REGIONAL LANDSCAPE AND CONSERVATION PLANNING

The Florida Ecological Greenways Network

Principal Investigator: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

The goal of the Florida Ecological Greenways Network (FEGN)  database is to identify and prioritize a functionally  connected statewide ecological network of public and private conservation  lands. The FEGN guides the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) ecological greenway conservation  efforts, and promotes public awareness of the need for and benefits of a  statewide ecological greenways network. It is also the primary data layer used  to inform the Florida Forever and other state and regional land acquisition  programs regarding the most important ecological corridors and intact  landscapes across the state.

One of the  goals of the state greenways plan is to update the FEGN base boundary and  priorities approximately every five years or so. The most recent update to the FEGN was completed in 2016. Primary goals included to address potential sea level rise impacts on FEGN priorities, elevate the priority of FEGN corridors that could functionally link Florida conservation lands to other states, consolidate FEGN priority levels from eight priority levels down to six, and to conduct boundary edits and data updates throughout the state.

Additional Information:

  • Florida Office of Greenways and Trails: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/FGTS_Plan/default.html
  • The final report describing the 2013 update of the FEGN (the most recent version approved by the Office of Greenways and Trails) can be found here.
  • The individual GIS layers and a data directory that serves as a guide for identifying the available GIS layers are available upon request.
  • The CLIP 4.0 technical report and data including the 2016 FEGN update is available here.

The Florida Strategic Plan for Sustaining Military Readiness through Conservation Partnerships

Principal Investigator: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

The Florida Strategic Plan for Sustaining Military Readiness through Conservation Partnerships is a collaboration between several partners including the U.S. Air Force, Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative (PFLCC), US Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Florida, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Initiated in early 2015, the goal of the Strategic Plan is to identify a regional natural resources management approach to help minimize encroachment threats to Air Force missions, while identifying partner-leveraged conservation opportunities throughout the state of Florida. This builds upon existing partnerships that already exist between the PFLCC, Air Force, and various other federal, state and non-governmental conservation organizations, as well as existing data and work such as the Critical Lands and Waters Identification Project (CLIP) and the Cooperative Conservation Blueprint. The intent is for the current Strategic Plan to be a pilot project, which may be expanded to include other regions and partnerships in the future. This is in keeping with the Air Force’s expressed interest in being a conservation partner at the regional and state levels, and in having Air Force conservation priorities included as part of regional and state conservation efforts.

Additional Information:

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Project

The Center is working with the Conservation Trust for Florida (CTF) and the Legacy Institute for Nature and Culture (LINC) on an education and outreach campaign highlighting the significant and pressing opportunity to protect wildlife corridors across the state of Florida.  The Florida Wildlife Corridor promotes the vision of an ecologically-connected network of public and private conservation lands eventually created throughout Florida, which was conceived of by Carlton Ward from LINC and developed in collaboration with Tom Hoctor. The Florida Wildlife Corridor project was developed to educate and advocate for the protection of the Florida Ecological Greenways Network, and specifically the Critical Linkages from south Florida to Georgia, though the other Critical Linkages from west-central Florida through the Florida panhandle might be added to these efforts in the future.

In 2015 the team completed a new expedition highlighting an east to west corridor, starting in Central Florida, extending to the Gulf Coast, crossing the Big Bend and Panhandle, and concluding at the Alabama state line. A public outreach campaign is ongoing to share information about the wildlife corridor and its importance as a tool for reaching statewide conservation goals. For more information, go to http://www.floridawildlifecorridor.org/.

In 2012, after two years in planning, the project debuted in the form of a 1000-mile, 100 day expedition from Florida Bay in Everglades National Park up the peninsula to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. The trek was carried out by 4 Florida-based conservationists: photojournalist Carlton Ward, Jr., biologist Joe Guthrie, nature filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus, and conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt.  A film about the expedition by Elam Stoltzfus was aired on PBS in April 2013 in Florida and in June 2013 nationally.

Critical Lands and Waters Identification Project (CLIP)

Principal Investigators: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning; Jon Oetting, Florida Natural Areas Inventory

The goal of CLIP is to identify Florida’s critical environmental resources, including strategic habitat, biodiversity hotspots, aquifer recharge areas and ecological greenways, using the best available science and statewide spatial data and to develop an iterative GIS database as a decision making tool for statewide and regional conservation and land use planning. This work is essential for ensuring the sustainability of Florida’s green infrastructure and vital ecosystem services as Florida’s population grows and land uses change. By identifying critical conservation needs, they can be incorporated into long term land use and conservation plans.

