Habitat acquisition strategies for grassland birds in an urbanizing landscape

Stephanie A. Snyder, James R. Miller, Adam M. Skibbe, Robert G. Haight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Habitat protection for grassland birds is an important component of open space land acquisition in suburban Chicago. We use optimization decision models to develop recommendations for land protection and analyze tradeoffs between alternative goals. One goal is to acquire (and restore if necessary) as much grassland habitat as possible for a given budget. Because a viable habitat for grassland birds consists of a relatively large core area with additional parcels of grassland habitat nearby, the second goal is to minimize total pairwise distance between newly protected parcels and large existing reserves. We also use the concept of an effective grassland habitat area, which considers influences that neighboring land covers have on grassland habitat suitability. We analyze how the parcels selected for protection change as total protected effective area is traded off against total distance. As area is weighted more heavily, the selected parcels are scattered and unconnected. As total distance is weighted more heavily, the selected parcels coalesce around core reserves but protect less area. The differences in selected parcels as we change the objective function weights are caused by the differences in price per unit of effective habitat area across parcels. Parcels located in close proximity to the existing cores have relatively high prices per hectare of effective grassland area as a consequence of high restoration costs and adverse influences from roads, urban areas and/or forestland. As a result, these parcels have lower priority for selection when the area objective is weighted more heavily for a given budget.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-992
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Open space
  • Optimization
  • Reserve design
  • Site selection
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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