Animal Migration Lab

You are going to solve a problem of animal migration as a way to learn about distance algorithms. The data are elevation, land use, and game checking station locations. Our target animal, think bears, likes to hang out in large patches of forest at a given elevation. They have been tagged in their breeding habitat location east of the Great Valley in the Blue Ridge (nearest the Piney River game-check station) and will likely migrate to similar habitats west of the valley as animal density recovers. Based on its preference of breeding habitat and migration desires (see table below) you will

  1. find the suitable habitats, some starting and some ending. Here is what the critters like
    1. Elevation is between 400 & 600 m
    2. in evergreen (Pine) forest
    3. and in generalized patches bigger than 0.3 sq km
  2. predict the corridors of movement, using the following criteria for “cost” in each input layer
    1. landuse; the following values apply to different land uses
      • deciduous forest = 1 (on the move, they like acorns!)
      • water = 5
      • other forest/wetland =2
      • agriculture (pasture/row crops, etc)= 10
      • developed land/barren land = 50
    2. topography; these critters like ridge tops (not just high elevation, but local ridges) but it should be weighted half the importance of land use (range of 1-25).
    3. (+3 extra credit) increase the friction approaching developed lands (22-25 on NLCD), to keep animals well away from major roads and towns. This would increase values nearing the developed lands, but the developed lands would keep their 50 values. Maximum distance of this effect = 500 m.
  3. examine the difficulties to migration using the cost surface and least cost paths, and
  4. predict the habitats to which the animals should first migrate in the valley.

In this scenario, you are helping governments, landowners and wildlife professionals predict the “hot spots” where land character needs to be preserved or improved to accommodate migration. This lab follows very closely a professionally developed GIS analysis of ecological cores and landscape corridors by the VA DCR (VaNLA link and explanatory paper from VDOT). If you’re interested in this topic, read these papers and then help RACC with its new “Buffalo Creek Wildlife Corridor” initiative by giving your time and energy!

You will build an outline of your process in a portfolio. The *Add* below indicates a place where you’ll need to supply information with snips, pdfs or words. The evaluation rubric follows at the end. The processes are as follows

  1. Copy the project from the R:\courses\GEOL260\sharedwork folder to a suitable working location (Q? or P).
    Here are the data and their sources (should be in the metadata too).

    • Check stations (point file, fictitious)
    • National Land Cover Data NLCD 2011 (website; see metadata for source and more information about the data)
    • 1 arc sec DEM (projected to match NLCD)
      • Both are in the NLCD 30 m projection (Albers equal area); the DEM was projected to it.
      • The magic decoder ring for the NLCD codes as a picture or use the Excel file in the data folder that can be joined to the NLCD raster to make a legend. (website)
  2. Read through this assignment and think about the process before you set out. Break up the task. In your project, models should not have too many elements so your path can be easily followed, and maps within your project should contain only a few layers. Each map should be appropriately named for the analyses or displays it contains.
  3. Using a model? Set the environments (extent, geodatabase locations, grid cell size, snap, and projection should match the incoming data). Don’t forget to include labels (right click on the model element) on all processes where an expression is used inside the element or other “hidden” functions are performed (such as reclassify).
  4. Find the breeding habitats using the above criteria:. Note! – generalize these patches before checking their area to eliminate minor variability and make the patches smoother, larger, and easier to work with in the cost analysis.
    *Add* snips of a small area that shows the progression from selected cells based on the criteria to “generalized” cells, to patches, and finally just large patches, like these.

    The red cells fulfill the elevation and land use habitat criteria, the green are simplified and then broken into individual patches (3rd panel), and finally selected by size (final). Note that the expression in the “Con” tool does work with raster attributes other than “VALUE” or you can use the “lookup” function within a raster calculator statement.
  5. Separate the breeding habitats into those near the Piney River or near the Murat game stations where each has a unique identity.
    *Add* a snip of your model or geoprocessing history that illustrates how you arrived at the set of two breeding patches.
    — If you are working with a model, this might be a good time to start a new one. —–
  6. Create the cost map (that will be used to control the animals migration from Piney to Murat) given the cost criteria above.
    *Add* snips of your reclass operations or calculations that create the cost from land use and topography.
    Use curvature to find hilltops but be careful of the output. See the distribution of the curvature (integrated curvature, not planform, not profile). Very few values exist at the limits of the range; most are nearly “flat.” Choose how you want to raster calc, slice or reclass this oddball distribution.

    *Add* snips (zoomed in to good areas) to show the two components of the cost; land use and topography, plus the final combined cost.
  7. Make and evaluate least cost paths from the Piney River habitats to the Murat habitats..
    1. Do these routes makes sense given your criteria? *Add* a snip of the routes and write a brief paragraph.
    2. Based on the total cost of each path, locate the “most likely” starts and ends to these migrations. *Add* snip(s) and brief explanation(s).
    3. Identify any “pinch points” or areas of especially high cost where animal migration is least favored on the path. These areas would benefit from conservation easements or habitat restoration efforts. *Add* snip(s) and brief explanation(s).
    4. +5 points if you use an analysis of the paths to highlight the changing resistance along the path. This should illustrate the “pinch points” in both map and a plot format.*Add* snips and descriptions.*Add* snips and descriptions.
  8. Your portfolio should include the snips and text as above plus
    1. at the top, the file path and name of your project
    2. snips and the name(s) of your model(s) or snips of your edited geoprocessing history (what worked; this can be separated into groups of commands).