Frequently Asked Questions

 Screenshot of the viewer

About the viewer

What is it?

The Regional Conservation Strategy High Value Habitat viewer shows the high value habitat both across the Portland-Vancouver region and within any watershed, jurisdiction, urban growth boundary/area, or custom shape that you choose. It helps you visualize the relative importance of habitats within your area.  

What are some things I can learn from this viewer?

You can find out the locations of the best available habitat in your area (but see the data limitations section for more information about the types of habitats the model couldn’t detect).The viewer allows you to zoom to an area and view the best habitats relative to habitats within the selected area.

You can also view summary statistics about the land cover, habitats, and parks and ownership in your selected area.

Comparing the high value habitats with the other layers on the map may help prioritize conservation efforts. For example, if you view the parks and protected areas layer and the high value habitats at the same time, you can see which high value habitats are not currently protected. You can also determine whether any high value habitats exist that could connect currently protected habitats.

By turning on the land cover and satellite imagery layers, you can see what kind of land cover currently exists under the high value habitats.

What are the outputs?

  1. After selecting an area, you can view statistics and other information about your area by clicking on the Area Summary link.
  2. You can also export a PDF report from the Area Summary window with maps of the layers, as well as a copy of the current map on your screen.
  3. You can download a zip file of layers by clicking on the “i” icon next to the layer and then clicking the Download button at the bottom of the pop-up window.

What happens when you select an area?

The map zooms into the selected area and then recolors the gradient used to represent habitat values so that you are seeing the value of the habitat relative only to the other habitat scores within that selected area. If you simply zoom into an area without using the Select an Area dropdown box, the values are not recolored, meaning that you are still viewing habitat values relative to values region-wide.

The data

What exactly are the habitat values shown and how are they calculated?

Both the regional and local values shown on the map use the same underlying habitat quality scores; these were developed using a model and data that reflects the Regional Conservation Strategy. However, the colors on the map are actually showing the percent of cumulative area covered by each habitat score and all values greater than it. So when you select a particular watershed, jurisdiction, or custom shape, these percentages are recalculated for your area. Because most areas will have a smaller range of habitat scores present than the region as a whole, the tool rescales the colors in the full spectrum layer so that the highest scores in a selected area, no matter how low they are, are always dark teal.

For example, in a selected watershed, the highest score might only be a 650. Using habitat values for the whole region, most of this area would not be mapped as high-quality habitat. In order to show the highest quality habitat in this particular area, the Viewer calculates the cumulative area covered by each habitat score and all values greater than it. The top 10% of habitat, for example, displays the highest scores whose areas cumulatively add up to 10% of the particular area. The brown to teal color ramp would be condensed so that the top 10% of the habitat, which might have scores of only 590 to 650, would show up as dark teal on the map. 

The resulting map shows the best habitat available in your selected area.

How were underlying habitat scores calculated?

As part of the Regional Conservation Strategy, many partners across the region had worked together to create a model that scores habitat quality for riparian areas and for the whole region. The habitats across the whole region were scored with the following criteria: habitat interior, influence of roads, total patch area, relative patch area, habitat friction, wetlands, and hydric soils. The scores for the riparian areas took into account floodplains, distance from streams, and distance from wetlands. The riparian and whole region habitat scores were combined into one raster dataset using a weight of 0.25 for the riparian layer and 0.75 for the whole region layer. The resulting scores were re-scaled from 0 to 1000.

The High Value Habitat viewer does not show these scores directly. Instead, the colors represent the percent of cumulative area covered by each habitat score and all values greater than it. Showing high value habitat in terms of percentage by area allows for viewing high value habitat relative to habitats within any area you choose.

Click here for more detailed information about the model that produced the high value habitat scores.

What are some of the limitations of this data?

How to use

How do I turn layers on and off or make them transparent?

Click the checkbox next to the layer name to turn it on or off. Some layers have a transparency slider underneath the layer name that you can drag left or right to change the transparency.

Can I change the order of the layers?

