Document Type


Publication Date



Biodiversity conservation frequently competes with the needs of society for agricultural production and development. However, properly designed and efficiently implemented conservation programs can be used to integrate wildlife and human needs. We tested the efficacy of multicriteria decision analysis as a tool to select priority areas for conservation in human-dominated landscapes using grassland birds in the northeastern US as a test case. We created detailed GIS layers including landscape- (forest, grassland, development, and roads within a 3000-m buffer around each grassland patch) and patch-level (size, management, and conservation status) criteria important in grassland bird habitat selection and conservation. We developed a set of 36 scenarios in which we varied the relative weights associated with different patch attributes. A sensitivity analysis showed that the habitat quality score for each patch was less sensitive to changes in weights at the landscape level, and more sensitive to changes at the patch level. Integrating the GIS dataset into a multicriteria decision analysis framework, we produced maps in which grassland patches were ranked based on habitat quality and used these maps to identify priority conservation areas. Grassland blocks of >100 ha were mainly concentrated in 2 regions and were identified as priority sites that had the highest quality values for grassland bird conservation. This approach resulted in maps that managers can use to focus conservation efforts. The integration of GIS with multicriteria decision analysis can serve as a model for researchers to help set priorities for land conservation for other species and in other regions.


Available here by permission of the publisher, Eagle Hill Institute. Originally published:

Sutti, F., Strong, A., and Perlut, N. 2017. A multicriteria decision analysis for identifying priority conservation areas for grassland birds. Northeastern Naturalist 24:99-118. DOI: 10.1656/045.024.0sp801

© Eagle Hill Institute. The publisher, Eagle Hill Institute, reserves the copyright to all its publications. Any reproduction, other than for an individual's own personal and private use, or distribution of journal content is prohibited without written permission from Eagle Hill Institute.

Included in

Ornithology Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.