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Public outreach

Engaging with the community to inform, educate, and generate support for land conservation.

Resilient and Connected Landscapes

Developers: 

The Nature Conservancy

Year released/updated: 
2016
Summary: 

Resilient & Connected Landscapes highlights resilient areas of diverse geology and topography, and the nature of their connections, with national coverage (excluding HI and AK).

Geographic scope: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Climate adaptation interests
Most suitable for: 
Products: 

Tailored report via an online mapping tool, and GIS data.

Requirements: 

The online map viewer is readily usable. Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data.

Additional details: 

The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient & Connected Landscapes (RCL) project created a comprehensive map of resilient lands and significant climate corridors across the bioregions that make up the contiguous 48 states. RCL is a conservation blueprint that aims to ‘conserve the stage’ by highlighting areas with high abiotic diversity and connectivity. It identifies the set of diverse and connected places that, if conserved, will ensure a high level of biodiversity and healthy ecosystem processes in a changing climate. RCL includes a connectedness metric from CAPS (Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System)/DSL (Designing Sustainable Landscapes) and combines it with an analysis that highlights areas with high landscape diversity.

The focus of RCL is not on conserving ecosystems as they exist today, but to ensure that future ecosystems, perhaps novel ecosystems, will include a diversity of niches, and thereby support a high level of biodiversity. The Resilient Areas prioritized by RCL may not always be large, contiguous blocks of undeveloped land, but will generally have high landscape complexity combined with high interconnectivity. RCL also identifies areas of Flow, the predicted movement of species’ populations over time in response to climate change. Climate Corridors are narrow zones of highly concentrated flow, often riparian corridors or ridgelines. Climate Flow Zones are broad areas of high flow that are less concentrated than the corridors, and typically occur in what are now, intact forested regions.

RCL includes two conservation designs (plans): Resilient and Connected Landscapes, and Prioritized Resilient and Connected Landscapes. In addition, assessment data (Resilient Sites, Regional Flow, and Amount of Carbon Storage) are available for use in the development of conservation plans for specific interests or geographic areas.

Learn more about the terms used in this tool profile from the Glossary.

New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer

Developers: 

Harvard Forest

Year released/updated: 
2019
Summary: 

The New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer is a scenarios-based mapping tool which compares potential future land use outcomes in New England.

Geographic scope: 
Conservation tasks: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Most suitable for: 
Products: 
Requirements: 

The online mapping tool is readily usable with minimal time, knowledge or technical requirements. Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data.

Additional details: 

The New England Landscape Futures (NELF) Explorer is unique in incorporating social, economic and environmental perspectives on potential future land use patterns, and it is the best tool for practitioners interested in exploring these broader and more comprehensive considerations.

NELF Explorer is a scenarios-based interactive land-use mapping tool that allows users to visualize alternative future land uses over time and multiple spatial scales - including all of New England, states, watersheds, and municipalities. Users can also gain an understanding of how the different land-use scenarios, including a business-as-usual scenario called Recent Trends, would affect high priority land for conservation such as wetlands, rare species habitat, and areas of high ecological integrity. The Recent Trends scenario continues rates and patterns of land-use change that occurred between 1990 and 2010 through to the year 2060. The four other NELF scenarios were created with New Englanders from all six states concerned about the future of the land, and are conceptually based on the factors driving changes to the land that stakeholders perceived to be the most impactful and the most uncertain.

NELF Explorer was co-developed with stakeholders as a resource for municipal planning, conservation planning, resource management, and education. It complements many other tools by mapping five alternative futures for the land in New England:

  • Recent Trends: Continuing along the current path where forest cover is declining in all New England states.
  • Connected Communities: Defined by high natural resource planning and innovation and local socio-economic connectedness.
  • Yankee Cosmopolitan: Defined by high natural resource planning and innovation and global socio-economic connectedness.
  • Go It Alone: Defined by low natural resource planning and innovation and local socio-economic connectedness.
  • Growing Global: Defined by low natural resource planning and innovation and global socio-economic connectedness.


