While land protection remains an important tool, we have realized we also must protect the “whole systems” in which species grow, feed, migrate and interact.
In many ways, a healthy ecosystem is like a healthy human body, with many small processes working in tandem to support life. A disruption in any one of these processes — from clean water circulation to the movement of migratory species — impacts the whole.
As The Nature Conservancy has grown, so has our approach to conservation. While land-protection remains an important tool, we also know we must protect “whole systems” where species grow, feed, migrate, interact and support people’s lives in many ways.
To address whole system challenges, we are helping guide government policy, integrating processes and places, focusing on people’s needs, connecting natural spaces and more. It’s a natural evolution for us that offers our supporters the chance for a more meaningful and lasting impact on the lands and waters we call home.
Massachusetts holds four vital whole systems: the Gulf of Maine, Connecticut River, Southern New England and Northern Appalachians.
Gulf of Maine
Sometimes called a “sea within a sea,” the Gulf of Maine stretches from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, an area almost the size of Missouri. More than 10 million people live near its shores, where tourism and recreation alone generate more than $40 billion a year in revenues and employ some 30,000 people.
The Conservancy has been working to restore and conserve the Gulf for many years. Now, our whole system approach ramps up those efforts with the urgency and scale that the Gulf of Maine and the people who depend upon it deserve. Our strategies include:
- Restoring fisheries: In Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, we work with partners to buy or lease groundfish permits, and then make those permits available to fishermen who help us research more sustainable fishing practices.
- Adapting to climate change: In New Hampshire’s Great Bay and other estuaries, we help coastal communities understand how climate change could affect their natural resources, a first step in planning for such impacts.
- Reinvigorating migratory fish populations: Throughout New England, we’re working to restore fish that migrate between sea and rivers by removing dams and installing fish-friendly stream culverts. In Massachusetts, we promoted new legislation that simplifies dam-removal and provides funding, helping sea-running fish and improving safety for communities.
- Revitalizing coastal habitats: Along the Gulf ’s coast, shellfish beds, salt marshes, seagrass beds and coastal creeks provide nurseries for fish, feeding ground for shorebirds and coastal protection from storms and erosion. We work to restore seagrass and oyster reefs in Buzzards Bay, Great Bay and other places.
- Purchase commercial fishing permits and perform research into more sustainable fishing.
- Remove dams and replace culverts to re-open habitat and restore migratory fish populations.
- Restore eelgrass and shellfish beds to help protect shorelines.