The latest version of CLIP was completed in 2016 and is available from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory website here.
Additional updates are planned as funding is available.

Landscape Conservation Design in Southwest Florida and the Florida Big Bend

Principal Investigator: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

This project is a cooperative effort between the Center, National Wildlife Refuge Association, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to advance a new regional planning concept for the USFWS called Landscape Conservation Design (LCD). An LCD involves combining spatially explicit analysis of biodiversity and ecosystem service conservation priorities with stakeholder engagement and outreach to help determine priority strategies and actions. The results of these LCDs are intended to inform regional landscape-scale conservation and land use planning decisions both specifically for National Wildlife Refuges but also related policy processes for other government agencies, NGOs, and private landowners.

In 2017, an LCD was completed for southwest Florida. This provides a synthesis of both existing statewide and new regional conservation priorities data to identify the most critical places for conserving the native wildlife and habitats unique to southwest and south-central Florida.

Additional Information:

  • The final report is available here.
  • The report appendices are available here.

Florida Panther and Listed Species Habitat Priorities, Opportunities, and Threats Assessment

Principal Investigator: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

This focus of this project is to identify Florida panther habitat and corridor conservation priorities in the context of other focal species conservation priorities and other natural resource conservation priorities (including water resource protection) throughout the state. In addition, this analysis will entail comparison of panther habitat and corridor priorities to both protection opportunities and potential future threats.

Northwest Florida Green Infrastructure Project

Principal Investigator: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

The Center worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Panama City office and other partners on a GIS database of green infrastructure conservation priorities in the Florida panhandle from the Apalachicola River to the western tip of Florida. This project was based on adapting methods from the Cooperative Conservation Blueprint Regional Pilot Project, and integrating state and regional conservation GIS data to identify a collective set of region-wide conservation priorities for biodiversity and ecosystem services. The database was built with information from CLIP, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The database was completed in May 2013.

Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Analysis

Principal Investigators: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning; Jon Oetting, Florida Natural Areas Inventory

The purpose of this project was to conduct a GIS-based assessment of black bear habitat and population re-establishment feasibility for Hillsborough County and relevant areas in surrounding counties. Work also included review of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission policies and guidelines for moving bears between populations and establishment of new habitat areas, as well as a broader assessment of conservation and wildlife corridor priorities within the county.

St. Lucie River Watershed Water Farming Demonstration Project

Principal Investigator/Watershed Coordinator: Mary Oakley, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning, with technical support from Tom Hoctor and Michael Spontak.

Through the University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), former Center Research Associate Mary Oakley worked in the role of Watershed Coordinator on a demonstration project in the St. Lucie River Watershed. The main purpose of the project was to field test the concept of Water Farming, or retaining large volumes of water on fallow citrus groves to help meet established goals for increasing surface water storage and reducing nutrient runoff in this east coast watershed located in Martin and St. Lucie Counties, which is part of the greater Northern Everglades region of Florida.

The SFWMD was awarded a Section 319 (EPA/Clean Water Act) matching grant through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this three-year, three million dollar (total) project in which three water farming pilot projects will retain an estimated 15,000+ acre-feet of surface water per year that would otherwise contribute to the harmful stormwater discharges into the St. Lucie River, a major tributary of the Indian River Lagoon. Additionally, the three projects will collectively reduce nutrient discharges each year by an estimated 27,822 pounds of nitrogen, 6,641 pounds of phosphorous and 245,024 pounds of suspended solids. The water farming pilot sites range in size from 60 to 900 acres. The sites are managed and continuously monitored for water storage and water quality performance.

Partners in the demonstration project include the Indian River Citrus League, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. Mary’s watershed coordinator role involved developing scenarios with partners for a potential regional expansion of water farming and exploring possible funding opportunities, including water quality credit trading with agriculture and other stakeholders in the context of the St. Lucie River and Estuary Basin Management Action Plan.

The interim project report for this project can be found here.

