Protect the geophysical setting

This adaptation objective effectively identifies and protects the current variety of landscape topography, geology/soils and associated abiotic conditions (including temperature and moisture) needed to support diversity of species that have different thermal, moisture etc. requirements for survival.

  • Map areas of ecological integrity
  • Map land facets in relation to current climate patterns
  • Map areas of high topographic complexity


This approach is developed from the hypothesis that underlying physical factors (e.g., topography, soils, and geology) affect the distribution of vegetation and ecological communities. Distinctive ecological communities are maintained in contrasting geophysical settings. The aim is to identify and map current geophysical settings. Protecting the full spectrum of geophysical settings may capture biotic diversity and allow biodiversity to maintain its evolutionary potential. Without relying on a future climate forecast models this is a long-term conservation strategy that provides an effective proxy for maintaining regional biodiversity in a dynamic climate. Planners can use the geophysical settings approach to prioritize conservation land and corridors.

Approaches and Tools

Land Acquisition:

Assessments for this adaptation strategy are conducted exclusively at the landscape level. The first step is to choose variables that represent direct and indirect ecological gradients. These variables are then used to classify geophysical settings with two main approaches, 1) cross classifying several categorical or continuous variables (e.g., low-elevation valleys on calcareous rock) or 2) clustering procedures (e.g., PCA, k-clustering, or fuzzy c-means). The classified geophysical settings are then mapped and incorporated into conservation plans (e.g., meeting a conservation target directed at acquiring a percent of each geophysical setting.)

Pilot Projects
Geos Institute
University of Washington