DESIGNING AN INTERNATIONAL PARK SYSTEM BASED ON PLAN EARTH
The first step for planning an international park system that conserves and protects lands and waters by Parks of the World is the selection of methods of analyses. Plan Earth uses the concept of biodiversity as its guiding principle of analyses.
Our definition further divides biodiversity into three categories that change through time.
- community diversity in a habitat or ecosystem
- species diversity
- genetic diversity within species
Our definition recognizes both the structure and composition of ecological communities (form) and the ecological processes such as succession; and evolutionary processes such as speciation (function). Conserving biological diversity includes more than just recovery of endangered species or creation of preserves or parks. Biodiversity also encompasses maintaining ecological processes and preserving the capability of genes, organisms, and communities to evolve over time. We borrow our definition from Allen Cooperrider (Cooperrider) in his article on conservation of biodiversity.
One of the major methods of analyses Parks of the World uses is gap analysis (Burley and Scott). Gap analysis is the creation of vegetation mapping (Hudson). Parks of the World uses gap analysis because vegetation is the most widely used indirect indicator of biodiversity (Crumpacker). Also, gap analysis is the best method for predicting flora, fauna, fishes, and other organisms distribution (Hudson). For habitat identification for a specie or community of species, we base our analyses over time on vegetation mapping. Our analyses are dynamic over time instead of a snap shot at one place in time.
Computer applications like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and interpretation of satellite and low altitude imagery allow multiple views of areas. We use a composite of many views during different seasons of the year to complete our seasonal analyses. We also collect regional, national, and global data and geographic information and we store this data in Parks of the World's database. We allow others to use our databases to develop connecting parks between countries, regions, and biogeographic areas.
To complete our analyses and mapping of species and communities of species for a potential parks or park system, we do a full year of seasonal analyses with at least one sample taken for each month to develop a baseline of information about areas of biological diversity. Identified areas of biological diversity are then placed in several different categories called Biodiversity Management Areas. From our baseline of information, we select biodiversity management areas based on their richness of biodiversity or lack of biodiversity. We use a national park system module of Plan Earth that analyzes the data we have collected for each biodiversity management area for a potential park in a country.
At a minimum, Parks of the World analyzes all the biodiversity management areas in a proposed or designated park area every tenth year to evaluate any changes and to identify what caused any changes. If we observe degradation, we analyze the effected biodiversity management areas until we identify the cause of any changes.
We also use site-specific modeling techniques and methods to develop predictable habitats for indicator species for each biodiversity management area. Our modeling techniques use on an appropriate scale of mapping and data that is within the client's or Parks of the World's budget.
By basing our preliminary predictions on satellite and low altitude imagery on habitat relationships rather than actual field data, there is a margin of error. We do actual field tests to see if our vegetation types and possible habitats actually exist in each preliminarily selected biodiversity management area. Parks of the World has a fieldwork approach that provides the quickest verification of vegetation types and habitats at a relative low cost.
INTEGRATING NATIONAL PARK SYSTEMS
Parks of the World has placed as its highest priority to assist countries and communities in preserving and conserving their most unique natural resources based on biodiversity and linkage to an international park system. Parks of the World's method for designing a park system for a country or region is primarily focused on conservation and protected areas, however, we do plan and design culturally related parks like national waterfalls vista areas, famous historic sites, and national monument parks. We also plan and design city and regional parks with potential to help link or enhance biodiversity.
We start by identifying all the biodiversity management areas within a land or water resource area designated by an official of a country or region. We always examine these designated areas in relation to Plan Earth to compare the proposed areas against our international park plan.
To design and build a national or regional park system Parks of the World's Plan Earth national park module analyzes biological diversity within a land and water resource area or both designated by a country's or region's official. We locate the biodiversity management areas in and adjacent to the proposed park or park system by integrating the national park module with Plan Earth, our international park model. This module identifies communities of species or individual species based on large geographic areas limited by boundaries of a country. It shows the most promise for identifying areas that contain various types of biodiversity at the lowest cost to a country or Parks of the World.