White, Denis, P.G. Minotti, M. J. Barczak, J. C. Sifneos, K. E. Freemark, M.V. Santelmann, C.F. Steinitz, A.R. Kiester, and E.M. Preston. 1997. Assessing risks to biodiversity from future landscape change. Conservation Biology 11(2):349-360.
We examined the impacts of possible future land development patterns on the biodiversity of a landscape. Our landscape data included a remote sensing derived map of the current habitat of the study area and six maps of future habitat distributions resulting from different land development scenarios. Our species data included lists of all bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species in the study area, their habitat associations, and area requirements for each. We estimated the area requirements using home ranges, sampled population densities, or genetic area requirements that incorporate dispersal distances. Our measures of biodiversity were species richness and habitat abundance. We calculated habitat abundance in two ways. First, we computed the total habitat area for each species in each landscape. Second, we calculated the number of habitat units for each species in each landscape by dividing the size of each habitat patch in the landscape by the area requirement and summing over all patches. Species richness was based on presence of habitat. Species became extinct in the landscape if they had no habitat area or no habitat units, respectively. We then computed ratios of habitat abundance in each future landscape to habitat abundance in the present for each species. We also computed the ratio of future to present species richness. We then calculated summary statistics across all species. Species richness changed little from present to future. However, there were distinctly greater risks to habitat abundance in landscapes that extrapolated from present trends or zoning patterns as opposed to landscapes in which land development activities followed more constrained patterns. These results were stable when tested using Monte Carlo simulations and sensitivity tests on the area requirements. We conclude that this methodology can begin to discriminate the effects of potential changes in land development on vertebrate biodiversity.