The NELF Explorer YouTube Channel includes a video tutorial introduction to NELF Explorer.

Learn more about the terms used on this tool profile from the Glossary.

Nature’s Network

Nature’s Network
Developers: 

A team of scientists facilitated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Year released/updated: 
2017
Summary: 

Nature’s Network is a suite of decision-support tools and datasets, including a conservation design that depicts a network of connected, intact, and resilient areas -- both lands and waters -- that are considered the best places to begin strategic conservation planning to support a sustainable future for both human and natural communities across the 13-state Northeast region.

Geographic scope: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Climate adaptation interests
Most suitable for: 
Also good for: 
Products: 
Requirements: 

A reasonable amount of time is required to become familiar with the online mapping platform options. Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data.

Additional details: 

Nature’s Network is a collaborative effort led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and representatives from all 13 Northeast states, using innovative modeling approaches developed by UMass Amherst and other science partners, to identify the best opportunities for conserving and connecting intact habitats and ecosystems and supporting imperiled species, to help ensure the future of fish and wildlife across the Northeast region. Nature’s Network offers a regional landscape conservation design and a suite of decision-support tools that makes available much of the state-of-the-art modeling done by the Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL) project at UMass Amherst. The web mapper interface presents a huge variety of customizing options, that frequent users will familiarise themselves with and use. Nature’s Network incorporates, DSL Ecological Integrity MetricsDSL-Conductance, and Resilient & Connected Landscapes. Elements of Nature’s Network include:

  • Terrestrial and Wetland Core Network: Intact, well-connected places that, if protected, will support a diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants, and the ecosystems they depend upon. Core areas are linked together by a network of connectors designed to enable the movement of animals and plants between core areas and across the landscape into the future.
  • Habitats for Imperiled Species: This contains three datasets: Habitat Importance for Imperiled Species, Core Habitat for Imperiled Species, and Habitat Condition for Imperiled Species.
  • Aquatic Core Networks: This includes three data layers: River and stream (lotic) core network, Lake and pond (lentic) core network, and Aquatic buffers.
  • Marsh Migration Zones: This dataset depicts potential salt marsh migration zones at various sea level rise scenarios from 0-6 feet. Identification of suitable uplands adjacent to tidal wetlands is based on topography, habitat type, land use, and development, and can be used for facilitating marsh migration through land protection and/or management.
  • Regional Flow: This dataset, developed by The Nature Conservancy, identifies where population movements and potential range shifts may become concentrated or where they are well dispersed, and it is possible to quantify the importance of an area by measuring how much flow passes through it, and how concentrated that flow is. The results can be used to identify important pinch points where movements are predicted to concentrate, or diffuse intact areas that allow for more random movements.

Some elements of Nature’s Network, such as the Terrestrial and Wetland Core Network, represent a regional plan for conserving wetland and terrestrial biodiversity. Other components, such as Habitats for Imperiled Species and Marsh Migration Zones, can be used as inputs for creating conservation plans at the local, state or regional scales.

The developers have compiled testimonials from Nature's Network users.

Learn more about the terms used in this tool profile from the Glossary.

MassCAPS - Massachusetts Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System

MassCAPS - Massachusetts Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System
Developers: 

University of Massachusetts Amherst Extension

Year released/updated: 
December 2020
Summary: 

MassCAPS (Massachusetts Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System) calculates an Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI) based on human impacts and landscape characteristics, to highlight examples of ecosystems that are likely to maintain their natural composition, structure and function over time, in Massachusetts.

Geographic scope: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Most suitable for: 
Also good for: 
Climate adaptation interests
Most suitable for: 
Also good for: 
Products: 

Municipal maps available as high-resolution PDFs, GeoTIFF file maps, Data is viewable through Massachusetts Climate Action Tool and MassEOEEA, and GIS data can be downloaded.

Requirements: 

The municipal maps are readily usable, the GeoTIFF files can be viewed in most image viewers and browsers, and the Massachusetts Climate Action Tool and Mass EOEEA viewers are simple to use. Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data.

