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Extending the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map to Atlantic Canada

Extending the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map to Atlantic Canada

This project developed a comprehensive terrestrial habitat map for the entire extent of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NALCC) region by extending the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map to Atlantic Canada and southern Quebec. The completed version was released on September 10, 2015.

Consistent and accurate landscape datasets are important foundational products for ecological analyses and for understanding and anticipating the effects of climate change on forested, agricultural, and freshwater systems across the U.S. and Canada. The objective of this project was to extend an existing terrestrial habitat map of the north Atlantic U.S. to Atlantic Canada and southern Quebec, using and modeling field-collected data combined with national and provincial datasets. This GIS map 1) provides a foundation upon which further research, such as species vulnerability analyses, can advance, 2) allows each relevant state and province to identify terrestrial habitats consistently across borders, 3) allows for analysis of regional connectivity, and 4) facilitates an understanding of terrestrial animal and plant populations in relation to climate change. The dataset was released on September 10, 2015. Read the original project proposal here.

LCC Staff Contact: Scott Schwenk

Methods: The methods used to create this map were developed and refined during the three-year period in which we produced the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map. They made extensive use of field-collected data combined with national and provincial datasets. Early in the project much time was committed to the compilation and development of spatial datasets of important environmental variables, and to the compilation of numerous plot-based samples of various ecological systems. The modeling process combined the plot-based samples, tagged to the correct ecological system, with the region-wide GIS data layers. Regression trees were used to identify the variables that best delineate the ecological systems, and then to model those systems. This final map is a composite of the individual models. Structural attributes like canopy density and datasets related to vegetation height and biomass have a role in detailing forest successional stage.  

Products and Outcomes: Deliverables include: 1) a comprehensive map of terrestrial habitats for the Canadian portion of the NALCC, seamless and fully consistent with the map for the US portion, 2) a report describing the methods used to develop the map, and 3) framework datasets (as distributable). The map and data layers consist of a spatially comprehensive GIS grid of 30 meter pixels with a legend portraying the NatureServe Terrestrial Habitat Classification System. The finished products, methods, and techniques used to develop the map will be published, distributed and made broadly available.

On September 10, 2015, The Nature Conservancy announced availability of the Northeast Terrestrial Habitat Map that includes Atlantic Canada. The map is informed by over 3,000,000 forest stands and 200,000 species locations contributed by Canadian partners.

Prior summary of progress: First, the PIs assembled a steering committee for the project and began meetings. Two subcontracts were established with Canadian partners: Atlantic Canada CSD (for data on rare species and communities) and Nature Conservancy of Canada (for species and composition information from forest mapping). Datasets were compiled for forests, wetlands, geology, landforms, land cover, climate, and topography. Forest inventory datasets from all four Provinces were acquired. Next, the steering committee finalized the classification and compiled and processed all the necessary datasets for mapping (standardized attributes environmental data). Throughout the process, the PIs presented results and obtained feedback from the steering committee. In April 2015, Mark Anderson gave a webinar describing the project in partnership with the Northeast Climate Science Center. In May, a preliminary complete report and dataset were submitted to the North Atlantic LCC; North Atlantic LCC staff provided comments on the report in July. Partners provided final input on the dataset during the summer of 2015.

A presentation giving an overview of the project (Powerpoint) is available.

The original proposed project timeline is available here.

Quarterly Reports

2014 July-Sept. Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2014 April-June Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2014 Jan-March Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2013 Oct.-Dec. Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2013 July-Sept. Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2013 April-June Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2013 Jan.-March Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada
2012 Oct-Dec Quarterly Report - Extending Habitat Map into Canada

North Atlantic LCC: $95,238

Northeast Climate Science Center: $109,250

Canadian portion of the North Atlantic LCC

The Final Report for this project is now available.

The webmapper is available at: http://maps.tnc.org/nehabitatmap. Reports, habitat guides, and other information are available at: http://nature.ly/NEhabitat.

As both a practical tool for conservation professionals, and an educational resource for nature enthusiasts, the Northeast Habitat dataset and map viewer offers a way for people of all backgrounds to find answers to important questions about the terrestrial landscape. The map includes:  

  • Complete coverage of the Northeast’s 140 common and unique terrestrial habitats, from the serpentine ridges of the Gaspe Peninsula to the limestone barrens of western Virginia.
  • Information on each habitat’s ecology, plants and animals, securement level, regional abundance, and predicted loss to development.
  • Base maps to explore how the Habitat Map overlays on satellite imagery or topographic maps.
  • Scientifically rigorous datasets, reports, and an interactive web map.

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