III, C.,  K.A. Thomas, and M.A. Stuart (Eds). 2001. Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau. U.S. Geological Survey/FRESC Report Series USGSFRESC/COPL/2001/24.

Learn more:

Modeling Wildlife Habitat Corridors in the Greater Grand Staircase-Escalante Ecosystem. (PDF, 889kb)