A Study of Climate Change Resilience, Conservation Easements and the Protection of Biodiversity in the Eastern U.S., Great Lakes and Northern Great Plain Regions
Gilbert, Robert E.
MetadataShow full item record
CitationGilbert, Robert E. 2019. A Study of Climate Change Resilience, Conservation Easements and the Protection of Biodiversity in the Eastern U.S., Great Lakes and Northern Great Plain Regions. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractClimate change presents a threat to the stability of species habitat and biodiversity. In the United States, public and private organizations have effectively used conservation easement (CEs) as a tool for preserving wildlife habitats and species. Despite their considerable success in providing a public good through environmental protection, conservation organizations now face uncertainty over future costs, CE legal standing and maintaining ecosystems undergoing compositional and functional change due to climate change.
Researchers have discovered strong correlations between specific natural landscape attributes and greater levels of species diversity. These discoveries create an opportunity for CEs to increase their capacity for biodiversity protection and reduce organizational risk. This project devised a series of analyses designed to explore the use of natural climate change resilient landscape attributes within current and future CE planning. Three topics relevant to protection of biodiversity and organizational health were investigated; knowledge adoption, organizational cost impact and extended conservation benefits. Three research questions focused the investigation:
1) Do commitments to protecting biodiversity result in higher landscape diversity scores?
2) Do higher scores in climate change resilience correlate with larger land parcels?
3) Do higher landscape diversity scores correlate with greater connectedness to adjacent parcels?
T-testing of research question 1 revealed no statistically significant difference in mean landscape diversity scores between CEs explicitly managed for biodiversity and those with no declared biodiversity protection objectives. Results suggests a possible gap in climate change resilience knowledge adoption by conservation organizations.
Regression analysis of research question 2 did not find any evidence that easement size was correlated with increased climate change resilience. The findings imply that investments in larger parcels may not be the most cost effective way to increase climate change resilience.
Regression analysis of research question 3 demonstrated a high level of correlation between landscape diversity and a local connectedness to surrounding parcels. The outcome supports the possibility of gaining multiple conservation values by investing in just one element of climate change resiliency.
The evidence suggests that CE designers, interested in the preservation of biodiversity, are not leveraging the highly relevant benefits that landscape diversity can contribute to their declared conservation objectives. This finding points to a valuable opportunity for advancing the capacity of land conservation to preserve biodiversity. Furthermore, the strong correlations between metrics of climate change resilience suggests that by incorporating the methods outlined in this paper into future CE design, organizations can realize the triple bottom line value of biodiversity protection, lower land stewardship costs and community conservation benefits.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004221