The Cooperative Conservation Blueprint (CCB)

Principal Investigators: Tom Hoctor, P.I. and Mary Oakley, Co-P.I, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

The goal of the Cooperative Conservation Blueprint (CCB) initiative is to collaborate with local, regional and state planners and stakeholders to develop conservation incentives that assist in implementation of state conservation goals and priorities (as identified by the Critical Lands and Waters Identification Project- CLIP). This includes consideration of social and economic priorities, as well as ecosystem services-related incentives based around land, water, and energy (including renewable energy production). The CCB initiative seeks to develop incentives for natural resources conservation on private lands that will remain in private hands. It is therefore a complement to public land acquisition programs such as Florida Forever.

Following broadly collaborative development work on the CCB at a statewide scale that began in 2006, a CCB Regional Pilot Project was launched in January 2011 in south-central and southwest Florida, in a 13-county area. It was funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) through 2012. A primary goal of the regional project was to develop and gain scientist and stakeholder agreement on a sufficient and sustainable “critical lands and waters” ecological reserve network in the pilot region and to promote sustainable agriculture throughout the region.

The CCB initiative included the exploration or development of non-regulatory conservation incentives for private rural landowners. Accordingly, the CCB regional project led to a pilot test-phase of a new Payment for Ecosystem Services program, sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to compensate landowners for their stewardship of gopher tortoise habitat. The work of the CCB initiative also contributed to the foundation and successful launch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsored Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative (PFLCC) in 2011—a program that funds updates to the CLIP database among other conservation initiatives.

We are grateful to the many, many people who participated in the CCB initiative, starting in 2006; most of whom volunteered their time and expertise to the process. We are also grateful to, and were pleased to be a part of, the core team of professional “CCB-ers” who led the efforts in the field or otherwise made the CCB possible: Julie Morris, Kimball Love, Christine Small, Jon Oetting, Jean Scott, along with Thomas Eason and Brian Branciforte of FWC.

Babcock Ranch Regional Connectivity Study

Hoctor, T.S. and R.F. Noss. 2009-2010. Babcock Ranch Regional Connectivity Study. Report to Babcock Ranch Wildlife Corridor Steering Committee and Lands Surrounding Babcock Ranch Steering Committee. Kitson Babcock L.L.C., Port Charlotte, FL.

This study assessed the current regional landscape of southwestern Florida in terms of connectivity for three focal species (Florida panther, Florida black bear, and Sherman’s fox squirrel), evaluated projected combined impacts of urban development and sea-level rise on landscape connectivity, and proposed several regional-scale wildlife corridors that require further intensive analysis.

Heartland 2060 Ecological Prioritization

Hoctor, T.S., J. Oetting, and M. O’Brien. 2009-2010. Heartland 2060 Ecological Prioritization.

The University of Florida worked with Florida Natural Areas Inventory, The Nature Conservancy, Archbold Biological Station, and the Central Florida Regional Planning Council to identify ecological conservation priorities throughout south-central Florida to support regional visioning (The Heartland 2060 project) and comprehensive conservation and land use planning. Priorities were identified using a combination of data from the Critical Lands and Waters Identification Project and regional data.

The final report is available here: Heartland 2060 Ecological Prioritization

Additional Information:

Southwest Florida Water Management District Conservation Land Acquisition Re-assessment

Hoctor, T.S. 2008-2009. Southwest Florida Water Management District Conservation Land Acquisition Re-assessment.

The University of Florida worked with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Wildlands Conservation to develop a new GIS methodology for identifying conservation land acquisition priorities in southwest Florida. Work included the development of a new GIS model integrating data from the Critical Lands and Waters Identification Project and various regional data to identify conservation priorities including for biodiversity and water resources.

Greater Ridge Conservation Planning Tool

Hoctor, T.S. and S. Beyeler. 2007-2008. Greater Ridge Conservation Planning Tool.

The University of Florida worked with The Nature Conservancy and Archbold Biological Station to identify important conservation priority areas and supporting lands and waters needed to maintain the ecological integrity of conservation lands within the Lake Wales Ridge region of central Florida. Work included development of a GIS database of priority conservation areas, vertebrate species habitat, wildlife corridors, conservation lands buffers, and priority watershed protection areas.

Southwest Florida Water Management District Land Use and Management Decision Support System

Principal Investigators: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning

The purpose of this project was to develop a GIS Application to assist conservation and land use planning within and near conservation lands owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The application identifies primary and secondary impacts, such as from roads, recreation, and land use changes, using the best available spatial data and information from an extensive literature review.

CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENCY

Planning for Sea-level Rise in the Matanzas Basin

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Frank, University of Florida in partnership with the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve

The goal of this project was to examine the current and potential future impacts of sea-level rise on natural and developed areas in the Matanzas River estuary and watershed. The University of Florida worked with staff from the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, as well as a diverse steering committee and other local experts to conduct science-based analyses of potential sea level rise impacts and adaptation priorities, capacity building and public outreach activities, and to provide potential adaptation strategies and integrated planning recommendations that could be applied within the watershed.

The Center for Landscape Conservation Planning assisted with all components of the project in coordination with the Principal Investigator, but particularly project management and GIS-based analyses of conservation priorities at the landscape, natural community, species, and water resource scales.

Additional Information:

  • Additional information can be found on the project website here: http://planningmatanzas.org/.
  • The final project report and appendices are available here.
  • The GIS database is available upon request.

Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Frank, University of Florida

The goal of this project was to examine scientific studies and oral histories of past, current, and future coastal change in Levy County, including the possible impacts of sea-level rise, and engage citizens and decision makers in identifying adaptation strategies. Work to assess coastal change impacts was conducted at the county scale, as well as for the rural coastal towns of Yankeetown, Inglis, and Cedar Key. Center staff were involved assisting with project management, basic GIS analyses, and planning recommendations for the study area.

A portion of this project was awarded an APA Student Project Award for Excellence in Small Town and Rural Planning. For more information please see: http://changinglevycoast.org/.

Reimagining the Form of Rural Coastal Communities in Response to Sea-level Rise

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Frank, University of Florida

The focus of this project was on developing and prioritizing adaptation strategies in response to sea-level rise, in collaboration with local, regional, and state experts, for the small coastal community of Cedar Key. The project built upon previous work conducted at the county scale by University of Florida staff. While adaptation planning initiatives often focus on one concern or discipline, this project sought to integrate strategies from four perspectives: urban design, hazard mitigation, environmental planning, and socio-cultural-economic development.

Center staff were involved by providing a basic analysis of potential conservation impacts, priorities, and adaptation strategies at the landscape, natural community, species, and water resource levels. Additional information on this project can be found at http://changinglevycoast.org/.

Dynamic Reserve Design in the Face of Climate Change and Urbanization

Principal Investigator: Stephanie Romanach, USGS.

The goal of this project was to combine a structured decision making framework, optimal solution theory, and output from ecological and sociological models that incorporate climate change to provide guidance for design of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge (EHNWR), using a combination of conservation tools such as fee simple purchase and conservation easements. The Center assisted by providing information and analysis on potential modifications to ecological connectivity priorities that might influence the overall reserve design. Objectives included identifying specific corridor/connectivity routes and options for maintaining and restoring south to north corridors, major riparian corridors, and cross-watershed connectivity throughout the study area. Analyses included comparison of existing landscape-scale connectivity priorities with potential impacts from land use/land cover change and assessment of habitat and connectivity priorities for selected focal species under both current and projected future conditions.

Adaptation to Sea-level Rise in Florida: Biological Conservation Priorities

Principal Investigators: Tom Hoctor, University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning; Reed Noss, University of Central Florida; Jon Oetting, Florida Natural Areas Inventory

The goal of this project was to conduct an assessment of the potential impacts of sea-level rise and land-use change in Florida on high priority natural communities and species identified in Florida’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Such an assessment is necessary for developing conservation strategies, including identification and protection of functional connectivity, which will avoid, minimize, and mitigate anticipated impacts. This work forms the foundation for revising conservation land acquisition priorities, land-use planning and management strategies, and adaptation measures for at-risk species and natural communities to promote resistance and resilience to climate change. The project was jointly funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) and the Kresge Foundation.

Additional Information:

  • The final report for this project can be found here.
  • The report appendices are available upon request.

URBAN GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Urban Green Infrastructure Initiative

The Urban Green Infrastructure Initiative was established in 2018, with the goal of expanding the emphasis of the Center beyond regional-scale conservation and land use planning issues to also include applied research and education focused on the elements of green infrastructure planning and design in urban and surrounding areas that are relevant to maintaining natural processes and ecosystem services.

In the book Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities, Benedict and McMahon (2006) defined green infrastructure as an interconnected network of natural areas and other open spaces that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions, sustains clean air and water, offers stormwater or flood management infrastructure, and provides a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife. To this end, topics of interest as part of the Initiative include urban green space protection and planning, ecosystem services, coastal storm surge protection, sea level rise resiliency, green stormwater infrastructure, climate-wise landscape design, and the human health benefits of urban green space. In particular, we are interested in the importance of linkages between rural and urban green infrastructure, and protecting both for the ecosystem services they provide.

