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Development of Models, Metrics and Spatial Data to Inform Forest Conservation and Connectivity in the Northeastern U.S.

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Environmental Conservation Dept.
Project Description: 

The ecosystem services and public benefits provided by forests are best ensured by maintaining resilient forested landscapes with intact ecological patterns and processes. Identifying core forestland and connectivity zones to create sustainable conservation networks is difficult in the mosaic of developed land, agricultural land, and natural ecosystems that characterizes much of the northeastern U.S. There is a need for spatially explicit information to facilitate forest conservation that integrates information about current land use, distribution of habitats, ecological integrity, and regional connectivity, with projections for future land use, effects of climate change on ecosystems, and need to accommodate for shifting species distributions.

The window of opportunity for effective land conservation in southern New England may be only 20-30 years. After this time, much of the unprotected landscape is likely to be too fragmented to be of much value for supporting wildlife or sustaining forest-based businesses. Private landowners with an average age of over 60 years own 2.2 million acres, over 75% of Massachusetts forests (Butler et al. 2021). Within the next 10-30 years, much of this land will be passed on or sold. To ensure the long-term protection of forests and their associated streams and wetlands, strategic and integrated action is needed at the municipal, regional, state and multi-state scales.

Environmental Conservation topics: