Reptiles and amphibians are experiencing exceptional declines with habitat loss and fragmentation among the leading threats to both groups. The Priority Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Area (PARCA) project is an initiative of PARC-National to develop a network of focus areas designed specifically for the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. Areas are nominated using scientific criteria and expert review, drawing on the concepts of species rarity, richness, regional responsibility, and landscape integrity. Modeled partly after the Important Bird Areas program developed by Partners in Flight, PARCAs are intended to be coordinated nationally but implemented locally at the state scale.
PARCAs are a nonregulatory designation whose purpose is to raise public awareness and spark voluntary protection by landowners and conservation partners. PARCAs are not designed to compete with existing landscape biodiversity initiatives, but to complement them – providing an additional spatially explicit layer for conservation consideration.
2007-2009: Established a national PARCA task team and reviewed existing programs that might inform PARCA methodology (e.g., Partners in Flight IBAs, Canadian IMPARAs, and Iowa ARCAs). The team was comprised of seven members representing each PARC region:
2009-2011: Developed science-based criteria for PARCA selection based on species rarity, richness, regional responsibility, and landscape integrity as well as program implementation guidelines for coordinating state-national collaboration. Circulated draft guidelines for review by the PARC Joint National Steering Committee and 5 regional PARC chapters. The final PARCA guidance document is completed and available at: www.parcplace.org.
Sutherland and deMaynadier. 2012. Model Criteria and Implementation Guidance for a Priority Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Area (PARCA) System in the USA. Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Technical Publication PARCA-1. 28 pp.
2012: Secured USFWS grants from the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperatives to a) collect target species data, b) develop a modeling framework for candidate PARCA identification, c) identify gaps in the existing protected area network for candidate PARCAs, and d) assess candidate PARCA resiliency to climate change.
Assembled NEPARCA research team: Kyle Barrett (Clemson Univeristy), Phillip deMaynadier (Maine Dept of Fish and Wildlife), Cynthia Loftin (USGS), Allison Moody (Univ. of Maine), Priya Nanjappa (AFWA), and Bill Sutton (Tennessee State Univ).
[Note: The Orianne Society (Christopher Jenkins and Stephen Spear) and Warren Wilson College (Joseph Apodaca) have completed methodology and final results for candidate PARCA identification for the southeastern region.]
2013-2017: NEPARCA project completes research approach and preliminary results as follows:
- Developed preliminary methodology and solicited stakeholder feedback during NEPARC 2013 annual meeting in New Jersey.
- Collected species source data from states (fish and wildlife agencies, natural heritage programs, museums) and assembled NE occurrence database.
- Finalized list of ~60 NE priority species for habitat distribution and climate modeling
- Engaged regional experts to identify 19 biophysical, landcover, and climatic variable relationships for use in Maxent logistic species distribution models.
- Weighted NE priority species based on global, regional, and state conservation status.
- Compiled species richness maps for all NE amphibians and reptiles using a combination of state atlas data and species range maps.
- Identified viable landscape settings using the Index of Ecological Integrity developed by the Designing Sustainable Landscape (DSL) team at University of Mass.
- Combined data sources for candidate PARCA identification using an additive algorithm incorporating priority species distribution models, species richness, and landscape integrity.
- Identified clusters of potentially high value habitat using an optimized Getis-Ord procedure and scaled candidate PARCA output to state and ecoregional boundaries.
- Solicited and incorporated state expert feedback on candidate PARCA output products using email and conference calls
- Conducted preliminary GAP analysis using Protected Area Database (PADUS) to highlight potential gaps in the protected area status of candidate NEPARCAs
- Created spatially-explicit climate maps of current and future climate suitability for priority amphibian and reptiles species in the NE.
- Developed framework for evaluating NEPARCA climate vulnerability based on a suite of metrics that quantify exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity, and resiliency.
- Complete Candidate NE-PARCA output and distribute to state experts.
2016-2019: Next Steps for Northeastern PARCA project:
- Compare/contrast northeastern Candidate NE-PARCA approach to other ongoing or completed PARCA projects (e.g., SE PARCAs, CA PARCAs, NM PARCAs).
- Evaluate Candidate NE-PARCAs with respect to conservation lands in PADUS and other relevant conservation land data layers.
- Complete final report and manuscripts summarizing the project.
- Solicit discussion with State agency leads on a process for review of Candidate NE-PARCAS and nomination of final state-approved PARCAs
2018-2020: Next Steps for Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC):
- Assemble a national advisory team to help PARC National with consistent standards and review protocols for selecting final PARCAs from modeled and state-nominated candidate areas.
- Develop a U.S. PARCA outreach plan to help inform implementation of strategic conservation actions by states, federal agencies, land trusts, NGOs, and large landowners.