Following years of effort, the Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts announced its purchase of 100 acres of wooded sandplain in West Tisbury for permanent conservation.
“Opportunities for conservation projects this big don’t come along every day on the Vineyard,” said Matt Pelikan, a restoration ecologist based at The Nature Conservancy’s Vineyard Haven office.
The newly protected property borders the Trustees of Reservations’ 600-acre Long Point Wildlife Refuge, and lies close to Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, creating one of the largest interconnected conservation corridors on the Vineyard.
After decades of development on Martha’s Vineyard, this area provides one of the last remaining links between the State Forest in the interior of the Island and Long Point on the coast – creating a critical bridge between two very different ecosystems. The growing season already differs by a month between the north and south sides of the Vineyard. And as our climate continues to change, organisms that require a cooler climate may begin to shift towards the oceanic side. Protecting this swath of undeveloped land gives nature the space that it will need to adapt.
The Conservancy was also particularly interested in this’s property’s rare ecological features known as “frost bottoms” – ancient depressions, formed at the close of New England’s last glaciation, which create unusual microclimates that increase local biodiversity. Even at the height of summer, these pockets can contain morning frost.
The region is ecological complex, featuring a matrix of grasslands, shrublands and forests that support an abundance of wildlife, including highly specialized species that aren’t commonly found elsewhere. A wide array of moths and butterflies can be found in the scrub oak woodlands here, including rare species like Melsheimer’s sack-bearer.
And not only was this large undeveloped area important for habitat, it also sits low in the watershed of Tisbury Great Pond, where high nitrogen levels from runoff have negatively affected the eelgrass beds that serve as habitat for shellfish. Conservation of the pond’s watershed can play an important role in preserving local water quality.
The property is the second large acquisition in a conservation project known as “Watcha Woodlands,” so-called after a historic local name. Over time, the Conservancy aims to protect several hundred acres in the area. However, due to a complex ownership history, securing this property for conservation has taken more than a decade of effort.
“This is a precious piece of the island, featuring rare habitat and a strategic location. It’s well worth the trouble,” Pelikan said.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts