Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Vermont
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Schwenk, W. S., and T. M. Donovan. 2011. A multi-species framework for landscape conservation planning. Conservation Biology 25:1010-1021.


Rapidly changing landscapes have spurred the need for quantitative methods for conservation assessment and planning that encompass large spatial extents. We devised and tested a multispecies framework for conservation planning to complement single-species assessments and ecosystem-level approaches. Our framework consisted of 4 elements: sampling to effectively estimate population parameters, measuring how human activity affects landscapes at multiple scales, analyzing the relation between landscape characteristics and individual species occurrences, and evaluating and comparing the responses of multiple species to landscape modification. We applied the approach to a community of terrestrial birds across 25,000 km2 with a range of intensities of human development. Human modification of land cover, road density, and other elements of the landscape, measured at multiple spatial extents, had large effects on occupancy of the 67 species studied. Forest composition within 1 km of points had a strong effect on occupancy of many species and a range of negative, intermediate, and positive associations. Road density within 1 km of points, percent evergreen forest within 300 m, and distance from patch edge were also strongly associated with occupancy for many species. We used the occupancy results to group species into 11 guilds that shared patterns of association with landscape characteristics. Our multispecies approach to conservation planning allowed us to quantify the trade-offs of different scenarios of land-cover change in terms of species occupancy.