Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Advisor(s)

Matthew Kolan, PhD

Jennifer Pontius, PhD

Scott Merrill, PhD

Abstract

Conservation priorities – when developed systematically and objectively – can maximize land protection efforts in heterogeneous landscapes susceptible to parcelization and development. One such region surrounds Lake George and Southern Lake Champlain, nested between the Green and Adirondack Mountains. This mosaic of conserved and private parcels sits upon an array of forest, agriculture, wetland, and development valuable to both humans and resident wildlife species. This landscape’s inherent connectedness provides many benefits to wildlife, including species richness, enhanced persistence, and increased genetic interchange. However, it is difficult to make definitive statements about potential wildlife movement through such complex matrices. Therefore, wildlife modeling approaches have evolved to paint a clearer picture of landscape connectivity.

Sam Talbot, ecological planning graduate student at the University of Vermont, worked with the Lake Champlain Land Trust and Lake George Land Conservancy to incorporate landscape connectivity and wildlife corridors into their strategic conservation planning efforts. This project, including a least-cost corridor analysis of the region to highlight large swaths of contiguous habitat, provides the information critical to such conservation efforts. Using the ArcGIS program CorridorDesigner to conduct the analysis, with custom model parameters, identifies three discrete latitudinal corridors between large established wildland blocks. These outputs were then evaluated and compared based on several landscape factors. Ultimately, this study will inform conservation and management decisions, as well as enhance dialogue among local conservation organizations.