Conservation Imaging--a brief history of projects


Update, May 2014. We have established an exciting new conservation instrument--the Macadamia-Conservation Exchange (MCE). The key villages are those whose territory abuts and includes the virgin cloud forest. The MCE is a trade: We cover the cost and many of the logistics of establishing a brand new macadamia plantation within village lands, below the level of the cloud forest. In exchange for this project, the village agrees to abandon a patch of agriculture within the cloud forest zone so that it may grow back into cloud forest.  We are implementing our first MCE at the village of La Gloria. It consists of 3.1 hectares of new macadamia plantation that will be planted in June, 2014.

Update, April 2013.  Since establishing the Cloud Forest Conservation Initiative in 2009, we have made exciting progress working with communities to create new sources of income that protect and restore the endangered forests and watersheds.  Here is a list of our achievement with several communities.

1. La Gloria: In this village of 442 mostly indigenous residents, we completed a native tree nursery. As a result, we have begun reforesting an overgrazed buffer zone along the beautiful, clear Satan River. We have also provided forest protection signs that declare the forests of La Gloria a protected area where illegal timber cutting is not permitted.

2. Carrizal Spring school: With the help of volunteer students and teachers, we funded the construction of a tree nursery on the school grounds. It was a resounding success and the seedlings were planted to restore forest to damaged watersheds.

3. Laj Chimel: In this small village situated against the high cloud forest, we started a community nusery, where we have been growing thousands of native pines and endangered Guatemalan fir trees. Here, we have also established the first flower nursery in the area.  Chrysanthemums are widely used for ceremonies and decorations.  This project is our first microfinance project--an investment that builds community pride and generates regular, lasting income to the poor people of Laj Chimel.

4. Asociacion de Desarollo Integral de Chimel (ASODICH): We funded the production of tens of thousands of pines, cedars, alders, and fir trees. The seedlings were distributed to association members to reforest damaged watersheds.

5. Inter-community workshp on basket construction using native mimbre roots from the cloud forest. This was the first time that the villagers of La Gloria and Laj Chimel had ever collaborated, even though they are situated near each other.  We contracted the manufacture of these baskets so you can own one.

Survey for cloud forest insects, 2012.  We worked with Dr. Timothy hatten of Invertebrate Ecology, Inc., to conduct several days of field collecting for insects in the cloud forest.  We conducted this research with the collaboration of Dr. Jack Schuster at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.  In this process, we expect to find new species of insects as well as new populations of Passalid beetles. 

Amphibian survey, 2012 and 2013. With the collaboration of Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Lic. Alejandra Zamora surveyed the amphibians of Cerro El Amay. In the process, she discovered a population of the critically endangered (according to the IUCN) Guatemalan spikethumb frog (Plectrohyla guatemalensis). We are eager to protect this unique habitat!

Forest Ecology Study, 2012. We completed the first ever study of forest composition and size distribution at Cerro El Amay.  This project was completed by our board member, Dr. Luis Merino. We hope this is the first of many research components at Cerro El Amay, where we hope to conduct additional studies.

Cloud Forest Conservation Initiative, Uspantan and Cerro El Amay, Guatemala, since 2009. Our goal is to to protect the largest unprotected tropical cloud forest in northern Central America. Our methods require us to with indigenous villages which rely completely on the land for their sustenance. The the reliance upon farming and firewood continues to cause deforestation. We are establishing community tree nurseries and plantations that help to restore watersheds and provide a continual source of income. We also promote sustainable, non-timber forest products including mimbre, a unique fiber available only from the virgin cloud forest. Once harvested, it quickly regrows. 

A Survey for the Endangered Horned Guan at Cerro El Amay, Guatemala, 2008. The Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus) is an endangered member of the Cracidae -- the most-threatened family of birds in the Americas. This species is found in remote patches of tropical cloud forest in southeast Mexico and Guatemala and occurs nowhere else. With support from Birdlife International and World Land Trust US, we surveyed a remote cloud forest in Quiche Department, Guatemala that had never been surveyed before, to look for the Horned Guan and to survey the habitat. We encountered incredible and remote cloud forests, but the Horned Guan eluded us. 

