Big River Connectivity Maps

Produced by Nitin Gadia

The Rewilding Map

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Just as we use maps for planning and navigation, the Big River Connectivity Map is an indispensable tool for imagining wildlife cores and corridors. It reveals potentials otherwise unseen, with the areas that are most suitable for creation and expansion  of core and corridor habitats. More easily than ever, people can know where to look and where they would then walk and assess the land in person.

A core is a biodiversity “hotspot” in which the animal and plant diversity already exists, and natural cycles and functions maintain that diversity to some degree. Cores provide sizeable territories for the largest animals, so that they can reproduce successfully. The edges also buffer the interiors from human land uses and other threats to biodiversity from outside the cores. Cores allow common species to remain common and rare species to survive and thrive. Ideally, a core is at least 10,000 acres in size because of the requirements for larger species.

A corridor is a path between cores that allows animals and plants to move. Movement is important to maintaining populations in size and genetics. Corridors have different functions, such as allowing fish and mussels to repopulate upstream areas, giving passage to migrating birds, and allowing endangered and threatened species to expand to new areas. At a minimum, a corridor should be 1,000 feet wide to allow free passage of animals, but wider corridors are better, especially if they include different kinds of habitats.

My map shows the whole Mississippi-Missouri Basin, focused on Iowa as “Ground Zero” for rewilding.  It identifies all areas that are suitable as potential cores, with potential corridors connecting them. One set of layers shows areas for potential cores very precisely, showing relatively wild land that is difficult for human uses. This includes land that is not in crops or development, and another set of layers adds floodplains that may be in use, but suffers from frequent flooding or high soil moisture. The other important layer is a drawing of corridor lines that connect the major potential core areas. 

The next task would be to extend the map across the rest of the Mississippi Watershed, creating a complete vision, while people begin using the map as a tool. To use this map for rewilding, on a local or regional scale, people would zoom in and out and pan across areas and find the places they should focus on, and define the boundaries of the areas they will then work to restore, drawing on the map.

It is important to realize that the map is the result of an imaginative process, as well as technical map-making skill. Its purpose is to show possibilities and to spark further imagination about what could happen locally. When one or more people with roots in a location – generations of farming, a sense of history, groundedness in place – combines the imagination of the map with their own imagination and plans, actual rewilding begins to happen as a healing of the land.

How to use this map:

*Explore the map by zooming and panning and clicking layers on and off.
*Drag the vertical bar in the center left and right to swipe and compare the satellite map with the rewilding map.
*Click the layers on the right on and off to see the elements of the landscape.
*Click the button in the upper-left to hover over the core areas to see how many acres they cover.
*Click the labels on and off in the bottom-right.

This map and data are entirely open source (CC0).

Feel free to contact me with your response and thoughts. If you wish, post your responses on the BeWildReWild Forum page.
Creator: Nitin Gadia