Pierre Vernier

BEACONs Project, University of Alberta and Yukon College
Ecological benchmarks provide anchors for landscape conservation by establishing the foundation for a robust and resilient protected areas network, and reference conditions for identifying sustainable land management practices. Benchmarks support implementation of active adaptive management by serving as controls for human activities designed to enhance understanding of the response of biodiversity and other ecosystem values to management choices. As part of a project with the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NWB LCC), we have identified networks of benchmarks for 30 ecoregions intersecting the NWB LCC planning region, which includes Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia. Candidate benchmark networks were identified and ranked based on fundamental benchmark properties, resilience to climate change, and representation of habitat for a suite of priority focal species. To better communicate the results of our analysis, we developed a web-  based tool that enables users to explore the results for each ecoregion (http://nwb.ualberta.ca). The bulk of the tool consists of the Ecoregion Explorer which includes interactive maps and ranking tables of candidate benchmark networks for each ecoregion. In this presentation, we provide a brief overview of the tool and illustrate its use for evaluating benchmark options with regards to the protection of focal species habitat in the Boreal Mountains and Plateau ecoregion in northcentral BC. The tool also provides access to downloadable reports, tables, spatial data (e.g., species habitat), and shapefiles of benchmark options for each ecoregion.