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Conservation Planning and Ecosystem Management in the Sierra Nevada

Executive Summary--Year 1

Table of Contents (October 1, 1999)

  1. Sierra Nevada Network for Education and Research Activities
  2. Reserve siting research in the Sierra Nevada
  3. Scoping activities for a Sierra Nevada Research Institute

1. Sierra Nevada Network for Education and Research Activities

    The Sierra Nevada Network for Education and Research (SNNER) was funded by the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) to disseminate data and findings from the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP), and to support their application in local and regional conservation and ecosystem management activities. The initial activities of SNNER included four components: 1) improve access by the public and local agencies to the SNEP report and GIS database, 2) convene a conference in fall 1999, 3) the Yuba Watershed Project at UCD, 4) reconvene the SNNER Implementation Board.
    • Access to SNEP Information: The SNEP report contained a great deal of valuable spatial information about the entire Sierra Nevada ecosystem. To support the assessment, a geographic information system (GIS) database was compiled and made available over the World Wide Web at http://snepmaps.des.ucdavis.edu/snep/. However, in its current form, SNEP data has proven difficult to use.  Many users do not have the specialized software needed to extract information for their own analyses. A survey of SNEP users showed that there was an interest in ready-made maps and data summaries on electronic media, as well as automated search programs that search for specific words or topics in the report. SNEP data needed to be more readily accessible and analyzed at smaller, more manageable scales to be useful to many organizations.
      • In response to this need, we developed a website that presents a series of standardized tables and graphs representing the SNEP data for 20 counties and 24 watersheds in the ecoregion. GIS analyses were performed and data extracted for each SNEP data layer, and for each of the counties and watersheds. The data were summarized and arranged in tabular  or graphical format. Each county and watershed has an identically formatted homepage where basic information is presented and GIS data summaries are listed as links. It is our hope that repackaging the SNEP data and putting it on the Web will prove valuable to local planners and grass-roots organizations.
      • With the aid of Deanne DiPietro at CERES, a thesaurus was developed of key terms from the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project report. Over 500 terms were linked using Microsoft Access in a hierarchy/web of connections based on relatedness. The Access database was then attached to a search protocol on the CERES website that uses thesaurus terms to search the SNEP report at Berkeley's electronic library and GIS metadata. The thesaurus and search protocol are both undergoing modification to make retrieval of related terms more sophisticated.

    • Conference: SNNER, in collaboration with the Institute for Transportation Studies, UC Davis, has organized a Fall, 1999, workshop on rural road networks. Speakers and panelists with expertise in aquatic systems, geomorphology, habitat fragmentation, transportation planning, and rural development will engage in cross-disciplinary discussions on this critical issue in the Sierra Nevada. The goal of the workshop is to assess the state of road and transportation system data, management strategies, and policies affecting road development in the Sierra Nevada.  Presenters and attendees will originate from across the academic, agency, and public spectrum, from both inside and outside of California. If additional funding is secured, the proceedings of the workshop will be published.
    • Yuba Watershed Project: SNNER is supporting the Yuba Watershed Council with technical and scientific expertise to develop a conceptual framework for monitoring and watershed assessment strategies. We have facilitated access to key scientists studying processes ranging from mercury contamination of waterways to habitat fragmentation from urban/rural development. The primary tangible product of this interaction is an interactive website. It allows the user to view pictures of landscape conditions throughout the watershed as well as digitized representations (ArcView coverages) of landscape data (such as road networks and vegetation community types). The Yuba Watershed Council sub-committee responsible for actual implementation of monitoring programs will serve as our primary contact. We are continuing to monitor the development of other watershed (e.g., American River) and regional plans.
    • Implementation Board: SNNER's Implementation Board has been reconvened and has met twice in the last 6 months. The Board was advised of the nature of the various projects underway at UCSB and UCD and recommended actions for further development of SNNER and specific projects, such as a Sierra Nevada-wide bioregional conference. The Board has indicated that it approves of the current course of action by SNNER and recommended in May, 1999, "checking in" again in a year.

 2. Reserve siting research in the Sierra Nevada (Slide Show)

Development of a new UC campus in Merced provided an opportunity to formalize the procedure for selecting new reserves according to existing Natural Reserve System (NRS) guidelines.  A Windows NT-based decision support system and GIS database was developed that integrates the multiple, potentially conflicting criteria in the guidelines into a three-phase procedure of regional screening, parcel assessment and final site evaluation.  The procedure was applied for the regional screening phase to the existing network of 33 reserves and to a planning region surrounding the UC Merced campus site.  At this scale, we found that the environments that are least well represented by existing NRS reserves include coniferous forest in the Sierra Nevada and Northern Coast Ranges and deserts in southeastern California.  The highest-ranking reserves tend to satisfy all three primary criteria. The lower scoring reserves tend to be excellent in some criteria, but score poorly in at least one.  Thus, the evaluation committees selecting reserves appear to have weighted the criteria differently in each case.  Similarly in the UC Merced region, no planning unit was perfectly suitable by all criteria, but the highest values in the planning region were comparable to the highest-scoring NRS reserves.  As Phase 2 begins, we will limit the assessment to a smaller region with the highest overall suitability close the Merced campus and modify the specifics of the decision criteria as appropriate for parcel-level data.

3. Scoping activities for a Sierra Nevada Research Institute

Dr. Davis chaired an advisory committee of agency collaborators, UC researchers, civic leaders and others to define and promote the concept of a Sierra Nevada Research Institute, an organized research unit to be housed at UC Merced. Findings from this scoping activity were summarized in the form of a report to UCOP (in Acrobat .pdf format) submitted in August, 1999.  Dr. Davis worked with the managers in the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service to develop mechanisms to foster cooperative research.

University of California Office of the President Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Homepage (CERES) SNEP GIS data on-line (UC Davis--ICE) Sierra Nevada Network for Education and Research Homepage UC Merced Homepage Biogeography Lab Home Page

Email stoms@bren.ucsb.edu