Designing Sustainable Landscapes
The Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL) project is a landscape conservation project applied to date to 13 states in the Northeastern United States. The purpose is to provide guidance for strategic habitat conservation by assessing ecological integrity and landscape capability for a suite of representative species across the landscape. Assessments are done for both the current landscape and potential future landscapes, as modified by an urban growth model and models of climate change and sea level rise.
The DSL project provides much of the basis of the conservation planning tools Nature's Network () and Connect the Connecticut ( ).
Designing Sustainable Landscapes is a project of the Landscape Ecology Lab at the University of Massachusetts (, , , and , with significant contributions from , , , , and ). It is supported primarily by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative ( ), with additional support from the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center ( ) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The following are peer-reviewed scientific journal publications of the DSL project. These publications make reference to many of the technical documents and data products provided below:
1. [SPRAWL paper] McGarigal K; Plunkett EB; Willey LL; Compton BW; DeLuca WV; Grand J. 2018. Modeling non-stationary urban growth: the SPRAWL model and the ecological impacts of development. Landscape and Urban Planning 177:178-190.
Link to paper in journal: PDF: (open access)
2. [INTEGRITY paper] McGarigal K; Compton BW; Plunkett EB; DeLuca WV; Grand J; Ene E; Jackson SD. 2018. A landscape index of ecological integrity to inform landscape conservation. Landscape Ecology 33:1029-1048.
Link to paper in journal: PDF: (submitted version; contact us for a copy of the published version)
3. [LANDSCAPE DESIGN paper] McGarigal K; Compton BW; Plunkett EB; DeLuca WV; Grand J; Schwenk S; Milliken A. In prep. Alternative approaches to landscape conservation design in the northeastern United States.
The following documents provide a complete technical description of the DSL project and the landscape change, assessment and design (LCAD) model. Importantly, all of these documents are working documents and therefore subject to frequent change:
1. Project executive summary [updated 4/20/2018] This is a 4-page executive summary of the DSL project and LCAD model.
2. Project overview [updated 4/20/2018] This 50-page document is intended to serve as a general description of the DSL project, including an overview of our approach to meeting the project goals and objectives. This is the "one document to rule them all" and THE document to read to get a pretty good picture of the DSL project and our LCAD model and the various data products produced. This document is fairly detailed, but makes references to other more detailed documents (see below) that provide the technical details of our modeling approach. It is highly recommended that you read this document before attempting to read any of the other technical documents, as this document provides the overall framework of the project and establishes the context for the more specific technical documents.
3. Glossary of key terms/concepts [updated 4/20/2018] This document provides a glossary of key terms and concepts as used in the DSL project and is intended to facilitate communication and understanding among users.
4. Ecological systems [updated 4/20/2018] This document provides a summary of our use of ecological systems as an organizational framework for portions of the model. Here, we briefly introduce the concept of ecological systems and the challenges of using them as an organizational framework, and then briefly outline four alternatives (that we considered) for their use in the model, including a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the final adopted alternative.
5. Disturbance-succession [updated 4/20/2018] This document describes how we model vegetation disturbance and succession, and includes a detailed description of the methods and the alternatives considered.
6. Climate [updated 5/9/2018] This document describes how we model climate change. More specifically, this document describes the source of the climate change data that we are using and the methods we are applying to downscale the data to meet our needs.
7. Urban growth [updated 5/20/2018] This document describes how we model urban growth.
8. Integrity [updated 4/20/2018] This document describes our coarse filter assessment based on the concept of landscape ecological integrity. Here, we define ecological integrity and the four major components of integrity that we quantify: intactness, resiliency, ecosystem diversity and adaptive capacity, and describe the various indices used to quantify each component.
9. Species [updated 4/20/2018] This document describes our species-based assessment based on the concept of landscape capability for a suite of representative species. Here, we define landscape capability and the methods used to measure each component for each species. In addition, here we link to detailed documentation of the landscape capability model developed for each representative species.
10. Connectivity [updated 4/20/2018] This document describes our local and regional connectivity assessment. Here, we define several connectivity concepts and how they are being used in the LCAD model, with particular attention to measurement of local and regional conductance, irreplaceability and vulnerability.
