Is all conserved land created equal? For many animals and plants facing warming temperatures and dwindling habitats, the answer is no. One of the greatest challenges in conserving biodiversity is that coveted plants and animals are often already on the move, fleeing habitats that will become inhospitable in the near future due to rising global temperatures, increased flooding, and other climate changing forces.
So where will these organisms go? And where should we prioritize conservation? For the last 10 years, a team of 150 scientists at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been trying to answer these questions. After analyzing geological and topographical data from across the continental United States, they compiled their findings into a mapping tool which highlights a handful of special places that may be ideal refuges for displaced wildlife. These are landscapes with steep slopes, tall mountains, deep ravines and diverse soil types, all geographical traits that produce numerous microclimates that a great diversity of plants and animals may be able to take refuge in. Just as important as these resilient islands are the “natural highways” through which animals can migrate to resilient landscapes. These migration corridors are also highlighted in the TNC mapping tool.
Publicly available to government agencies, land trusts, businesses, private landowners, Indigenous communities, local leaders and others, TNC’s mapping tool can help frame land conservation on a national scale. Not only can the mapping tool help any and all of these stakeholders decide where they should conserve to protect biodiversity, but their protection of these resilient landscapes can also help nearby communities, for these landscapes often provide clean drinking water, economic income, and other vital services that people rely on for survival.
Want to see what resilient landscapes exist near you? Through TNC’s story map, a comprehensive walkthrough of these resilient places and natural highways, you can tour the many parts of the US landscape that could be future biodiversity refuges. Below are the resilient landscapes in New England and New York. Click the hyperlinks to learn more about the conservation activity that is already taking place there.
For questions on accessing the mapping tool, reach out to Jessica Levine from The Nature Conservancy (firstname.lastname@example.org).