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Benchmark Builder

Fig 1. Benchmark Builder interface
The Benchmark Builder is a user-friendly software application, developed in C# .NET framework, to assist conservation planners with the design of ecological benchmarks (Fig 1). It explicitly incorporates hydrologic connectivity for the integration of aquatic and terrestrial conservation planning. The Benchmark Builder constructs ecological benchmarks using a deterministic construction algorithm that aggregates catchments along stream networks to a user-defined size and intactness. Unlike conventional approaches to the design of conservation areas, this method is not driven by representation targets, which are often plagued with uncertainty. Rather, representation becomes an additional criterion for the evaluation and selection of candidate benchmark areas from a suite of benchmarks constructed for a planning region (see Benchmark Ranker tool).

Mechanics of Benchmark Construction

Fig 2. catchment amalgamation
Starting from a seed catchment, the Benchmark Builder grows a potential benchmark area by aggregating neighbouring catchments that exceed the user-defined catchment-level intactness threshold. As catchments are added to the aggregation, the Benchmark Builder prioritizes growth in the upstream direction. Once all eligible upstream catchments are added to the aggregation, Builder adds catchments downstream, querying for upstream catchments as each downstream catchment is added. When an upstream catchment is encountered, Builder adds all eligible upstream catchments neighbouring the aggregation before returning to the addition of downstream catchments. And the process repeats (Fig 2). Catchments will continue to be added until the user-defined size is reached or there are no sufficiently intact catchments to add. This method of construction emphasizes the inclusion of headwaters and hydrologic connectivity, and ensures that benchmarks occur in relatively pristine areas. Further details on benchmark construction can be found in the Benchmark Builder user manual.


The Benchmark Builder is available as an executable file and has the option of running from the command line. The software and manual are presently under review and will be made available here once the review process is complete.

We are working with the Conservation Biology Institue to make the Benchmark Builder available for online use on Data Basin.



Feb 14 2018
Northwest Boreal Benchmark Analysis Released

Nov 20 2017
BEACONs' Webinar Tuesday Nov 28

Jul 24 2017
BEACONs' Website - New content coming soon!

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