Creating Tallgrass Prairie Corridors for Species at Risk Using Geographic Information Systems in Norfolk County, ON
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Anthropological land use in Norfolk County, Southwestern Ontario, has resulted in fragmentation of tallgrass prairie habitats which several species at risk are dependent upon. This research aims to create connectivity between fragmented habitats through the development of tallgrass prairie ecological corridors in Norfolk County. Using Geographic Information Systems-based Multi-Criteria Evaluation, attribute layers were weighted according to their relative importance and combined. Five models were developed to represent the varying habitat requirements for ten at-risk species. The most suitable values in each model were combined to create one habitat index map illustrating the best suitability for all species considered in the study. The habitat index map forms the cost surface used to perform a least-cost path analysis which illustrates the optimal corridor connecting core areas. Ideal lands for acquisition for corridor development are low cost, distant from urban built up areas, existing in natural landscapes, and connected to large reserve patches.