Chapter 14: Mapping Biological Processes to the Appropriate Spatial Modeling Tools


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BOOK EXCERPT: A completed conservation plan represents decisions made by the conservation planner about the most appropriate land use for a given site at a given time. The goal is to maintain or enhance biodiversity, ecosystem function, and ecosystem structure while accommodating human-oriented land uses that may be detrimental to that goal. The primary tools for achieving this balance are models that represent the biological processes that we are trying to maintain. This chapter is designed to provide additional guidance in using those models...There are many spatial tools available to model biological processes; this book has provided an introduction to many of them. Underlying each tool or series of tools are mathematical or spatial algorithms and a myriad of assumptions. These spatial modeling tools can be inadvertently misused because the modeler may not be aware of, or have full understanding of, the biological process, the underlying algorithms, or the assumptions associated with the tool. Often the modeler may also allow the spatial modeling tool drive the modeling efforts rather than having  the biological process lead in the selection and implementation of the tools. A biological process as defined in this chapter is a series of events generally occurring over time between living species interacting with one another and with the landscape. Examples of biological processes include: elephants selecting the best locations to live, snow leopards moving through a landscape, trees reacting to a fire burning through an area, and wolverines adapting to changes caused by a warming climate. To accurately model a biological process, the spatial relationships of the biological process must be defined and then the appropriate tools must be identified with the appropriate algorithm and assumptions to capture the process...This chapter is divided into six sections. The first section covers suitability models and how to incorporate the time component into the suitability models. The second section discusses the derivation of rules and parameters from field data which can be used to reclassify and weight values in the model. The third section explores explicit space / time models focusing on deterministic and stochastic processes. The fourth section discusses the basic decision-making behind movement models: particularly movement of species. The fifth section explores causality using Agent-Based Modeling (ABM). The final section identifies a variety of common misuses of spatial modeling tools, specifically density mapping and interpolation that are applied to field data (particularly radio-location data)...Most biological processes are complex and it is difficult to fully understand them. If the biological process is not precisely defined it cannot be modeled. Every model is defined by the algorithm and a set of assumptions underlying the algorithm. If the biological process is not defined clearly the wrong modeling tools (algorithm) may be applied. If the biological process is defined clearly but the appropriate modeling tools (based on the correct algorithm and assumptions) are not applied the process will not be captured. In either case invalid conclusions and wrong decisions may be made because the biological process was not captured.


Kevin Johnston, Ph.D.
Environmental Systems Research Institute
Redlands, CA, 92373
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David Western, PhD
African Conservation Centre
PO Box 15289-00509
Nairobi, KENYA
tel +254.20.891360 / 891751
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Rodney Jackson, PhD
Snow Leopard Conservancy
18030 Comstock Avenue
Sonoma CA 95476
Phone: (707) 935-3851 Fax: (707) 933-9816
info at snowleopardconservancy dot org
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Wildplanner: Free Planning Toolbox for ArcGIS INTERACTIVE MAPS of Wildlife (click to pan & zoom, 'view larger' to open window)

Mapping (view larger)



3-Scale & Time
4-Land Cover
5-Land Use
6-Focal Species
7-Habitats: Terrestrial
8-Habitats: Marine/Aq
9-Habitat Cores
11-Viability Analysis
13-Climate Change
14-Processes & Tools

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