AN APPLICATION OF SYSTEMATIC NATURAL HERITAGE PLANNING FOR BIODIVERSITY PROTECTION IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL GREENBELT REGION
Maxwell, Laura T.
Natural Heritage Systems , Greenbelt , MARXAN , Biodiversity Protection , Systematic Conservation Planning , Ottawa, Ontario
This report applies a systematic conservation planning framework to identity a network of lands that, if protected from development, could contribute to better protecting biodiversity in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The analysis adopts a simplified version of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ suggested Process for a Coordinated, Integrated and Comprehensive Approach for Natural Heritage Systems (OMNR, 2010), and uses the MARXAN conservation decision-support tool (Ball, Possingham & Watts, 2009), a GIS-based software program, to facilitate the analysis. The report includes a study area assessment, a summary of objectives and targets used to guide the decision-making process, an explanation about data collection and manipulation, and a step-by-step discussion of the modelling techniques used to develop Natural Heritage Systems scenarios within the context of Greenbelt expansion and connections to other protected natural areas in the City of Ottawa. The outputs of the MARXAN analysis help identify a biodiversity “wish list” that shows hotspot areas that, if protected from disturbances, contribute to meeting the biodiversity targets developed in the report. The value of establishing an ecological “wish list”, based on biodiversity goals, is that the information can inform land purchase agreements, land swaps, community growth plans, and development approvals, as the City and NCC can make educated planning decisions based on the potential regional implications that a project might have on biodiversity and nature environmental functions.. The analysis provided in this report highlights the potential for conservation planning software to be used in Natural Heritage System planning in Ottawa, ON. The ability to rationally compare different options for Natural Heritage systems, in terms of their costs, their contributions to conservation goals, and their interactions with other land uses, is a powerful evolving tool for land use planning.