Jonathan Carruthers-Jones has won the Royal Geographical Society’s (with IBG) Planning and Environment Research Group (PERG) prize. The prize is an annual postgraduate award for the best Masters dissertation in environmental planning, policy and governance. Jonathan completed his MSc at the Centre for Mountain Studies part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The Planning and Environment Research Group aims to further research into the interrelated topics of environmental politics and policy, land use planning, environmental planning, and sustainability. The Group consists of over 900 academics, practitioners and professionals with an interest or involvement in research in these areas.
Jonathan’s dissertation was entitled “The selection, evaluation and testing of methods for the identification of priority connectivity conservation areas: a case study in the Pyrénées”.
The project reviewed and tested approaches to mapping and prioritising areas for connectivity conservation in the Pyrénées. Spatial data on ‘Wilderness Quality’ produced by the Wildland Research Institute was used as the basis for modelling natural landscape linkages or corridors.
This ‘Wilderness Quality’ data was processed to improve its suitability for the analysis of landscape connectivity in mountainous regions. Least-cost, circuit theory-based and graph theoretic modelling approaches were selected for testing and implemented using this data in a Geographical Information System (GIS). See for example Figure 1.
Figure 1. Pinchpoint mapping inside natural landscape linkages for the Natura 2000 network in the Pyrénées.
The results of the modelling analyses were discussed with reference to several highlighted examples of potential priority areas in the study region. Ground truthing was also used to verify the outputs of the analysis and test the efficacy of the overall approach.
The outputs from the selected modelling approaches were found to provide useful insights into how priority areas for connectivity conservation can be identified. The limitations of each of the approaches and possible future modifications to the methodology were also discussed. It was concluded that incorporating participatory methods and expert stakeholder opinion into the overall analysis process would improve the results of the GIS analysis, help manage complexity, and would ultimately be crucial to the success of any real-world initiative.