Olsson Associates


Spatial modeling contributes to species’ survival

Friday, November 14, 2014

Linda Van Hoosen, Communications

If you were deciding where to establish a business or organization, where would you put it? There’s a lot to consider. Competition, resources, and how much space is needed are factors. Operating costs and if the market even exists for the business are additional items that must be deliberated.

Similar to a business selecting its ideal location for its facilities, wildlife must also choose wisely when selecting their habitats. Knowing where wildlife are likely to “set up shop” can be crucial for organizations looking to build in an area or for groups seeking to protect certain habitats.

Olsson’s Environmental team provides spatial modeling to help clients site their facilities to avoid sensitive species and also determine areas most suitable for project mitigation, if necessary. These models are also useful for helping conservationists target management efforts and improve conditions for the species, which will ultimately improve survival for species of concern.

Olsson biologist Chris Jorgensen says species distribution models are used to help identify how wildlife choose and survive in their environment. The models use landscape data, satellite imagery, and field measurements to determine the presence of wildlife in a specific area.

“Biologists use information on where a species lives, how it formulates habitat selection decisions, and what resources it requires to survive and reproduce to target management efforts and improve conditions for the species,” Chris said.

“In a sense, habitat restoration is like opening a new business,” Chris continued. “The success or failure of that ‘business’ is determined by two factors: Whether the appropriate materials are being delivered, and whether the ‘neighborhood’ is suitable to sustain a target market.

“The notion that all landscapes, or ‘neighborhoods,’ surrounding habitat management areas are not created equal is a developing field of research in wildlife biology,” Chris said.

To learn more about spatial modeling, contact Chris at 402.458.5021 or cjorgensen@olssonassociates.com.

Species Distribution Model

Species distribution models use statistical and spatial analyses to predict how likely a species may occur in an area based on the conditions of the surrounding landscape, topography, and climate.

As identified in the simulated species distribution model to the left, bright red areas, or “hotspots,” indicate locations where a species is likely to be present. Cool colors, such as the greens and blues, identify regions where the species is less likely to be present, and unshaded areas represent the species’ absence.

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