No, but you can use the transparency sliders to make some layers more transparent.

What kinds of shapes can I use to evaluate local high quality habitat?

You can use any shape you can draw or upload. You can also evaluate habitat by watershed, jurisdiction, or urban growth boundary/area.

Can I upload my own data to view on the map?

You can’t upload a fully functioning GIS layer with attributes, but you can upload the shapes or point locations of your data as mark-ups to the map. To do this, click either the shp, kml, or xls icon, depending the file type you wish to upload, and follow the directions in the pop-up window.

Also, the high value habitat layers (using the regional color scale) are available as a web service and can be found in the download file for the full Regional Conservation GIS strategy. You could then mash-up the high value habitat web service with other layers on your own web map. If you have GIS capability, you can also download the data to view along with your own spatial data on your GIS.

How do I upload a shapefile?

You can upload a shapefile to evaluate for high value habitat by clicking on the Select an Area dropdown box and selecting Upload Shapefile. A window with directions for how to upload it will pop up.

How do I download data?

You can download a zip file of layers by clicking on the “i” icon next to the layer and then clicking the Download button at the bottom of the pop-up window. If you have selected an area to evaluate, you can download the data for that area; however the data being downloaded is different from what is depicted on screen. The downloaded data is the raw habitat scores, ranging from 0 to 1000. The colors shown on the Viewer are derived from the raw habitat scores, but are actually percentages of the cumulative area covered by each habitat score and all values greater than it.

How can I get a summary of the data?

Next to the Select an Area dropdown boxes, find the Area Summary link. At the bottom of the window that pops up, click the Full Report button for a PDF of various layers and a printout of the map currently drawn on your screen.

How to interpret

What does it mean to show the highest value habitat?

The highest value habitat displays the highest scores whose areas cumulatively add up to at most 10% of the area of the selected region. Turning the local and regional highest values on and off shows how the highest value habitat in your selected area compares to the highest value habitat for the whole region.

What does it mean to show the high value habitat?

The high value habitat displays the highest scores whose areas cumulatively add up to at most 25% of the area of the selected region. Turning the local and regional high values on and off shows how the high value habitat in your selected area compares to the high value habitat for the whole region.

What is the difference between the Riparian Habitats Evaluated layer and the Riparian Habitat Value layer?

The Riparian Habitats Evaluated layer shows all the areas considered to be potential riparian habitat. The model determined these areas by drawing buffers around floodplains, streams, and wetlands. Because the model used some low-resolution stream data, some riparian habitat was drawn in areas where it doesn't exist. These areas received low riparian habitat value scores because the distance from stream buffer did not overlap with high scores from any of the other layers used in the model. Therefore, the Riparian Habitat Value layer only shows the top 50% of the riparian habitat values that were evaluated.

What is the smallest area I can evaluate?

The scale you use depends on your landscape and the natural resources you wish to manage. Ecologists interested in backyard bird habitat, for example, might need to zoom to a city-block by city-block scale. However, keep in mind the original habitat quality scores when viewing the map. In an industrial area, the top 10% of the habitat might only have scores of 250-300. While these areas might be the best habitat in the area, are they worth investment? 

How does the land cover affect how I interpret the high value habitats in my area?

If much of your area is land currently not in natural cover, the top priority habitats displayed might not have much meaning. You would have to be careful interpreting the map—if patches exist that really are good habitat, then the map will make sense, but if not, the map might only be telling you that one agricultural field might have scored slightly better than another one.

I seem to have less of the highest value habitat at my local scale compared to what I saw at the regional scale.

If your area of interest happens to fall within an area that has high habitat scores on the regional scale, for example, if your area contains Forest Park, then you will appear to have less high value habitat on your local scale. This is because the tool calculates the highest value habitats relative to the scores in your area. When the cumulative area percentages are calculated for areas with many high scores, the color ramp has to be stretched. The highest 10% of habitat for your area might be thought of as the best of the best habitat.

For more information

Regional Conservation Strategy