By Eric Aldrich, The Nature Conservancy
To address the daunting challenges facing biodiversity in a changing climate, The Nature Conservancy is using groundbreaking science in a GIS tool to identify a network of lands across the United States with unique characteristics that can help withstand climate impacts. If properly protected or managed, these special places could serve as safe havens for species, allowing them to move from growing climate threats toward new places to live and thrive.
The Nature Conservancy developed its Resilient and Connected Landscapes Project over the past 10 years in collaboration with more than 150 scientists and 70 data layers from all over the country. The project is helping government agencies, land trusts and others use this science to direct conservation action and resources toward important lands that can support people and nature now and into the future.
The threat is real. Species are disappearing at a rate up to 100 times higher than the average rate of extinction for the past 10 million years. Loss of habitat plays a central role in those extinctions. Since 2001, 24 million acres of natural lands in the United States have been altered for things like roads, houses and energy infrastructure. That’s the equivalent of losing a football field every 30 seconds.
Conserving land so species have sufficient habitat to thrive can break this vicious cycle.
Some land areas offer a more efficient means of confronting the extinction crisis than others. The most resilient areas have complex topographies with varied elevations, soils and temperatures. That composition creates diverse “micro-climates” that support a wide array of wildlife, even as the Earth’s overall climate changes.
Those are the lands we’re focusing on conserving, and the Conserving Resilient Landscapes Project provides a roadmap for safeguarding America’s wildlife and natural heritage. Protecting the most resilient landscapes can double the environmental impact by 2050.
The Conserving Resilient Landscapes tool is already being used by state wildlife agencies and more than 100 land trusts. In Vermont, The Nature Conservancy recently protected lands identified by the project – over 3,500 acres of diverse forest at Glebe Mountain.
The Nature Conservancy encourages more land trusts, state and federal agencies and others to use the tool for conservation planning, grants and funding requests and additional science to focus protection efforts in places that yield long-lasting results.
Any questions, feel free to contact me:
Eric Aldrich, The Nature Conservancy