What is biodiversity? Simply put, it is the vast array of plants and animals that make up our landscape, from the tiniest soil microbes to gigantic Douglas firs—and everything in between. Biodiversity is critical to the health of our region’s ecosystems and to our own physical and economic health. Ecosystems that have diverse plant and animal life contribute to our clean air and water, fertile soil, and effective crop pollination. They help reduce industrial waste and put food on the table. Biologically diverse ecosystems are more resilient than simpler, species-poor ecosystems, which means that they are better able to withstand disturbances, including climate change.
The Regional Conservation Strategy is based on a scientific companion document: the Biodiversity Guide for the Greater Portland-Vancouver Region. When The Intertwine Alliance launched the effort to develop the Regional Conservation Strategy, its partners acknowledged that without a sound scientific underpinning, the strategy would lack credibility and be less useful as a guide to protecting the region’s natural resources. The Intertwine Alliance’s steering committee recognized that if the region is to protect biodiversity, a science-based companion document would be needed—a guide that describes the region’s biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Guide for the Greater Portland-Vancouver Region, together with mapping and GIS modeling completed specifically for this project, provides important tools for conservation practitioners and decision makers: a narrative that describes the composition and patterns of biodiversity across the region, a land cover map at a scale suitable for analysis of urban and near-urban areas, and a data-driven GIS model of conservation priority areas. The biodiversity guide narrative describes the status of the region’s flora, fauna, and natural habitats; changes that have occurred in the regional landscape since 1850; and potential losses the region might experience if appropriate conservation and restoration actions are not taken.
Also explained are the importance of fire in managing ecosystems, the ecological significance of floodplains, and challenges that climate change poses for the region’s biota. In addition, the narrative serves as the biological basis for the Regional Conservation Strategy’s discussions of issues, current conservation work, and future strategic opportunities. Taken together, the narrative, mapping, and GIS modeling provide the information and spatial context needed to help identify places of high conservation value. They also show how local projects fit within the larger spatial scale and can be used to identify where action is needed to keep habitats within urban areas connected to each other and to areas surrounding the greater Portland-Vancouver region.
High-Value Lands in the Region