This project highlights the potential for LCCs to facilitate collaboration among conservation practitioners and research scientists to plan for the future. A team of UMass scientists is developing a landscape change, assessment and design model to assess ecosystems and their capacity to sustain populations of wildlife in the northeastern U.S. in the face of urban growth, climate change, and other stressors. The project plays a major role in developing the science and data for two collaborative landscape planning and design efforts: 1) the pilot Landscape Conservation Design for the Connecticut River Watershed, and 2) Nature’s Network, which expands and elaborates on the data to extend to throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Using the best available science and information, participating partners are developing tools and strategies for conserving a connected network of lands and waters to sustain natural resources and communities within the watershed.
This project is designed to support the overall goals of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NALCC), which are as follows:
Assess the current capability of habitats in the NALCC to support sustainable populations of wildlife;
Predict the impacts of landscape-level changes (e.g., from urban growth, conservation programs, climate change, etc.) on the future capability of these habitats to support wildlife populations;
Target conservation programs to effectively and efficiently achieve objectives in State Wildlife Action Plans and other conservation plans and evaluate progress under these plans; and
Enhance coordination among partners during the planning, implementation and evaluation of habitat conservation through conservation design.
As of May 2016 the project team, working with partners, finalized a collaborative Landscape Conservation Design for the Connecticut River Watershed known as Connect the Connecticut. This collaborative project, developed with guidance from a team federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations in the watershed, is intended to advance conservation of fish, wildlife, and the ecosystems on which they depend in the watershed. It was also a pilot for testing the application of the information and tools developed by the project team for other regions. This project was extended to support the development of conservation design work for the Northeast U.S. with state fish and wildlife agencies and other partners, an effort known as Nature’s Network (formerly, Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas).
Regionally consistent spatial datasets and models for the 13-state Northeast region are an integral part of the Nature’s Network Conservation Design and suite of products. Many of these datasets are available for viewing and download in a gallery on the North Atlantic LCC Conservation Planning Atlas hosted by DataBasin - https://nalcc.databasin.org/galleries/dc2f56fa047144f0a9659c3709e022f2#expand=43916%2C43917. Examples include:
Index of Ecological Integrity - an assessment of the ability of natural areas to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem processes over the long term;
Landscape Capability datasets for a number of representative species, such as American Woodcock, Black Bear, Marsh Wren, Moose, Ruffed Grouse, Wood Duck, and Wood Thrush (full list: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KWmgbCSUJ_N4caQat1iXl-gxkOT0D1AxwqzBwaxNVSQ);
A series of climate projections by decade for 2010-2080;
Major enhancement of the region’s stream network mapping (high resolution hydrography, NHD 1:24,000 scale)
This project was co-funded by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Centers.