Additional details: 

The Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System (CAPS) is an approach to prioritizing land for conservation based on the assessment of the ecological integrity for various natural communities (e.g. forests, headwater streams). Several metrics are applied to the landscape and then integrated in weighted linear combinations to create models for predicting ecological integrity. This process results in an Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI) for each point in the landscape based on models constructed separately for each ecological community.

CAPS takes a coarse filter approach by looking at ecosystems and ecosystem integrity, without focusing on individual species. There are several versions of MassCAPS outputs, all requiring GIS capabilities. CAPS is an assessment approach that yields data (e.g. IEI) that can be used for conservation planning, but is not itself a plan. Elements of CAPS analyses have been used in BioMap2, Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL) and Nature’s Network, and Resilient & Connected Landscapes.

In addition to the Massachusetts CAPS assessment, UMass Amherst has produced a regional version of CAPS for the 13 northeast states as part of the Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL) project. MassCAPS is based on data only for Massachusetts, while DSL is based on data for 13 states, so the DSL version will be more correct near Massachusetts state borders and provides regional context—for instance regional IEI is scaled across all states in the region. MassCAPS is based on generally higher-quality data, including land cover, roofprints, traffic rates, soils, and the digital elevation model, while DSL uses data that are regionally-available, often of lower quality. MassCAPS also has several metrics not available in the DSL version: hydrologic alterations, nitrogen and phosphorus enrichment, salt marsh ditching, beach off road vehicles, beach pedestrians, coastal hardened structures, and boat traffic.

While MassCAPS does not explicitly focus on climate adaptation, areas with high IEI scores tend to be large, well-connected areas buffered from human activities, where natural processes are likely to remain intact over time. Within intact areas, natural systems are more likely to be resistant and resilient to impacts - from both humans and climate change. Areas of high IEI are likely to provide a diversity of niches and migration pathways important for maintaining biodiversity as climate change shifts species distributions over time.

 Learn more about the terms used in this tool profile from the Glossary.

Massachusetts Climate Action Tool

Massachusetts Climate Action Tool
Developers: 

University of Massachusetts Amherst, MassWildlife, Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

Year released/updated: 
2017
Summary: 

The Massachusetts Climate Action Tool provides access to information on climate change impacts and vulnerability of species and habitats, as well as adaptation strategies and actions to help maintain healthy, resilient natural communities, with a focus on Massachusetts.

Geographic scope: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Climate adaptation interests
Products: 

Web-based graphics and text, an online map viewer, and links to other tools and sources of information.

Requirements: 

Readily usable with minimal time, knowledge or technical requirements.

Additional details: 

The purpose of the Massachusetts Climate Action Tool (CAT) is to present research-based information about climate change impacts and the vulnerabilities of various fish, wildlife and habitat, and promote adaptation actions that can be taken at a local level. This information is paired with a map viewer to access online GIS data that was selected or synthesized to understand and respond to conservation challenges posed by climate change. The tool contains approximately 200 GIS layers as well as a wealth of information on climate-related stressors affecting Massachusetts, vulnerability assessments for over 60 species or groups of species, and a substantial list of adaptation actions ranging from forest management and land preservation to culvert replacement and dam removal.

The CAT was designed for users with limited mapping capacity, and features maps that incorporate BioMap2 and the CAPS (Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System) Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI), DSL (Designing Sustainable Landscapes) Conductance, as well as other spatial data. Species profiles include spatial data showing the current geographic distribution or habitat suitability for the species and, in many cases, projections for the future habitat suitability accounting for climate change. Spatial data can be explored using a web browser, but cannot be uploaded to, or downloaded from, the spatial data viewer, which includes links to data sources and additional information.

Learn more about the terms used in this tool profile from the Glossary.

DSL - Designing Sustainable Landscapes

DSL - Designing Sustainable Landscapes
Developers: 

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Year released/updated: 
March 2020
Summary: 

Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL) provides data and assessments for strategic habitat conservation, by assessing the ecological integrity of ecosystems, evaluating regional connectivity, assessing risk of development, and modeling climate niche and landscape capability for key wildlife species in the Northeast.

