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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Enabling richer measurements of complex landscapes to inform conservation and management

Identifying complex landscapes is important for forest conservation. A new tool makes measuring landscape complexity easier and more robust. The new tool, geodiv, can help managers prioritize valuable landscapes for conservation.

Mountain landscapes have high geodiversity. New research makes it easier to measure geodiversity, which can help prioritize forest conservation efforts. USDA Forest Service photo.

Landscapes with more complexity provide homes for more plant and animal species. Finding those complex landscapes can guide efforts to preserve biodiversity. But until now, most tools available to identify these landscapes would only work with simplified landscape data.

A team of Forest Service researchers has developed a set of tools called geodiv. These tools are faster and simpler to use than other available tools. They also allow scientists to use all the information available in satellite data and allow innovative methods for identifying complex landscapes.

The team used the geodiv tools to identify complex forest landscapes using measures of geodiversity—the variety of topographic, soil, and other environmental conditions. The key finding of those studies is that across the U.S., places with high geodiversity, such as a landscape with tall mountain peaks and low valleys, harbor more tree species than those with lower geodiversity.

Even as habitats and species shift with climate change, those complex landscapes will remain, as will the high tree diversity they harbor. So, measurements of geodiversity using geodiv can provide important information for prioritizing forest conservation efforts now and for years to come.

View the geodiv source code on GitHub.

Principal Investigators
Jennifer Costanza, Research Ecologist
4855 - Center for Integrated Forest Science
Strategic Program Area
Inventory and Monitoring
The geodiv R package: tools for calculating gradient surface metrics
Beyond counts and averages: Relating geodiversity to dimensions of biodiversity
Remote sensing of geodiversity as a link to biodiversity
Towards connecting biodiversity and geodiversity across scales with satellite remote sensing
CompassLive Article
Research Sustains Ecosystem Services
External Partners
Annie C. Smith - Washington Department of Natural Resources
Kyla M. Dahlin - Michigan State University
Sydne Record - Bryn Mawr College
Adam Wilson - University at Buffalo
Phoebe L. Zarnetske - Michigan State University