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Posted by Susan Sharma on August 05, 2007


Computer tools for conservation


This tool — known as the "SWAP model," short for State Wildlife Action Plan — is unique: It considers a habitat’s numerous species all at once and displays the results in maps that are intuitively easy to grasp.  A cutting-edge, customized computer tool that takes 150 years of information on at-risk animals across Tennessee and marries that data to the latest in mapping software — geographic information systems (GIS) has been in use in the U.S.A.

The SWAP model incorporates 150 years of information on:

Animal sightings in Tennessee; Their preferred habitats; Threats to these animals (such as road construction or dam building); and Conservation actions known to counteract these threats. The software tracks 664 at-risk animals across the state — on land, in water, and in caves — with data mathematically weighted toward most recent sightings, species most at risk, and other key factors.

Then it produces maps that display color areas where at-risk species are proven to live and thrive. The darker the color, the more viable the habitat.  Part of what makes the SWAP model so innovative is that it turns the longstanding conservation strategy of preserving a habitat for the sake of a single rare species  on its head.

“That’s the old, standard way of conservation thinking,” “The SWAP model allows us to see all the at-risk species in an area that will benefit by removing certain threats or restoring habitat."

Another intriguing aspect of the SWAP model is its ability to project hypothetical scenarios. What if the Conservancy were to restore a farmland pasture to wooded wetlands, for instance? Would that help the at-risk species in the area?

The SWAP model can predict the outcome.

Read the full article at http://www.nature.org

http://tinyurl.com/39mlfw
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