Geographic scope: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Most suitable for: 
Also good for: 
Climate adaptation interests
Most suitable for: 
Products: 
Requirements: 

Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data, as well as the capacity to work with large datasets.

Additional details: 

Beginning in 2000, the Landscape Ecology Lab at UMass Amherst has used landscape-scale modeling to produce data to support conservation decision-making. Since 2010, the lab has provided conservation planning data and products covering 13 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, in a project called Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL). The DSL approach follows a logical sequence from data generation and compilation, to assessment and modeling, to conservation design. DSL models provide much of the content of Connect the Connecticut, and Nature’s Network, both developed in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, and conservation NGOs. DSL involves two major processes:

1. Characterization involves the compilation, correction, and generation of data for use in landscape modeling. Examples include the developed land uses, ecological communities, ecological settings variables, and climate data. These data are used as inputs for landscape assessments, although they can be useful on their own for conservation decision-making.

2. Assessment is the process of integrating data and using models to make landscape predictions. Examples include the use of CAPS (Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System) to assess the ecological integrity of ecological communities, an evaluation of regional connectivity, use of the SPRAWL model to assess risk of development, and the modeling of climate niche and landscape capability for representative wildlife species or species at risk. Incorporation of climate data into the models facilitates predictions of future ecological integrity, connectivity, landscape capability and potential habitat refugia.

The DSL data products likely to be most useful for land protection and stewardship are:

  • Regional CAPS Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI)

  • Conductance index (an measure of the importance of land for regional-scale connectivity)

  • Integrated probability of development

  • Focus species models

  • Conservation design elements from Nature’s Network

Some of the DSL data has been clipped to state boundaries.

Learn more about the terms used in this tool profile from the Glossary.

BioMap2

Developers: 

MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, The Nature Conservancy

Year released/updated: 
2010 (BioMap3 is in development with release scheduled for 2022)
Summary: 

BioMap2 is designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation by focusing land protection and stewardship on the areas that are most critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and other native species and their habitats, exemplary natural communities, and a diversity of ecosystems, in Massachusetts.

Geographic scope: 
Conservation phases: 
Forest conservation goals
Climate adaptation interests
Most suitable for: 
Also good for: 
Products: 

Online map viewers (on the BioMap2 website, and through MassGIS/OliverMAPPR - Mapping and Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience and Resilient MA), Town reports with a map, and GIS data via MassGIS/Oliver.

Requirements: 

The online map viewers and town reports are readily usable. Access to, and familiarity with, GIS is required to explore downloaded data.

Additional details: 

BioMap2 is a conservation plan that uses both a species-based (fine-filter) and ecosystem/landscape-based (coarse-filter) approach that takes into account known occurrences of species of conservation concern and landscape analyses of habitat value and ecological integrity. It combines MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program’s (NHESP) 30 years of rigorously documented rare species and natural community data with spatial data identifying wildlife species and habitats that were the focus of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s 2005 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). BioMap2 also integrates The Nature Conservancy’s assessment of large, well-connected, and intact ecosystems and landscapes across the Commonwealth, incorporating concepts of ecosystem resilience to address anticipated climate change impacts. The landscape analyses use customized versions of CAPS (Conservation Assessment & Prioritization System) assessments to identify vernal pool cores (clusters), forest cores, wetland cores, aquatic cores, and landscape blocks.

The BioMap2 product consists of two polygon-based datasets, one for Core Habitat and another for Critical Natural (Supporting) Landscape. Core Habitat identifies key areas to ensure the long-term persistence of rare species, other Species of Conservation Concern, and exemplary natural communities and intact ecosystems. Critical Natural Landscape identifies large natural landscape blocks that are minimally impacted by development, as well as buffers around some Core Habitats, both of which enhance resilience. Although BioMap2 used many of the same data that were used to identify Priority Habitat by NHESP, the Priority Habitat maps were created for a regulatory purpose (Massachusetts Endangered Species Act), and BioMap2 is the preferred information source for conservation planning and action.

Learn more about the terms used in this tool profile from the Glossary.

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