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Designing Sustainable Landscapes, Phase 2

Assessment of Landscape Changes in the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative: Decision-Support Tools for Conservation (Phase 2)

This project is assessing the capability of habitats to sustain populations of wildlife in the Northeastern U.S. in the face of urban growth, changing climate, and other disturbances. Building on Phase 1, this project expands the geographic scope from three pilot watersheds to the 13 state Northeast region and considers additional wildlife species.

This project is the second phase of Designing Sustainable Landscapes, which has the following goals:

  1. Assess the current capability of habitats in the North Atlantic LCC to support sustainable populations of wildlife;
  2. 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;
  3. 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
  4. Enhance coordination among partners during the planning, implementation and evaluation of habitat conservation through conservation design.

The focus of work in this phase is #1 and #2 above. Briefly, in phase 1 of this project (completed June 2012), we developed the framework for the Landscape Change, Assessment and Design (LCAD) model and implemented the landscape change and assessment portion of the model in three pilot study areas: Kennebec River watershed, middle Connecticut River watershed, and the combined Pocomoke-Nanticoke River watersheds. Specific outputs in these pilot areas from Phase I include, the overall LCAD modeling framework, urban growth models, succession models, climate-habitat capability models for representative species, and ecological integrity models. In addition to these specific outputs, significant  feedback from scientists and managers in the pilot areas was sought and will be incorporated into phase 2. The objective of phase 2 is to extend the model in the following ways:

  1. Extend the geographic scope of the LCAD model to the extent of the USFWS/NEAFWA Northeast Region (13 states + D.C.).
  2. Develop climate-habitat capability models for an additional suite of representative species.
  3. Develop the landscape design and decision-support portion of the LCAD model; specifically, to prioritize conservation actions for land protection, management and restoration.
  4. Modify the forest succession model to reflect spatial variation in growth trajectories.
  5. Incorporate a sea level rise model into the LCAD model; to be developed by an LCC or Climate Science Center (CSC) cooperator in coordination with the UMass team.
  6. Implement the regional connectivity assessment component of the landscape ecological integrity (coarse filter) assessment.

A new set of climate projections (by decade for 2010-2080) has been developed for the Northeast region. Other foundational datasets (ecological settings) such as land cover and aquatic networks have also been completed. Landscape capability models for the full Northeast region have been completed for 13 species and a preliminary version of the Index of Ecological Integrity has been developed. Many of these datasets are available for viewing and download in a gallery on the North Atlantic LCC Conservation Planning Atlas hosted by DataBasin - click here to go to the Designing Sustainable Landscapes gallery.

Landscape Capability datasets are now available at the regional scale for the following species: Moose, Wood Duck, Prairie Warbler, Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Meadowlark, Marsh Wren, Northern Waterthrush, American Black Bear, Blackburnian Warbler, Blackpoll warbler, and Wood Thrush. Models for American Oystercatcher, American Black Duck, Bicknell's Thrush, Cerulean warbler, Common Loon, Diamond-backed Terrapin, Eastern Box Turtle, Eastern Meadowlark, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Sanderling, Snowshoe Hare, Snowy Egret, and Virginia Rail are still under development. This represents an expansion from Phase 1, in which these models were developed for a smaller geographic extent.

In July 2014, the North Atlantic LCC Steering Committee approved the recommendation of the Technical Committee to support another 18 months for the project. The UMass team gave a presentation to the Technical Committee that included an update and potential next steps, available here.

The North Atlantic LCC launched a pilot approach to Landscape Conservation Design in the full Connecticut River Watershed in January 2014 that is using many of the tools from this project.

Extensive project documentation is available at: http://www.umass.edu/landeco/research/dsl/documents/dsl_documents.html

Progress Reports

Nov 2012-June 2013
July-December 2013
Jan-July 2014

NALCC Funding- $406,000  Fiscal Year 2012

NALCC Funding- $467,000  Fiscal Year 2013

Northeast Climate Science Center Funding- $196,000

Links to products are maintained on the UMass project website. They include data products from phase 2 of this project for the entire Northeast region. Spatial data products are being posted as they are generated, but detailed written reports that describe and summarize these data products will not be available until the end of phase 2.

Presentations

Ecological impacts - modeling landscape capability for representative species (2013-03)

Scientific Advisory Committee Meeting (2013-03)

Landscape Conservation Design (2013-04)

Selected presentations on the Designing Sustainable Landscapes project are also available.

Links to products are maintained on the UMass project website. They include data products from phase 2 of this project for the entire Northeast region. Spatial data products are being posted as they are generated, but detailed written reports that describe and summarize these data products will not be available until the end of phase 2.

Presentations

Ecological impacts - modeling landscape capability for representative species (2013-03)

Scientific Advisory Committee Meeting (2013-03)

Landscape Conservation Design (2013-04)

Selected presentations on the Designing Sustainable Landscapes project are also available.