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Possible Fish Conservation Areas in Delaware County, Pennsylvania

Geography 363 Final Report
Nicholas Fink, Section 002 5/2/2011

Introduction The Delaware County region of Pennsylvania is just south of the city of Philadelphia, so naturally the area is heavily developed along the city boarder and along the Delaware River where pollution is rampant. The objective of the analysis was to identify areas in the western portion of the country, where development is less prevalent and the land is still fairly rural, to preserve the native fish population1. The best areas would have minimal pollution and be worth the effort to preserve, so the criteria consisted of four key components: The area is located in a known floodplain to minimize the number of commercial and residential buildings around. The conservation value of the fish population is above a 6, on the National Lands Trusts scale of 1-10 to ensure the project is worthwhile. The sites should be located 100 meters from all state roads, to avoid polluted storm runoff and garbage collected on the side of the road. The sites should be located 350 meters from all water resource sites, which include commercial and public discharge sites such as sewage plants and refineries.

Methods In order to operationalize the criteria, I looked at what was logically the best way to analyze the problem in a GIS. Because there were so many overlapping criteria, it made sense to find data that could be processed with buffers and overlay operations in order to eliminate areas that were unsuitable to the project. The criteria I selected were fairly straightforward and this helped make determining the appropriate data easy. It was clear that the data frame would start with the TIGER/Line file for Delaware County2, which was then changed over the NAD 83 state plane coordinate system for south Pennsylvania. From there it was simply finding relevant data through PASDA, where I searched for the floodplain areas, state roads shapefile, conservation areas raster data, and water resources shapefile3. Work Flow To begin the analysis I added the two raster data sets (floodplain, conservation values) and used the raster calculator to determine areas with a conservation value above 6 and where the value was TRUE for floodplains (pied_fish_cv > 6 & pied_ floodpl == 5). I next converted the new layer, fish6_fp5, to a vector feature, and because the feature was for the entire piedmont region of southeast Pennsylvania, I then had to select by location where the areas intersected Delaware County and exported the data as a new layer, delco_sites. Next I added the roads layer, which included roads for the entire state, so again I selected by location where the roads intersected Delaware County, and again I exported the selected roads as a new


layer, delco_roads. I followed the same steps for the water resources layer to find the points that are in the county. The next steps were to create the 100 m buffer around the roads and the 350 m buffer around the water resource sites. The buffers were then combined through the overlay operation union, creating one layer showing unsuitable sites. In order to highlight the areas that were suitable, I created another union between the later delco_sites and the buffer_union layers. By using the selecte attributes operation, I was able to find a common attribute that allowed me to select the appropriate conservation areas. Those areas were then exported as the layer suitable_areas, or the areas that met all the criteria.

Raster to feature


Raster Calculator
(pied_fish_cv > 6 & pied_flood == 5) PIED_FLOODPLAIN Potential_sites intersect


state_sites Select by



Select by location





Buffer 100 m




Buffer 350 m

Potential_sites Roads_buffer Wr_buffer Union


Select by Att



Results The resulting map showed that areas meeting the criteria were very scarce, and almost nonexistent in the east along the city limits and along the river. The largest areas are also the farthest west and near the state park, as I expected due to the suburban sprawl not hitting that portion of the county yet. The area Ive focused most closely on seems to have the best ratio of larger water bodies and the criteria. Interestingly, the area that seems to be best suited to the projects goals is also the most densely packed with water resource facilities.

Discussion As the map plainly shows, the areas that meet the criteria are very limited in size. It also shows how the areas with suitable sites are less dense with state roads, but curiously have more water resource facilities. This helps me to see if this project is feasible at all, since trying to conserve these small areas may not be worth the time and resources needed to protect them. The area most likely to be conservable would be the area Ive focused on, which Ive looked at in closer detail on the map. This seems to be the largest area to meet the requirements, and its a decent distance from the state park which is already protected, however if the apparent trend of densely packed water resource facilities may be an indication of

The main source of error in this analysis would most likely be out of date data, although it should not be a problem since the oldest data used is from 2006. One of the biggest limitations of the data I used is that I cannot see if the selected areas are already developed, either with housing or commercial interests. Conclusion As a result of this analysis, I now know exactly where the areas that are worth conserving are located. This could help in other analyses where siting for new commercial or water resource facilities are an issue or where overdevelopment in the area is a concern. This analysis helped me better understand the GIS process because this project took a bit of trial and error, especially when trying to extract the suitable areas from union between the buffers layer and the layer of sites that met the criteria. In the future, it is possible I would look at vegetation and other animals such as birds and mammals when trying to find an area to protect. I would also like to run the analysis again incorporating more factors such as residential areas, commercial areas and encroachments (docks, boat launch points). Improvements Id also like to make include widening the search area to conservation values of greater than or equal to 5, instead of greater than 6. Overall, I feel the project was successful in fulfilling its goals, and that the data created would be very useful for anyone working in wildlife conservation.