Improving Conservation Planning for the Congaree Biosphere Reserve

Authors: Lilian Hutchens*, University of South Carolina, John Kupfer, University of South Carolina
Topics: Biogeography, Landscape, Protected Areas
Keywords: Landscape Ecology, Conservation Planning, Spatial Analysis, Biodiversity
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: Download



The Congaree Biosphere Reserve (CBR), which is located in the South Carolina Midlands, is recognized by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme for its extraordinary biodiversity. Intended to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature, biosphere reserves endeavor to conserve the landscape and ensure the success of the species within, promote sustainable practices in the surrounding communities, and educate the public on the importance of conservation and sustainable development. The area encompassed by the CBR is highly diverse in terms of habitat types, land use, and conservation protection status. Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation pose significant threats to biodiversity in the CBR by increasing extinction rates for area-sensitive species and reducing the ability of organisms to move across a landscape and respond to stresses such as anthropogenic climate change. The goal of this research is to quantify and map spatial variation in habitat composition and connectivity within the CBR and identify appropriate conservation goals and expectations. To derive the most useful information for local managers, the CBR was divided into subregions using GIS-based clustering of land cover types. Geospatial analyses then provided useful data on a range of landscape properties for each of the subregions, including ecosystem coverage, connectivity, protected status, and potential biodiversity. A subsequent survey, designed to identify conservation management opportunities within each of the subregions, was distributed to local conservation experts. Results from the geospatial analyses and the survey are used here to develop a series of preliminary conservation goals and plans for each subregion.

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