»Download the Blueprint 2020 development process to read the full documentation as a pdf«
The Blueprint is a living spatial plan for sustaining natural and cultural resources in the face of future change. It identifies opportunities for shared conservation action, prioritizing the lands and waters of the South Atlantic based on the current condition of natural and cultural resource indicators, and a connectivity analysis. So far, more than 700 people from over 200 organizations have actively participated in developing the Blueprint. To learn more about the Blueprint, visit the Blueprint page. To learn more about the indicators, visit the indicator page.
Highest priority for shared action: the most important areas for natural and cultural resources based on indicator condition. This class covers 10% of the South Atlantic geography.
High priority for shared action: important areas for natural and cultural resources based on indicator condition. This class covers an additional 15% of the South Atlantic geography; together, the highest and high priority categories cover 25%.
Medium priority for shared action: above-average areas for natural and cultural resources based on indicator condition, capturing potential restoration opportunities. This class covers 20% of the South Atlantic geography; together, the highest, high, and medium priority categories cover 45%.
Corridors: connections between large patches of highest priority areas and secured lands, optimized for efficiency and indicator condition in a least cost path analysis. This category covers an additional 5% of the South Atlantic geography; in total, the Blueprint covers 50%.
Overview of methods
Step 1: The ecosystem integrity of the South Atlantic region is represented by 25 natural and cultural resource indicators that cover the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments. Some indicators represent one ecosystem (i.e. maritime forest extent), while others represent multiple ecosystems (i.e., intact habitat cores).
Step 2: To aid in the modeling process, we remove areas with low conservation value, like most developed areas, as well as reservoirs. These areas would not be prioritized in the Blueprint anyway.
Step 3: The South Atlantic region is divided into 7 subregions. A program called Zonation ranks the pixels in each subregion according to the current condition of the indicators, using a modeling approach that tries to conserve high-value representations of all indicators collectively. Pixels with higher integrity scores become higher priority in the Blueprint.
Step 4: In a connectivity analysis, hubs are defined as large patches of protected land or large patches with high ecosystem integrity scores. Linkage Mapper in ArcGIS connects these patches in a least cost path analysis optimized for shortest distance and highest ecosystem integrity score.
Step 5: Combing the areas of highest ecosystem integrity with the corridors produces Version 2020 of the Conservation Blueprint.
For more details on the input data and mapping steps used to create South Atlantic Blueprint 2020, please download the Blueprint 2020 development process.
- Some Piedmont prairie areas are under-prioritized (e.g., Prairie Ridge in Raleigh, Difficult Creek in Virginia). A new indicator that includes some piedmont prairie plants is in development and will hopefully be ready for the next Blueprint update.
- Urban open space is poorly captured in Georgia and South Carolina. The TNC Secured Lands database used in this indicator is missing many urban protected areas in these states. An update in the near future will fill in many of these missing urban protected areas.
- Important Carolina Bays are often included in large patches of medium priority but the bays and nearby areas should be higher priority. Some important bays (e.g., Woods Bay State Park) are not even medium priority. Different methods for resolving this issue are under investigation.
- Some patches of longleaf pine with good local conditions are under-prioritized (e.g., parts of South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve in Virginia, parts of Econfina Water Management Area in Florida, Green Swamp in North Carolina, Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and Sandhills State Forest in North Carolina). Ongoing efforts to improve fire tracking Blueprint could improve this issue in future updates.
- Some patches of forested wetland with good local conditions are under-prioritized (e.g., Audubon’s Francis Biedler Forest in South Carolina, the Lumber River on the border between North and South Carolina).
- Within large patches of working lands in the Big Bend of Florida, some upland areas in pine plantation are under-prioritized while embedded patches of forested wetlands are over-prioritized. For the Big Bend of Florida, using the Southeast Conservation Blueprint, which combines the South Atlantic and Florida Blueprints, captures more of these under-prioritized uplands.
- Some areas important for inland migration of ecosystems in response to sea-level rise are under-prioritized. Examples in Florida include a break in a high priority corridor north of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and a break in a priority corridor between Wakulla Springs State Park and the coast. Improvements to the resilient coastal sites indicator, currently under investigation, should improve this issue in the future.
- Developed areas in military bases are over-prioritized. This is due to an issue with the urban open space indicator incorrectly treating them as protected areas.
- Some low-urban historic areas are under-prioritized because they are not yet part of the National Register of Historic Places (e.g., Lost Island Farm on Roanoke Island, the likely landing site for the Lost Colony at the mouth of the Chowan River, Native American sites on the Dan River near the North Carolina/Virginia border), their location isn’t publicly shared (e.g., sensitive archeological sites), or their GIS depiction of spatial boundaries have significant errors (e.g., sites in Georgia and Alabama).
- Corridors across river basins, when compared to corridors within river basins, seem to be under-represented in parts of the Central and South Coastal Plain subregions.
- Some coastal pixels are either over- or under-prioritized due to the coarse nature of the 200 m pixel boundary between terrestrial and marine areas on the coast. This results in some areas that should be prioritized based on terrestrial and freshwater indicators being prioritized based on marine indicators and vice versa. A finer resolution boundary is in development.
- There is no corridor connecting Pocosin Lakes and Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuges across Highway 9. The current corridor methods avoid crossing major roads. More nuanced methods for when corridors should or shouldn’t cross major roads are in development.
- The salt marshes on the west side of Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge seem to be under-prioritized.
- Some aquatic areas, particularly smaller rivers and streams, are over-prioritized. The imperiled aquatic species indicator is at a subwatershed (HUC12) scale while the species hotspots it seeks to depict are often only a part of that subwatershed.
- Some areas with imperiled aquatic species are under-prioritized (e.g., habitat for Saluda/Newberry burrowing crayfish near Newberry, habitat for Broadtail Madtom and other endemics along the mainstem Lumber River and Shoe Heel creek). These areas have known locations of imperiled aquatic species, but the often more recent data were not included in the imperiled aquatic species indicator. A more recently updated indicator is in development.
- Some aquatic areas important for migratory fish are being under-prioritized in areas far upstream due to issues in the migratory fish connectivity indicator.
- Mouths of many priority rivers are under-prioritized where they transition into the estuarine ecosystem. These open water estuaries tend to have poorer water quality and thus low scores on the coastal condition index. Additional indicators for open water estuaries are under development and should resolve this issue.
- The priorities for open water estuaries are based only on the coastal condition index and do not include a number of other important natural and cultural components of that ecosystem. Additional indicators for open water estuaries are under development.
- Some deepwater coral areas that haven’t been surveyed/mapped or were only mapped recently are under-prioritized. Investigation into an approach that combines known areas with suitability models is ongoing.
- Some marine areas in the far eastern part of the LCC, particularly beyond the Blake Plateau, may be under-prioritized due a lack of survey data for marine birds and mammals in that region.
South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint 2020. http://southatlanticlcc.org/blueprint. Accessed [Date].