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Interpreting Results

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BioFinder was created to help developers, scientists, planners, educators, and others better understand the richness and distribution of biological diversity throughout Vermont. It can be used both as a clearinghouse for natural heritage data, and as a powerful tool to help in identifying ecologically important locations. To get the most out of BioFinder, it is important to understand the following:

Switching Themes in BioFinder


Prioritization vs. Inventory

There are three parts to the BioFinder Map, called "Themes" that can be switched in the Layers menu on the left side of the map:

  • Prioritization is what you see when you first load BioFinder. This helps you find and highlight the locations of highest ecological importance. These are the results that we're interpreting
  • Inventory helps answer the question: What's here? This shows the location of features often used in conservation planning. It represents the "raw data" upon which the state's prioritization efforts were based.
  • Social and Environmental Factors is a theme that allows you to see how the ecological patterns shown on BioFinder interact with social and economic variables that may impact how different communities access the benefits of nature or are impacted by natural events like storms or heat waves.

Overall Priorities: Vermont Conservation Design - Landscape Scale

When the BioFinder map is first loaded, the landscape scale overall priorities from Vermont Conservation Design are shown by default (dark green Highest Priority & light green Priority). This layer identifies the manner in which landscape components are connected and work together to create the most crucial base for ecological interactions across the state. The landscape scale overall priorities layer is informed by the following datasets, all which can be found under the "Landscape Scale Components" heading in the layer panel:

  • Interior Forest Blocks
  • Connectivity Blocks
  • Geological Diversity
  • Surface Water and Riparian Areas
  • Riparian Connectivity

BioFinder layer List

By maintaining or enhancing these landscape level features, we are likely to conserve the majority of Vermont's species and natural communities, even as the climate changes. Put another way, these datasets identify the lands and waters that need to remain healthy and intact if we want to provide plants, animals, and natural resources the best chance of survival over time. On the other hand, a decline in the quality of these lands is likely to correspond to a decline in the state's ecological function as a whole.

To create this map, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists assigned "priority" or "highest priority" status to features within the component datasets, taking into account the regional context in which each component was found. For example, a smaller interior forest block may qualify as "highest priority" in the Champlain Valley because large forest blocks are less common in the Champlain Valley than in the Green Mountains or Northeast Kingdom. To learn more about for the prioritization of each component, see the component abstracts for each dataset, linked through the BioFinder maps.

Because an ecologically functional landscape includes all of the components mapped, the overall priorities map layer aggregates all priority areas for any of the component layers. Lands mapped on any of the component maps as "highest priority" are given "highest priority" status on the compilation. Land mapped as "priority" is likewise assigned "priority" status, unless covered by another component's "highest priority" rank.

Overall Priorities: Vermont Conservation Design - Species and Community Scale

Species & Community ComponentsTurning on this layer will show the overall prioritization for a finer scale of ecological features, with Highest Priority features in blue and Priority shown in purple. This dataset represents lands and waters highly important for maintaining individual species or groups of species that contribute to Vermont's biodiversity. 

Similar to the landscape-scale prioritization, the species and community scale dataset was created by assigning a priority status to features within a set of component datsets. These components include:

  • Natural Communities
  • Aquatic Habitats
  • Wetlands
  • Vernal Pools
  • Wildlife Road Crossings
  • Rare & Uncommon Species


As you interact with this map, please remember that all data were collected for use at the state or town level. Though you can zoom in to individual parcels, for example, you need to understand the limitations of each of the datasets you are using. Some of these layers contain omissions, and these omissions may be critical when translating data into implementation measures. Wherever possible, the collection of field inventory information will likely enhance a community's understanding of these resources.

Learn More

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's publication, Mapping Vermont’s Natural Heritage: A Mapping and Conservation Guide for Municipal and Regional Planners in Vermont, offers in-depth explanation of each of the datasets on the Inventory side of BioFinder (Part I. Maps and Inventory) and explains how best to use the Prioritization data in a land use planning context (Part II. Prioritization and Implementation)


Scale and Accuracy

BioFinder was created to show ecological function and biodiversity at a statewide scale. Data for many of the components are highly accurate at this cell level (for example, rare species, natural communities). The accuracy for other components can diminish as one zooms in. Because of these accuracy issues at the local scale, BioFinder cannot replace site visits or site-specific data and analyses and should only be used to gain a general understanding of components likely to be at play.

In instances where robust field data were not spatially comprehensive or available to adequately describe a component, models were employed. For example, Geological Diversity, & Surface Water and Riparian Areas rely on a Land Type Associations model that identifies areas of similar geology, landform, potential vegetation, and other factors. Connectivity and Interior Forest Blocks similarly rely on a suite of models to determine the most likely areas used for wildlife movement.