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Mapping Nature’s Strongholds

Nature's Strongholds:
Strong vs. Less Resilient Landscapes
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Much as a castle’s keep served as a haven of last retreat for its residents, a new study by The Nature Conservancy has identified “nature’s strongholds” across the Northeast that are predicted to help plants, animals and people withstand the growing impacts of climate change.

The study analyzed 156 million acres from Virginia to Maine’s Canadian border.

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Scientists grouped landscapes into “neighborhoods” that were rated by:

Complexity — Can species seek new habitat at different topographies, geologies and elevations?

Permeability — Can species move freely, or are they blocked by roads, dams or other development?

Corridors — Can species relocate to new neighborhoods?

Among the resilient landscapes in Massachusetts are forests in the Westfield River watershed, the Quabbin Reservoir and the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod.

While these strongholds provide hope, scientists warn that reducing the impact of climate change is still a high priority, and that these landscapes could lose their shielding ability if not protected.

The study complements and draws extensively on data from BioMap2, a fine-scale scientific roadmap for conserving Massachusetts over the next 10 years developed by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with Massachusetts state agencies.

The reports combine to inform the Conservancy’s work across New England in the coming decades. With these tools for conserving rare species and diverse natural communities, we can best focus our work to protect and restore healthy, resilient landscapes.

Graphic caption: Conservancy scientists recently rated 156 million acres across the Northeast for their ability to help species survive climate impacts. In the Bay State, floodplain forests, water sources and even a military reservation were found to have the highest resilience with respect to their setting. © k.reed/vindesign

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