Terrestrial Ecological Systems are dynamic groupings of plant and/or animal communities that: 1) occur together on the landscape; and 2) are linked by similar ecological processes, underlying abiotic environmental factors, or gradients; and 3) form a readily identifiable unit on the ground (Comer et al. 2003). In order to assess the health of Colorado’s major ecosystems, CNHP developed a dataset of large-sized (>20,000 acres) ecological system patches for the “State of Colorado’s Biodiversity” project. Ecological systems were derived from the Southwest Regional Gap Analysis Project landcover dataset (USGS 2004).
Developing this dataset enabled CNHP to identify at-risk ecosystems in Colorado. Individual patches were ranked on a scale of 1-10 based on overall condition status, threat status and protection status. Top threats were assigned to each patch. The results of the analysis show that many of Colorado’s major ecosystems are intact, but only two are effectively conserved. Shortgrass prairie is by far the most altered ecological system. Nearly half of the shortgrass prairie in Colorado has been lost in the past century; however, several large, high quality areas still exist. While these data are an effective tool for broadly measuring current successes, they also highlight intact landscapes that pose great opportunities for future conservation efforts.
|Table with Conservation Status Ranks of |
Major Ecological Systems in Colorado