11. Landscape design [updated 4/20/2018] This document describes our landscape design component of the LCAD model and is illustrated using the "Connect the Connecticut" River watershed Landscape Conservation Design Pilot.
The ecological settings products include a broad suite of static as well as dynamic abiotic and biotic variables representing the natural and anthropogenic environment at each location (cell). Static variables are those that do not change over time (e.g., elevation, incident solar radiation). Dynamic settings are available for 2010 and 2080; static settings are available for 2010. Dynamic variables are those that change over time in response to succession and the drivers (e.g., growing season degree days, traffic rate). Most of the settings variables are continuous and thus represent landscape heterogeneity as continuous (e.g., slope, biomass), although some are categorical and thus represent heterogeneity as discrete (e.g., developed, hard development). Importantly, the settings variables include a broad but parsimonious suite of attributes that can be used to define the ecological system at any point in time; they are considered primary determinants of ecosystem composition, structure and function, and determine the ecological similarity between any two locations. As such, they play a key role in the ecological integrity assessment, they are used in species' habitat models to represent important habitat components, as appropriate, and are sometimes used in other model components. The settings provide a rich, multivariate representation of important landscape attributes.
1. All ecological settings data [updated 7/18/2018]
2. Aquatic barriers [updated 4/20/2018]
3. Biomass [updated 4/24/2018]
4. CaCO3 content [updated 4/20/2018]
5. Development (includes development and hard development settings): [updated 4/20/2018]
6. Stream gradient [updated 4/20/2018]
7. Traffic rate [updated 4/20/2018]
8. Temperature (includes mean annual temperature, growing season degree days, heat index, minimum winter temperature, and maximum summer temperature settings) [updated 6/27/2018]
9. Precipitation (includes total annual precipitation and growing season precipitation settings) [updated 7/17/2018]
10. Incident solar radiation [updated 4/20/2018]
11. Percent imperviousness [updated 4/20/2018]
12. Potential dominant life form [updated 4/20/2018]
13. Slope [updated 4/20/2018]
14. Soils (includes depth to resistant layer, soil pH, and available water supply settings): [updated 4/20/2018]
15. Stream temperature [updated 4/20/2018]
16. Substrate mobility [updated 4/20/2018]
17. Terrestrial barriers [updated 4/20/2018]
18. Tides [updated 4/20/2018]
19. Topographic wetness and flow volume [updated 4/20/2018]
20. Water salinity [updated 4/20/2018]
21. Wind exposure [updated 4/20/2018]
The ecological integrity products represent a set of metrics corresponding to our ecosystem-based ecological assessment in 2010 (see Integrity document for details). The ecological integrity metrics include a variety of measures of intactness and resiliency. The individual metrics are also combined into a composite local index of ecological integrity (IEI).
1. All integrity data products [updated 4/20/2018]
2. Index of ecological integrity (IEI) [updated 4/20/2018] IEI rasters are scaled by ecosystem as depicted in the DSLland grid (see ancillary products) and by various geographic extents (Northeast region, state, ecoregion, and HUC6 watersheds). See ancillary products for shapefiles and rasters of the various geographic extents.
3. Development metrics (includes habitat loss, mowing and plowing, microclimate alterations, edge predators, domestic predators, invasive plants, and invasive earthworms metrics) [updated 4/20/2018]
4. Resiliency metrics (includes connectedness, aquatic connectedness, and similarity metrics) [updated 4/20/2018]
5. Salt marsh ditching [updated 3/18/2019]
6. Sea level rise [updated 4/20/2018]
7. Climate stress [updated 5/10/2018]
8. Tidal restrictions [updated 4/20/2018]
9. Traffic [updated 4/20/2018]
10. Watershed metrics (includes watershed habitat loss, watershed imperviousness, road salt, sediment, nutrients, and dam intensity metrics) [updated 4/20/2018]
The index of ecological impact (ecoImpact) represents the magnitude of loss in ecological integrity under a specified landscape change scenario (see Integrity document for details). Here, we provide ecoImpact for several scenarios examined in the SPRAWL and INTEGRITY papers (see earlier references), as well as a new mean SPRAWL ecoImpact.