Kootenai River Operational Loss Assessment, 2007 - present.  The 1970s construction of the Libby Dam in northwest Montana created a 100-mile lake and ended the natural hydrologic regime of the Kootenai River in Montana and Idaho.  We are working with the Kootenai Indian Tribe of Idaho (KTOI) to assess ecological changes along the river course since the dam was constructed.  Beginning with a high-resolution land cover classification and a spatial analysis of bird survey data, we will compare the existing available bird habitats with those that occurred historically, before the dam was constructed.  The project also embraces a hydrologic study with major implications for recovering the endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus.

Predicting habitat quality for rare bird species in Mesoamerica, 2006.  Many of the remarkable bird species of the Neotropics are endangered.  Conservation Imaging developed a new method for modeling habitat quality for rare species which, because of a lack of point data, could not be modeled in such detail before.  The model for the Dwarf Jay (Cyanolyca nana), shown here, shows both a high degree of habitat fragmentation, and several optimal habitat areas (in yellowish and reddish tones).  Models such as these are critical for identifying habitat for conservation, ecotourism potential, and for forest restoration.

Predicting the location of tropical montane cloud forest, 2006.  For many reasons, tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF) are among the most endangered and important of all forest types.  They are responsible for trapping vital moisture which serves millions of people world-wide and are among the most important areas for endemic wildlife.  Even today, new bird species are occasionally discovered in TMCF remnants in the Andes of South America.  These forest have also been decimated by people, who have cleared them for grazing, farming, coca production, and for coffee farming.  Conservation Imaging incorporated data from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and global climate data to create a global distribution model for tropical montane cloud forest.  The model, while preliminary, points to a number of important tasks needing completion.  These include investigating the correspondence between remaining cloud forest and sustainable communities in developing nations, ecotourism potential, and the possibility of restoring TMCF in critical endemic wildlife areas and "hot spots."  An image of the TMCF output is shown here.  The inset shows an enlargement of Guatemala and parts of its Central American neighbors, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Forest ecology modeling, 2004.  We produced a detailed ecological model of the susceptibility of conifer forests to Armillaria fungal infection after forest fires in cooperation with the research branch of the USDA Forest Service.  The model incorporated numerous environmental and biophysical factors including soil temperature.  One of the many graphics is shown here.

Spatial data development and mapping for the Land Trust of East Alabama, 2001-2002.  The Land Trust of East Alabama (LTEA) fosters the protection of valuable watersheds, wildlife habitat, and scenic lands. Conservation Imaging developed a 5-county data base covering Chambers, Lee, Macon, Russell and Tallapoosa counties and provided customized mapping services for both general reference and targeted applications. A sample map can be viewed here.

GIS and Web development for the Palouse Land Trust, 2000.  The Palouse Land Trust is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife habitat and open space through the establishment of conservation easements. As part of their comprehensive planning process, we have worked with the University of Idaho, Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to map land cover in the Palouse Bioregion. For this project we used Landsat 7 satellite imagery and mapped land cover across 7.2 million acres. Click here for a graphic.

Land cover of the Yucatan Peninsula, 2000:  We completed mapping of land cover and land use in the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula, Quintana Roo, Mexico. This data set represents the first accurate land cover map of that area and was developed using Landsat 7 data. Its first use will be to establish baseline conditions in the region near Cancun. The map shows the deforestation along new roads that bisect native forest. It also shows the great expansion of the Cancun urban area over the last two decades.  Click here for a graphic.

