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Ecol Evol. 2015 Sep 18;5(19):4376-88. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1669. eCollection 2015 Oct.

The conservation value of elevation data accuracy and model sophistication in reserve design under sea-level rise.

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Department of Urban Planning Beijing Jiaotong University Beijing 100044 China ; Department of Landscape Architecture University of Florida Gainesville Florida 32611.
Department of Landscape Architecture University of Florida Gainesville Florida 32611.
Department of Urban and Regional Planning University of Florida Gainesville Florida 32611.
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Mississippi State University Starkville Mississippi 39762.


Many studies have explored the value of using more sophisticated coastal impact models and higher resolution elevation data in sea-level rise (SLR) adaptation planning. However, we know little about to what extent the improved models and data could actually lead to better conservation outcomes under SLR. This is important to know because high-resolution data are likely to not be available in some data-poor coastal areas in the world and running more complicated coastal impact models is relatively time-consuming, expensive, and requires assistance by qualified experts and technicians. We address this research question in the context of identifying conservation priorities in response to SLR. Specifically, we investigated the conservation value of using more accurate light detection and ranging (Lidar)-based digital elevation data and process-based coastal land-cover change models (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model, SLAMM) to identify conservation priorities versus simple "bathtub" models based on the relatively coarse National Elevation Dataset (NED) in a coastal region of northeast Florida. We compared conservation outcomes identified by reserve design software (Zonation) using three different model dataset combinations (Bathtub-NED, Bathtub-Lidar, and SLAMM-Lidar). The comparisons show that the conservation priorities are significantly different with different combinations of coastal impact models and elevation dataset inputs. The research suggests that it is valuable to invest in more accurate coastal impact models and elevation datasets in SLR adaptive conservation planning because this model-dataset combination could improve conservation outcomes under SLR. Less accurate coastal impact models, including ones created using coarser Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data can still be useful when better data and models are not available or feasible, but results need to be appropriately assessed and communicated. A future research priority is to investigate how conservation priorities may vary among different SLR scenarios when different combinations of model-data inputs are used.


Adaptive reserve design; Florida; biodiversity conservation; conservation priorities; sea‐level rise

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