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Land Use Change and Habitat Fragmentation in the North Central United States

Adhikari, A., & Hansen, A. J. (2018). Land use change and habitat fragmentation of wildland ecosystems of the North Central United States. Landscape and Urban Planning, 177, 196-216. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.04.014
Year Published
North Central CASC

"Wildlands and their ability to conserve biodiversity and provide ecosystem services are threatened by unprecedented land use intensification. Effective conservation of these wildlands depends on identifying their ecological boundaries and assessing land use change trajectories and habitat fragmentation within those boundaries. We evaluated the extent of land use intensification and fragmentation of six land cover classes and six ecosystem types within nine greater wildland ecosystems (GWEs) of three ecoregions in the north-central United States. Land use intensification across the ecoregions was characterized by assessing changes in NLCD land cover classes and housing density from 2000 to 2011. We used LANDFIRE BpS data to assess fragmentation effects on ecosystem types. We found relatively similar trends in land use intensification across the region with overall net changes by 1.2%, 1.1%, and 1% for the Central Plains, Western Mountains, and Western Plains, respectively. The study region has retained 58% of the area of original ecosystem types with a decrease of mean core area by −30% during the post-European period. The analysis revealed that some ecosystems either already lost over 70–80% area or are quickly approaching this threshold leading to an additional extinction of species due to land use intensification. This analysis can help managers in identifying sustainable conservation priorities to minimize surrounding land use patterns impacts on protected systems. We conclude that managers are likely to face multiple challenges to maintaining ecosystem conditions in their present or near present states while establishing connectivity with regional networks of protected lands."