This document provides a description of the ecoImpact metric that applies to all of the applications listed below:
1. ecoImpact associated with the SPRAWL paper [updated 5/1/2018] includes two landscape change scenarios: 1) baseline 70-year (2010-2080) climate change and urban growth scenario without additional land protection, and 2) same 70-year landscape change scenario but with additional terrestrial reserve areas (core areas) protected from development as established for Nature's Network landscape design.
2. ecoImpact associated with the INTEGRITY paper [updated 5/1/2018] includes five landscape change scenarios: 1) baseline 70-year (2010-2080) climate change and urban growth scenario without additional land protection; 2) same as #1 but with 25% more demand for new development; 3) same as #1 but with increased sprawl to the pattern of development; 4) same as #1 but with both 25% more demand for new development and increased sprawl; and 5) same as #1 but with additional terrestrial reserve areas (core areas) protected from development as established for Nature's Network landscape design ( ).
3. Mean ecoImpact for 2080 SPRAWL runs [updated 3/25/2019] As SPRAWL urban growth runs are stochastic, its difficult to use ecoImpact runs based on SPRAWL for planning purposes. Here, we ran ecoImpact on 10 future landscapes with projected urban development for 2080 from the SPRAWL model (but without climate or sea level rise), and then took the mean. The result gives an estimate of the ecological impact expected due to urban growth to 2080.
The focal species products represent the output of our focal species (a.k.a. representative species) assessment (see Species document for details). For each species we include several different products, including the 2010 climate niche index (speciesCN2010), 2010 composite landscape capability index (speciesLC2010), 2080 climate niche index (speciesCN2080), 2080 composite landscape capability index (speciesLC2080), 2080 climate response index (speciesCR2080), 2080 climate zones shapefile (speciesCZ2080), 2080 habitat response index (speciesHR2080), and 2080 climate refugia index (speciesCRefugia2080). All 2080 products are for a baseline 70-year (2010-2080) climate change and urban growth scenario without additional land protection. Note, the species models use a version of the DSLland raster (DSL_subsysland, see ancillary products) that contains a finer thematic resolution, in which some ecosystems are further classified into subsystems, and in which headwater creeks are not included.
1. All species abstracts [updated 3/14/2019]
2. American black duck (breeding) [updated 10/25/2018]
3. American black duck (nonbreeding) [updated 10/25/2018]
4. American oystercatcher [updated 10/29/2018]
5. American woodcock [updated 10/26/2018]
6. Bicknell's thrush [updated 10/26/2018]
7. Black bear [updated 10/29/2018]
8. Blackburnian warbler [updated 10/30/2018]
9. Blackpoll warbler [updated 10/26/2018]
10. Box turtle [updated 10/30/2018]
11. Brown-headed nuthatch [updated 10/30/2018]
12. Cerulean warbler [updated 10/26/2018]
13. Common loon [updated 10/30/2018]
14. Diamondback terrapin [updated 10/30/2018]
15. Eastern meadowlark [updated 10/26/2018]
16. Louisiana waterthrush [updated 10/29/2018]
17. Marsh wren [updated 10/30/2018]
18. Moose [updated 10/26/2018]
19. Northern waterthrush [updated 10/29/2018]
20. Ovenbird [updated 10/29/2018]
21. Piping plover [updated 10/30/2018]
[sensitive data not distributed]
22. Prairie warbler [updated 10/30/2018]
23. Red-shouldered hawk [updated 10/29/2018]
24. Ruffed grouse [updated 10/29/2018]
25. Saltmarsh sparrow [updated 10/30/2018]
26. Sanderling [updated 10/29/2018]
27. Snowshoe hare [updated 10/26/2018]
28. Snowy egret [updated 10/29/2018]
29. Virginia rail [updated 10/30/2018]
30. Wood duck [updated 10/30/2018]
31. Wood thrush [updated 10/30/2018]
32. Wood turtle [updated 10/29/2018]
[sensitive data not distributed]
We developed these landscape conservation design products the Nature's Network ( ) landscape conservation design for the northeastern United States and for the LANDSCAPE DESIGN paper. This includes a set of derived products to aid in biodiversity conservation throughout the Northeast. These products are intended to focus conservation actions, including land protection, management, and restoration where it will likely do the most good towards conserving biodiversity within the landscape. The geographic extent of these products is the entire Northeast region of the United States. These products provide a regional perspective on biodiversity conservation that can complement or supplement conservation planning done at local or finer extents. Importantly, although these landscape design products offer a way to strategically focus limited conservation resources, they are not a complete solution to biodiversity conservation in the region. Instead, these design products serve as a starting point that should be used in combination with other sources of information to direct conservation. Landscape conservation design is not a single product. Rather, it is a package of data products that collectively identify terrestrial core areas and connectors, aquatic core areas and their watershed-based buffers, restoration opportunities for dam removal and culvert upgrades, and places vulnerable to the loss of ecological value from future development.
