Methods are developed for forecasting the effects of population and economic growth on the distribution of interior forest habitat. An application to the southeastern United States shows that models provide significant explanatory power with regard to the observed distribution of interior forest. Estimates for economic and biophysical variables are significant and consistent with theory. Forecasts of interior forest based on the population and economic growth projected for the region are displayed by ecological section and province and by metropolitan statistical area (MSA). Loss of interior forests is expected to be especially high in certain ecological sections, including the southern Appalachian Piedmont in North and South Carolina, the Gulf prairies and marshes in Texas, and the Florida coastal lowlands. Sixty-six percent of loss of interior forests will be in urban counties, which highlights the conservation importance of the urbanizing fringe of several cities. Among the ten MSAs that will lose the most interior forest, seven are found in Florida. These forecasts provide a mechanism for assigning priorities and targeting areas for more detailed study and for conservation efforts.
Wear, David; Pye, John; Riitters, Kurt H. 2004. Defining conservation priorities using fragmentation forecasts. Ecology and Society 9 (5): 4. online URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol9/iss5/art4, 14 p.