Landscape Assessment of the Degree of Protection of Alaska’s Terrestrial Biodiversity

The Bristol Bay region of AK is currently facing mining development pressures                    (photo credit: F. Cundy)

Even the last frontier has its ecological limits. The authors of this paper identify the threat Alaska faces as development pressures increase and the protection of biodiversity within it’s vast borders lack an evaluation for the conservation of species and systems. The hope of this paper is to identify and quantify the existing measures of protection throughout the 28 ecoregions with which they’ve identify. Their findings quantify that nearly 55% percent of Alaskan lands have what they categorize as the lowest level of protection and therefore convince us that there is an outstanding need to use a science-based approach to protect biodiversity during development decisions. 

Within the study, authors assess the amount of land necessary for the conservation of biodiversity with GIS, measuring three biotic-abiotic layers; advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) landcover maps, ecoregions of Alaska, and locations of globally rare vascular plant species that occur in Alaska. Assessments of species, communities, and landscape scale ecosystems benefit biodiversity in Alaska, providing information which will help identify natural features at risk and provide place specific sensitivities as a prevention of development.  

The authors convey that they are trying to nominate their literature’s direction as one that can be developed more thoroughly, and to a finer grain of detail for it to make any tangible contribution to ecosystem protection. While the authors clearly identified the lack of rigor this study takes on, I like it particularly for that reason. Alaska is an enormous territory and its lands and resources are managed by a multitude of organizations and owners. It would require an enormously complex system of regulation to manage for biodiversity protection and cannot, nor should not be preserved through the same. If you’re as big a fan of AK as I am, it’s a good read.

Duffy, D. C., Boggs, K., Hagenstein, R. H., Lipkin, R., & Michaelson, J. A. 
(1999, December). Landscape Assessment of the Degree of Protection
of Alaska’s Terrestrial Biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 13(6), 1332-1343. 

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