Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Nature Conservancy: Scientists Map Natural Highways & Neighborhoods To Help PA’s Diverse Species Thrive In The Face Of Climate Change

On October 7, the scientists at
The Nature Conservancy have identified and mapped a network of landscapes and connecting corridors across the United States with unique topographies, geologies, and other characteristics that can help nature survive in the face of climate change.  

Among those that were identified as particularly noteworthy was the Kittatinny Ridge, which runs through the state of Pennsylvania for 185 miles, from the Mason Dixon Line to the upper Delaware River.

As warmer temperatures, increased flooding and other climate impacts alter and destroy habitat, scientists believe these resilient landscapes will be strong enough to continue providing safe places for diverse plant and animal species, while also providing clean drinking water, economic income and other vital services people rely on for survival.

“This gives us hope that if we work to keep places like the Kittatinny Ridge protected, connected and strong, they will keep nature thriving,” said Lori Brennan, Director of The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Unique landscapes like the Ridge can provide safe places for diverse plant and animal species to flourish in the face of growing climate threats.”

For the past 10 years, The Nature Conservancy has led a team of 150 scientists who analyzed geological and topographical data from across the continental United States. 

They compiled the data into a mapping tool that is now publicly available and can bring government agencies, land trusts, businesses, private land owners, Indigenous communities, local leaders and others together to develop conservation plans that will help nature thrive on a national scale while also meeting the needs of people.

The scientists found that landscapes with diverse physical characteristics – such as steep slopes, tall mountains, deep ravines and diverse soil types – create numerous microclimates that offer plants and animals the opportunity to move around their local “neighborhood” to find suitable habitat where they can escape rising temperatures, increased floods or drought.  

The team of scientists also mapped “natural highways” across the country -- connecting corridors that allow species to move safely within and between these climate resilient neighborhoods. 

Contiguous mountain chains like the Kittatinny Ridge provide many of these conditions.

Studies have shown that species are moving an average of 11 miles north and 36 feet higher in elevation each decade to find more hospitable places to live as the climate changes. 

But research by TNC and partners shows that nearly 60 percent of US lands and waters are fragmented by human development, blocking species movement and preventing them from finding new homes.

“We know that nature doesn’t recognize geographical boundaries,” Brennan said. “It’s not enough to have isolated landscapes that are resilient to climate impacts, since any species forced to migrate will also need a way to reach these resilient sites. If the natural pathways between them are destroyed, many species could disappear forever, which is why protecting land in places like the Kittatinny Ridge is so crucial”

A huge array of species already use the ridge as a yearly migratory corridor, including broad-wing hawks, kestrels, ruby-throated hummingbirds, eastern bluebirds, monarch butterflies, and cerulean warblers, for which it has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area.  

At least nine species of bats live on the ridge as well as other mammals that require wide ranges of intact forest as habitat, including black bear, bobcat, and fishers.  It’s also home to the Allegheny woodrat, which is listed as threatened in the state of Pennsylvania.

Along with providing safe places where species can thrive, the network of resilient lands also brings benefits to people including tourism economies and freshwater supplies. 

For example, lands mapped in the Eastern US contain 75 percent of the region’s sources of drinking water, generate billions in outdoor recreation, sequester 3.9 billion tons of carbon and mitigate 1.3 million tons of pollution – resulting in an estimated $913 million in avoided healthcare costs.

The Kittatinny Ridge was designated as a Conservation Landscape by the Department of Conservation Natural Resources, making it one of eight large regions across Pennsylvania working together to drive strategic investment and actions around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreational projects.  

The Kittatinny Ridge Land Protection Partnership - a coalition that includes the Conservancy, other NGOs and several local land trusts - utilize these mapping tools and data to inform decisions and focus work along the Kittatinny Ridge.  

That includes the Conservancy’s establishment of the 350-acre Cove Mountain preserve on the ridge just outside Harrisburg in 2017.  

This year, a new land acquisition will quadruple the size of the preserve and create a 14-mile corridor of protected land.

For more information, visit TNC’s Cove Mountain Preserve webpage.

Click Here for an interactive story map highlighting the Kittatinny Ridge and other resilient landscapes. 

For more information on programs, initiatives and other special events, visit the PA & DE  Chapter of The Nature Conservancy website.  Click Here to sign up for updates from TNC, Like them on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter and Join them on InstagramClick Here to become a member.

The Nature Conservancy has 31,000 members in Pennsylvania.

[Posted: October 7, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner