Report: A Guidebook to Spatial Datasets for Conservation Planning Under Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest
This guidebook report provides user-friendly overviews of a variety of spatial datasets relevant to conservation and management of natural resources in the face of climate change in the Pacific Northwest, United States. Each guidebook chapter was created using a standardized template to summarize a spatial dataset or a group of closely related datasets. Datasets were selected according to standardized criteria based on input through a collaborative process involving researchers and natural-resource managers throughout the Pacific Northwest region. In each chapter, basic spatial and temporal information is provided for the dataset, along with a conceptual overview, glossary of key terms, links to download data and supporting documentation, a brief methods summary describing how the dataset was created, guidelines for dataset interpretation, assessment of uncertainties along with evaluation of caveats and simplifying assumptions, and information about potential and actual conservation applications of the dataset.
Collectively, this information provides natural-resource managers with “snapshots” of a variety of datasets representing diverse processes and conditions, including climate projections, changes in hydrologic conditions, vegetation and fire-regime shifts, animal habitat changes, species movements, and topographic and soil conditions relevant to climate change. Along with other types of data and site-specific information, the datasets described in this guidebook have the potential to inform management of valued natural resources throughout the Pacific Northwest region in the context of adaptation to changing climate conditions.
Purpose & Motivation
Recent advancements in climate modeling, remote sensing, and ecological science have produced a variety of digital geospatial datasets representing many aspects of climate-change ecology. New datasets are published regularly illustrating spatial patterns in climate vulnerability for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Collectively, these datasets represent a wealth of valuable information that can be applied to conservation and natural-resource management in the face of climate change. The ever-increasing body of climate-ecology spatial datasets provides opportunities for natural-resource managers to anticipate climate-driven changes to ecosystems, habitats, and the larger landscape. Consideration of these projected changes may support the long-term effectiveness of management for protected areas, working lands, and other areas managed for biodiversity, recreation, or natural resources.
However, natural-resource managers face many challenges when trying to incorporate these diverse sources of information into on-the-ground decision-making. Managers must commonly juggle multiple priorities with limited resources. Urgent and time-sensitive management needs may leave limited time available to read, digest, and critically assess the technical publications (e.g. journal articles) in which newly published spatial datasets are typically presented. The computer modeling processes and methods that produce spatial datasets are often complex and may require consultation of multiple publications or technical experts to fully evaluate.
Furthermore, different datasets that appear to represent similar landscape processes or characteristics may differ in the landscape patterns they depict. Such differences arise in part because different datasets are produced by different research teams with different modeling approaches, input datasets, conceptual definitions, starting assumptions, and model parameters. Important information needed for accurate dataset interpretation may require searching through multiple sections of publications (e.g., methods and discussion sections, supplementary materials) and sometimes across multiple publications—some of which may not be readily accessible to natural-resource managers. Such critically important information can include model validation and accuracy statistics, simplifying assumptions, caveats on interpretation, and components of landscape processes that are not fully represented by the dataset. All these considerations can result in both uncertainty and information overload, creating barriers for managers seeking to apply climate-ecology spatial datasets to their decision-making.
The purpose of this guidebook is to present user-friendly overviews for a variety of published spatial datasets relevant to conservation and natural-resource management in the face of climate change for the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Datasets are summarized and key features are described briefly, allowing readers to select datasets of interest for further investigation and potential application to their work. Ultimately, the goals of this guidebook are to:
- Support natural-resource managers to discover and examine spatial datasets that might be relevant to their ongoing efforts
- Increase the usefulness and usability of climate-ecology spatial datasets for real-world conservation decision-making
- Help bridge the gap between scientific publications and conservation practice
Photo Credit (clockwise from upper left): (a) 2016 Pioneer Fire in Boise National Forest, Idaho, by Kari Greer, USDA Forest Service; (b) “A mountain lake way up high,” Cascade Mountains, by Glenna Barlow, CC BY 2.0; (c) “Primordial,” stream at Deception Falls, Washington, by John Westrock, CC BY 2.0; (d) Sagebrush steppe in Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, southwest Wyoming, by Tom Koerner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service