Permeable Landscapes for Wildlife in the Northeast
Permeable Landscapes for Species of Greatest Conservation Need
Landscape permeability, also referred to as "habitat connectivity," is the ability of a land area to allow animals to move and disperse. This project evaluated and mapped landscape permeability across the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.
Landscape permeability is the ability of a land area to allow organisms to move and disperse, equivalent to what some authors call “habitat connectivity.” This project evaluated and mapped the relative landscape permeability for terrestrial organisms across the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, taking into account features that impede natural connectivity such as roads and other development. The analysis assigned locations to categories of diffuse flow (intact, permeable areas that facilitate high levels of dispersal), concentrated flow (large quantities of flow are concentrated through a narrow area), constrained flow (low permeability, with flow following a weak reticulated network), or blocked flow (lack of permeability). The analyses were conducted using the Circuitscape program. The regional permeability results were compared to the results of over 20 independent, smaller-scale studies of connectivity and the majority were found to be in good agreement, with the remainder in moderate agreement with the regional analysis. Alternative versions of the regional analysis incorporated climate change by considering preferential flow upslope and northward to track a warming climate. An additional analysis identified areas where major road crossings occurred in areas of concentrated flow, which could form the greatest barriers to range shifts and species movements.
LCC Staff Contact: Scott Schwenk
In August 2016, this project was completed with publication of the report "Resilient and Connected Landscapes" and associated datasets. The final project, benefiting from additional funding by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, represented a significant expansion of the work begun by the agreement with the North Atlantic LCC. The additional aspects included expanding the project from the 13 northeastern states to the entire eastern United States and southeastern Canada and incorporating the permeability component into a network of resilient and connected sites necessary to support the continued rearrangement of species in response to change.
In May 2015, a dataset and report were submitted to the North Atlantic LCC to complete the requirements of the agreement. Note that these products were superseded by the August 2016 final versions.
In April 2014, an extension for the project was granted to allow enhanced consideration of future climate change, and additional expert input, in defining landscape permeability. The revised proposal and timeline is available here.
NALCC Funding: $49,868
Other Funding: $50,000
The final report, Resilient and Connected Landscapes for Terrestrial Conservation, was published in August 2016.
For archiving and historical purposes, the March 2015 version of the report is available here. This report satisfied the requirements of the agreement with the North Atlantic LCC but has been superseded by the substantially revised report published in August 2016.
Datasets, maps and other information are available from the Nature Conservancy's Conservation Gateway. Links to the North Atlantic LCC's Conservation Planning Atlas will be added when available.