The Northeast United States and Atlantic Canada share many of the same types of forests, wetlands, and natural communities, and from a wildlife perspective the region is one contiguous forest. However, resources are classified and mapped differently on the two sides of the border, creating challenges for habitat evaluation, species modeling, and predicting the effects of climate change. To remedy this, ecologists from The Nature Conservancy collaborated with a committee of scientists from various Canadian institutions to produce the first international map of terrestrial habitats for northeast North America. The project used extensive spatial data on geology, soils, landforms, wetlands, elevation and climate. Additionally, all four provinces contributed spatially comprehensive forest inventory data consisting of 3 million polygons depicting the tree composition of individual forest stands. The Atlantic Conservation Data Centre contributed precise spatial locations of over 200,000 species. The resulting map shows the distribution of 40 upland and wetland habitats, 29 of which are shared by both countries. It has been integrated with the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map that covers 13 northeast states and the District of Columbia in the US.
This project was co-funded by the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative. An alternate reference to this project can be found here.
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“Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge - Credit: USFWS”
The methods we will use to create this map were developed and refined during the three-year period in which we produced the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map. They make extensive use of field-collected data combined with national and provincial datasets. Early in the project much time will be committed to the compilation and development of spatial datasets of important environmental variables, and in compiling numerous plot-based samples of various ecological systems. The modeling process combines the plot-based samples, tagged to the correct ecological system, with the region-wide GIS data layers. Regression trees are used to identify the variables that best delineate the ecological systems, and then to model those systems. This final map is a composite of the individual models. Structural attributes like canopy density and datasets related to vegetation height and biomass may have a role in detailing forest successional stage.