Researchers examined integrated and un-integrated planning approaches across terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments during the Cook Inlet Basin ecoregional assessment, which was conducted by The Nature Conservancy and more than 50 partners.
The Cook Inlet Basin ecoregion comprises the low-lying basin surrounding Cook Inlet from the south side of the Alaska Range to Kachemak and Tuxedni Bays. The ecoregion includes the western half of the Kenai Peninsula, the Anchorage bowl, the western Cook Inlet lowlands, and the Susitna lowlands. The size of the ecoregion is 3,792,310 hectares of which the marine component is 886,200 hectares and the terrestrial and freshwater portions are 2,906,110 hectares.
The ecoregional assessment identified 7 species or aggregations of species and 246 ecosystem types as conservation features. A single set of contiguous planning units, 500 hectare hexagons, was developed across all three environments for a total of 7,516 units. In the integrated analysis, all terrestrial, freshwater and marine targets were examined together. In the un-integrated analysis, terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments were analyzed separately but using the same planning units. The two methods led to different results for total recommended area of conservation priorities, based on analysis using Marxan software.