Date of Award

5-2014

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Robert J. Lilieholm

Second Committee Member

Christopher S. Cronan

Third Committee Member

Kate Beard

Abstract

This dissertation posed two basic premises. First, conservationists can more effectively use historical patterns of land protection to inform the future. I used retrospective spatio-temporal analyses to identify the drivers of land conservation and to evaluate the collective impact of conservation in northern New England since 1800. In that time, nearly 22% of the region was permanently protected from development and the rate of protection accelerated as the result of numerous innovative mechanisms of conservation policy and finance. Increases in aggregation, spatio-temporal clustering, and the average size of protected areas were heavily influenced by several large-scale working forest conservation easements that began in the late 1990s. Results suggest that future conservation strategies should focus on collective impact, and that new innovations are needed to meet future biodiversity and ecosystem service conservation goals.

Second, providing credible and salient information about the collective impacts of land use to conservation actors, town planners, and other citizens will lead to individual actions that have greater collective conservation benefit. Using Bayesian belief networks, which were parameterized with expert knowledge elicited from more than 75 stakeholders, I developed land use suitability models for ecosystem protection, forest management, agriculture, and economic development. I then applied these models to two large watersheds covering 1.8 million hectares in Maine to identify areas most suitable for each of the four land uses. These models show the importance of including both biophysical and socio-economic factors in conservation planning.

I then developed an agent-based model to evaluate future conservation strategies. Using a set of archetypes of conservation organizations, each with their own priorities, I showed that despite a higher average cost per unit area of land protection, implementing an aggregation strategy for protection can lead to a network of protected areas that more closely adheres to the principles of landscape ecology, when compared to a strategy in which individual conservation organizations focus on local priorities alone.

The results of my spatio-temporal analyses highlight the value of evaluating past conservation actions when developing future strategies. The spatial planning framework I developed provides local- and regional-scale information to help planners compare the suitability of an area for economic development with ecosystem and open space conservation.

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