Research results may be used to influence public policy, land use planning, and design through education and applied design and planning projects. An important goal is to increase the engagement of the Center with other faculty and students in the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning at the University of Florida and elsewhere, as well as faculty in the Florida Institute for Built Environment Resilience (FIBER), and other national and international research centers.

Research Projects

Incorporating Climate Change into Landscape Architectural in Projects and Practice

Student Assistants: Belinda B. Nettles, Christopher Nelson

Website: www.dcp.ufl.edu/landscapechange

Landscape architects in Florida are, and will be, very influential in addressing the impact of climate change on the built and natural environment. The knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of landscape architects about climate change will determine the extent to which they commit to design practices that mitigate climate change impacts such as flooding, temperature and precipitation changes, and salt water intrusion. It is important to understand what landscape architects’ perceptions and beliefs are about climate change, to what degree these beliefs influence design practices, and what information and strategies are needed and relevant to landscape architectural practice today, and in the future, to help address the impacts of climate change on the natural and built environment.

Using data from a recent survey on attitudes and perceptions of Florida landscape architects toward climate change, this study identifies information gaps, potential strategies, and possible barriers to adoption of landscape design practices that anticipate, and plan for, immediate and future impacts of climate change on the built and natural environment. Products include development of a web-based resource for landscape architects in Florida and elsewhere to promote climate-wise design.

Additional funding was acquired in December 2018 to study methods of educating students in horticulture and landscape architecture about climate change and climate-wise design.

Studio Projects

Sun City Center: Analysis of Regional Connectivity, Restoration, and Golf Course Adaptive Reuse Opportunities

Studio Course: LAA4356 Environmental Planning and Design

Instructors: Dr. Tom Hoctor and Michael Volk

The goal of this project was to conduct an analysis of opportunities for the adaptive reuse of abandoned golf courses in the Sun City Center Community in south Florida, as well as opportunities for ecological restoration and connectivity between the green spaces in Sun City Center and the larger regional network of conservation lands and ecological corridors.

The final student products can be viewed here.

Student Research

Cross-scale Conservation and Landscape Planning in Bandung Urban Regions: the Challenge of Rapid Land Use Change (ongoing)

Doctoral Student: Widyastri Rahmy

Advisor: Dr. Tom Hoctor

Widyastris doctoral work will primarily address urban-rural connectivity as it relates to supporting a regional balance of conservation and development. It includes an examination of functional linkages between urban and rural greenspaces, with regard to their ability to provide ecosystem services as well as recreational and conservation opportunities. The study aims to incorporate a review of spatial law related to urban greenspace conservation, urban landscape conservation priority assessments, and assess the use of urban-rural development rights transfers as a means of addressing the challenges of rapid land use change. The study will be conducted in the Bandung Urban Region in Indonesia.

The Restorative Urban Realm: A Psychosocial Approach to Constructing the Restorative Urban Experiential Landscape. (2018). Doctoral dissertation.

Doctoral Student: Martha Battaglin Ramos

Advisor: Dr. Tom Hoctor.

Marthas doctoral work is an example of a study of urban ecosystem services delivered by a wider network of urban green infrastructure, at the neighborhood and street scale, to investigate the human benefits provided by urban landscapes. The study was designed to explore a human-oriented approach to landscape and urban design, focusing on theory development and policy recommendations towards fostering human psychological and social restoration in urban centers. From a human ecology perspective, urban landscapes provide ecosystem services with great potential to restore the human-ecological balance, and Marthas work focused on the socially-oriented dimension of creating, keeping and restoring this balance in urban settings.

POLICY, PLANNING, AND OUTREACH

Center staff work closely with a range of non-governmental organizations, local, state, and federal agencies to assist with implementation, policy, and outreach related to green infrastructure and landscape conservation issues throughout the state. Partners include the Florida Conservation Group, which advocates, educates, and acts as a resource for land protection and other conservation programs related to wildlife and water protection on Florida’s ranchlands and other working lands. These topics are connected to a range of projects throughout the Center and Center staff provide paid and pro-bono assistance to support the advancement of landscape-scale conservation in Florida.