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Madrean Archipelago Rapid Ecoregional Assessment
Applying Vista to BLM's Landscape Approach
About this Project

The “Sky Islands” region of southern Arizona and New Mexico harbors extraordinary levels of biodiversity. However, like many areas of the arid west, it is experiencing significant climate change effects and is increasingly impacted by invasive species and wildfire leading to soil erosion and loss of grasslands. NatureServe’s assessment of the ecoregion will help BLM better target scarce restoration dollars to improve habitats and guide land use plans and project permitting (such as for renewable energy) to reduce further impacts. In 2010 the Bureau of Land Management embarked on a program to assess the status of dozens of ecosystems and species and overall integrity of 15 ecoregions throughout the American west. NatureServe conducted four of these assessments, most recently completing this assessment called the Madrean Archipelago Rapid Ecoregional Assessment (MAR REA). We utilized our NatureServe Vista decision support system (Vista DSS) to conduct most of the work which provides an opportunity to apply the tool and data products to any number of future assessments and land-use planning activities. The products of this two-year effort included the map below which indicates the overall integrity or condition of the ecoregion. Dark blue areas are modeled as relatively intact while the lighter color areas are increasingly impacted by invasive species, wildfire, and water use. The project already has been leveraged to conduct an assessment for Fort Huachuca, a DoD installation, under a Legacy grant. Our innovative approach to assessing recent and future effects of climate change resulted in a contract from BLM to replicate that work across the entire west.