Guidelines for the integration of wildlife and habitat evaluations with ecological land survey
Wildlife and habitat managers, as well as managers in various other natural resource fields, are increasingly faced with complex decisions along with growing mountains of data and information. Our progressively specialized and narrowly focused approach to wildlife and habitat management results in fragmented perceptions and understanding of the larger systems at work in the natural world. To use an old cliché, "we no longer can see the forest for the trees." We have trouble recognizing and effectively addressing big problems (root causes) because the smaller, detailed problems (mostly symptoms of the bigger problems) keep diverting our attention. We need to be able to develop perspectives on larger, more holistic entities so as to better understand and manage smaller, individual components. Ecological land survey (ELS), both as concept and as method, offers us this potential within the field of wildlife and habitat management. The emphasis in ELS is on identifying, describing, and interrelating physical and biological components of the environment from a hierarchical perspective of ecologically functional and geographically recognizable entities or wholes. This is really a landscape-based approach to ecology. Wildlife and habitat managers are particularly compelled to try to apply integrative and holistic approaches, such as ELS, because they are attempting to manage wild vertebrate populations having very complex species/habitat relationships over often large areas. Over the past 20 years, there have been greatly expanded efforts to identify and quantify wildlife values in the context of resource developments and land use pressures that increasingly impinge on, and alter, wildlife habitat. In this respect, wildlife and habitat professionals have expressed the need for a manual to guide in the collection, analysis, and presentation of wildlife resource data and information within an ecological, land-based framework. This guidelines manual is a first attempt to meet this need. The primary content of the manual is presented in Part A, chapters 1 to 4. Chapter 1 presents an overview of the historical development, rationale, and general methods of ELS. Much of the early biophysical and ELS work had little, or no, wildlife content. However, this has gradually changed over the years to the point at which ELSs are, in some instances, a primary vehicle for identifying and evaluating wildlife values. The background information in Chapter 1 provides an important backdrop to the more detailed examination, in Chapter 2, of how to incorporate wildlife objecties and measurements within the survey proposal and land classification phases of ELS. For specific projects, there is an unlimited range of detailed data collection possibilities. However, Chapter 2 focuses on general methods, broad categories of data collection, and basic principles--factors that should help to ensure an effective, integrative, and ecological approach to the survey. Chapter 3 focuses on the evaluation, or interpretation, phase of ELSs and wildlife habitat inventories. It examines generic kinds of wildlife assessments and reviews structured interpretation techniques (land/wildlife relationship models) that have been developed and used in various parts of North America. Again, the focus is on basic concepts and methods that have the flexibility to be adapted to a variety of specific project requirements. Creative adaptations of these guidelines will be required to meet specific project conditions and needs. Chapter 4 concludes the primary content of the manual by examining the foregoing subject matter from the perspective of overall client information and wildlife and habitat resource management needs. The main justification for any wildlife survey or habitat inventory is the provision of information, suitable in content, quality, and format, to assist in decision-making. If the manager does not obtain this information in a timely and readily understandable fashion, large volumes of inventory data and analysis will be for naught. Throughout the manual, numerous references are made to the critical importance of having wildlife and habitat assessments structured around, and driven by, objectives that clearly reflect client information needs. To be effective, the final inventory project deliverables must package summary information in a way that makes it readily useable by wildlife and habitat resource managers and other decision-makers. In Part B, chapters 5 and 6 provide important supplementary information to the core chapters. Chapter 5 provides an overview of automation technologies, such as computer-supported data base management, mapping, and modelling, including geographic information systems. These technologies can be invaluable, cost-effective tools to assist in the evaluation phase of wildlife and habitat resource surveys, as well as data maintenance, update, and display. They can also be used to structure and build ecologically oriented land classifications. Chapter 6 provides a comprehensive review of basic ecological principles which are relevant to the development of application methods and guidelines as presented in this manual.