Spatial web tools to manage sensitive species, guide energy infrastructure siting, and weigh mitigation options
California’s deserts sustain unique ecosystems that support numerous rare and endemic species sensitive to human impacts. Much of this land is managed by public agencies, and the growing interest in developing these lands for renewable energy (primarily solar and wind) presents exceptional conservation challenges.
We developed a suite of online tools to help stakeholders manage sensitive species, guide energy infrastructure siting, and weigh mitigation options across 22.5 million acres of Southern California targeted by the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP).
Our custom mapping applications were created using leading open source components and are designed to allow for the intuitive exploration of spatial and non-spatial data in a standard web browser. These tools present an information-rich view of the landscape by reporting the following for any area of interest in the study site: predicted species occupancy, ecological condition, conservation targets, climate variable forecasts, and climate refugia. Summary statistics for these values can be generated for custom areas and have been pre-calculated for geographies such as watersheds and various administrative boundaries.
The interactive web interface generates charts summarizing landscape characteristics and a list of species potentially occurring in the area. The user can also access a database containing information about each species and specific planning/mitigation actions covered by the proposed DRECP framework. All of the information linked to a given site assessment online can be shared readily with a wider audience via simple PDF export options.
The overall goal of this study was to integrate numerous datasets into spatially-explicit, decision-support tools to help inform species conservation plans, guide infrastructure siting, and evaluate mitigation strategies.
Our suite of online tools gives government, non-profit, and private sector users access to in-depth information on predicted species presence, ecological intactness, conservation potential, and vulnerability to climate change across a vast expanse of Southern California desert.
Linking spatial and non-spatial data allows users to evaluate what species may occur in a given location and what mitigation actions are dictated for each species under proposed guidelines. When paired with auxiliary information in the database, the online maps can be used to guide management strategies, ensure effective implementation of mitigation actions, and encourage environmentally-sound planning.
By compiling complex geographic information into more easily digestible formats, we hope these web applications facilitate objective decision-making that helps ensure conservation of California’s deserts is coupled with development of a clean energy future.