Armendaris Cougar Project, Hornocker Wildlife Institute, 1998-2000.  We mapped the use of habitats used by radio-collared cougars (Felis concolor) in the deserts of New Mexico.  We completed a map set for the Armendaris Ranch cougar project in New Mexico, in support of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute, Moscow, Idaho. The federally listed Desert Bighorn Sheep is a primary prey item for cougars in south-central New Mexico. We plotted the home ranges of four cougars over an existing vegetation theme and a composite map of all cougars. Click here for a graphic.  We also produced a new, more detailed land cover base map.

Yosemite National Park Black Bear Project, Hornocker Wildlife Institute, 2000.  The black bears (Ursus americana) of Yosemite National Park cause some 900 "incidents" per year by breaking into cars, damaging belongings, and being nuisances in areas occupied by people.  Conservation Imaging provided a spatial analysis of bear incidents in the heavily-used Yosemite Village area.  One of the many maps produced is provided here.

Grasslands Habitat Modeling, The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, March, 2000.   Under natural conditions, the complex combination of climate, topography, evolution, and competition results in a complex mosaic of vegetation across the landscape.  We cooperated with the Idaho chapter of TNC to map the distribution of habitats in the Garden Creek Nature Preserve in Hells Canyon National Recreation area. This remnant patch of canyon grassland steppe and conifer forest is home to the ESA-listed Spalding's Silene and is threatened by invasions of noxious weeds including spotted knapweed and yellow star thistle.  A graphic of the resulting map is shown here. 

Setting Conservation Area Priorities for the Central Missouri River in Montana: a demonstration analysis using GAP data,1999.  We analyzed the geographic distribution of wildlife species that are legally classified as sensitive, threatened, or endangered along a 200-mile stretch of the Missouri River to optimally locate potential conservation reserve areas. To complete this analysis, we first identified the most species-rich habitat in the study area, and then iteratively added the next-most-species-rich habitats containing unprotected habitats, until habitat for all of the sensitive species was identified. It turned out that nearly all of the parcels we identified occurred on federal land, and all parcels were of modest size (less than two square miles). This suggests that the protection of many currently unprotected sensitive species need not inconvenience private landowners. Our results were presented, with enthusiastic response, to the US Department of Interior in Washington, D.C.

A Gap Analysis of the Lewis and Clark Trail, 1999. With the USGS Gap Analysis Program, Conservation Imaging conducted a study of land ownership change along the Lewis and Clark Trail from the Montana-North Dakota border to the Pacific Ocean.  Please click here for a map.

Establishing a TNC-private conservation easement, 1999.  Conservation Imaging provided photo-interpretation, mapping, and analysis to support the establishment of a conservation easement between the Nature Conservancy and a private land holder in northern Idaho. A resulting graphic is shown here.

Land Cover of the Northwestern United States, 1999. Conservation Imaging contracted with the USGS Gap Analysis Program to develop the Regional Land Cover Classification of the Pacific and Inland Northwest.  The main product is a high-resolution (30-meter pixel) grid of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The product is suitable for large-scale research related to land cover and habitat distribution.  A graphic is provided here.

Gap Analysis quality assurance and data pre-mastering, 1998-1999.  We completed our involvement with the USGS/BRD Gap Analysis Program in the summer of 1999 with the successful pre-mastering of GAP data from the states of Arkansas, Wyoming, and New Mexico. This work prepared the data for publication by the Government Printing Office, and consisted of data testing, repair, alignment with current GAP standards, and providing feedback to the state GAP offices. We also performed comprehensive initial reviews for Washington, Montana, and Maine and ensured the conformance of spatial metadata with Federal Geographic Data Committee standards.

January, 1998. Tax Exempt Status. In January, 1998, Conservation Imaging was granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. This status permits Conservation Imaging to compete for research and support funding from nonprofit foundations and other governmental and nongovernmental sources.

January, 1998. Conservation Imaging provided Internet hosting for non-profit groups including Cooper Ornithological Society , Palouse Land Trust, and the Palouse Asian American Association.

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updated 05/2014