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Vista is conservation planning support tool operating as an extension to ArcView 9.1, 9.2, and planned 9.3 spring 2009. It also requires the Spatial Analyst extension. It supports planning for a variety of impact assessment and conservation or "green infrastructure" applications by incorporating distribution and conservation knowledge about those features a community wishes to conserve. Vista is especially well-adapted to biodiversity conservation, but allows you to incorporate other features such as scenic views, historic sites, prime farmland, hazardous areas, etc. It can also be used as a more general land use or management-planning tool by incorporating competing uses that must be balanced and has also been demonstrated to work well with CommunityViz. Vista provides various functions for analyses and exploration, impact assessment, and mitigation planning. Basic functions include: producing indices of conservation value across planning regions that can be explored or used for quick views of where the important areas are; importing scenarios of land use for evaluation against your stated conservation objectives (scenarios can include any number of land use or management policies as well as existing land use, infrastructure, growth models, wildfire models, etc; and tools for creating mitigation plans or interoperating with popular conservation optimization tools such as MARXAN and SPOT. We have demonstrated interoperability with NOAA's N-SPECT software to accomodate aquatic assessment and planning and plan to release an integrated version in spring 2009. Vista 1.x and 2.x series are offered as a free download complete with extensive integrated help manuals. Technical support, training, and consulting are available as contracted services..

Accepts Data Of Process Types (No Longer Available)

Systems Functional Components

Biodiversity Conservation

Ecological Restoration

Freshwater Resource Management

Land Use Planning

Transportation Planning

Domain Knowledge Modeling Area

Alternative Evaluation

Impact Assessment

Location Allocation

Site Search Or Selection

Status Assessment

Suitability Assessment


All (User Specified Domain Knowledge Modeling Area)

Conservation Of Biodiversity

Land Use Allocation

Management Process Modeling

Socioeconomic System Modeling

Systems Functional Components

Condition Assessment

Constraints Specification

Domain Knowledge Process Model Development

Evaluation Criteria Specification

Rank Alternatives

Risk Analysis

Scenario Simulation And Comparison

Specify Criterion Weight


Decision Problem Types Targeted

Criterion Weighting Methods

Multi-Attribute Combination Methods

What-If Analysis

Online Download Available

Data Management

GIS Analysis Integration

GIS Display Integration

Report Generation

Scenario Management And Comparison

Standard Data Import/Export Format Support


Planning And Decision Process Phases/Steps Served

Biophysical Process

Economic Process

Management Process

Social Process

Glossary Display Property

ESRI Geodatabase

ESRI Shapefile

Raster - ESRI GRID

Parent Categories


Map Image


Model Type

All (User Defined Analysis Extent)

Analysis Extent

All (User Defined Unit Of Observation)

Output Type


Input Data Format


Analysis Unit


Supports Analysis Of Interdisciplinary Interactions

Windows 2000

Windows XP

Information Source


Microsoft Access

Planning And Decision Process Phases/Steps Served

NatureServe Vista 2.5 now supports the ArcMap 9.2 and 9.3 platform. A key addition to 2.5 is integration with NOAA’s N-SPECT software that provides advanced water quality modeling which will allow Vista to support improved aquatic feature assessment and conservation planning. You may also import results from other hydrological and terrestrial modeling tools and we have experience interoperating NatureServe Vista with land use planning and ecosystem services software.

Selecting conservation elements (ecological systems, plant communities, plant or animal species and compatible but non-biological elements such as viewsheds, soils, historic sites, etc.).
- Weighting elements relative to each other for conservation priority. The user can develop any number of weighting systems such as ESA status or economic value.
- Aggregating elements (optionally as any selection of subgroups) to form an index of conservation value based on richness (number of elements co-occurring in a grid cell), and value (a multiplication of weight x quality x confidence scores). The aggregation is a Conservation Value Summary with eight combinations to emphasize particular characteristics of interest.
- Assigning compatibility ratings between elements and a project classification of land uses, management practices, and other threats such as invasive species or wildfire.
- Setting quantitative conservation goals for elements in terms of percent or number of occurrences or area (acres or hectares). These can include minimum size requirements for viability. Any number of goal sets can be created but most commonly would include a "minimum" set for retaining element representation, and a "preferred" set for retaining or restoring full ecosystem functioning.
- Scenario import. This function allows you to import any number of layers representing different land use and management policies, plans, current uses, modeled futures, and other threats such as invasive species. These layers are combined into a map of "land use intent" and policy type which represents the policy mechanism used to carry out the intended land use (regulation, incentive, easement, legislative designation, etc.). The many land use and management classifications imported into the system can be translated to a single project-wide classification to match up to element compatibilities. These translations are saved to facilitate easy updating and ongoing maintenance of a "baseline" scenario of current policies and conditions. New alternative scenarios can easily be created from the baseline to reflect plan or policy change proposals, development proposals, emerging modeled threats, etc.
- Scenario evaluation. This function allows the user to select the elements to be evaluated, the goal set to use for the evaluation, and the list of policy mechanisms in a scenario that the user considers reliable. Any scenario can be evaluated with different assumptions about those inputs. The system then combines the land use and policy type maps of the scenario to be evaluated with the selected elements. The comparison uses the specific goals and minimum required areas of the elements and compares their compatibilities with the scenario's land use intent map. The result is a series of maps and tables that provide the statistics for each element of area and number of occurrences existing, the stated goal, the area and occurrences in compatible land use/management and the area and occurrences in compatible land use/management and supported by reliable policy mechanisms. Maps include: a) an overall compatibility conflict map which shows in shades of red the areas where elements occur in conflict with intended land use/management (with darker shades indicating conflict richness); b) same as "a" but for policy mechanism conflicts where shading indicates compatible land use but supported by unreliable policies; c) element maps showing their distribution as protected/unprotected.
- Scenario generation (planned version 1.3 function) will allow the user to use optimization algorithms (e.g., MARXAN, Sites) to identify a set of planning units (e.g., parcels) that can satisfy conservation goals for all elements.
- Site evaluation and mitigation planning (planned version 1.3 function) will allow the user to select a site (parcel, management unit, watershed, etc.) view its biodiversity content and intended land use/management regime and the effect on goals for each element. The user can then conduct "what if" queries by substituting different land use/management regimes and implementation or policy mechanisms. The result is an instant report of effect on goal achievement for each element. If the outcome is desirable, the user can save each site modification to a new scenario, thus creating a conservation or mitigation plan on the fly specifying the desirable land use/management for each site and the mechanism to be used for implementation.

Input Data Format

General Understanding Of Issues

Output Type

Some Computer/GIS Programming Skills

Description Of System Components


Scientific Expertise Level Required




Accepts Data Of Process Types

Regularly Distributed

Planning And Decision Process Phases/Steps Served


Output Type

National Commission On Science For Sustainable Forestry

Planning And Decision Process Phases/Steps Served

Software Tools And Models - All

Spatial Decision Support Systems



Software Type

Alternative Ranking, Decision Making

Condition Analysis And Assessment

Decision Alternatives Generation, Scenario Simulation

Domain Knowledge Modeling


Planning And Decision Process Phases/Steps Served

Spatial Decision Support Systems


Evaluative Models

Simulation Models

Graphical Ontology Browser

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  • Pan to see the rest of the graph
  • Scroll the mousewheel up and down to zoom in and out
  • Rearrange the nodes in the graph by dragging a node to a different position


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