1. HUC6 terrestrial cores and connectors [updated 4/20/2018] this is the primary landscape design product for terrestrial and wetland ecosystems and associated focal species. Terrestrial core areas were selected based on products scaled by HUC6 watersheds to ensure a well-distributed ecological network across the region. This product is distributed in two formats, as described in the data:
2. HUC6 terrestrial core tiers [updated 4/20/2018] this is a secondary design product for terrestrial and wetland ecosystems and associated focal species. Terrestrial core tiers includes the largely undeveloped and road-bounded "natural blocks" surrounding the HUC6 terrestrial cores. These natural blocks function to provide supporting landscape for the cores and serve as more practical (i.e., more easily identifiable) conservation units than the cores. This product is distributed in two formats, as described in the data:
3. Northeast terrestrial ecosystem cores [updated; 5/15/2017] this is a secondary design product for terrestrial and wetland ecosystems and associated focal species. Northeast terrestrial ecosystem cores were selected based solely on ecosystem-based products scaled by the entire Northeast region to ensure that the best places in the region for each ecosystem and geophysical setting were captured in the cores. Focal species were not explicitly considered in this set of cores. This product is distributed in two formats, as described in the data:
4. Conductance [updated 4/20/2018] this is a supplemental design product for the HUC6 terrestrial cores and connectors. Regional conductance reveals places potentially important for maintaining connectivity between the designated core areas. Importantly, regional conductance is contingent upon the a prior designation of terrestrial core areas, and thus is it only meaningful when referenced to those designated terrestrial cores. HUC6 regional conductance is based on the HUC6 terrestrial cores and provides a continuous surface of conductance values between cores as an alternative to the discrete (binary) representation of "connectors" in the HUC6 terrestrial core-connector network:
5. Integrated probability of development [updated 4/20/2018] this is an ancillary design product for terrestrial and wetland ecosystems and associated focal species representing the relative probability of any kind of development (low-, medium-, and high-intensity) occurring sometime between 2010-2080. This product can be used in combination with any of the other design products that reveal places of high ecological value to indicate places of ecological value that are at risk of development and thus may warrant land protection:
6. Vulnerability [updated 4/20/2018] these are a couple of supplemental design products representing the vulnerability of high-valued places to future development. Local vulnerability depicts the potential loss of local connectivity due to future development independent of any designated terrestrial cores, and regional vulnerability depicts the potential loss of connectivity between the designated HUC6 terrestrial core areas due to future development. Importantly, regional vulnerability is contingent upon the a prior designation of terrestrial core areas, and thus is it only meaningful when referenced to those designated terrestrial cores. There are two separate products, as described in the data:
7. HUC6 aquatic cores and buffers [updated 4/20/2018] this is the suite of primary design products for aquatic ecosystems and associated focal species. Aquatic core areas, including both lotic (river and stream) and lentic (lake and pond) cores, were selected based on products scaled by HUC6 watersheds to ensure a well-distributed ecological network across the region. Watershed buffers represent the areas estimated to have a strong influence on the integrity of the aquatic cores based on watershed processes. There are four separate products, as described in the data:
8. Northeast aquatic cores [updated 4/20/2018] this is a suite of secondary design products for aquatic ecosystems and associated focal species. Aquatic core areas, including both lotic (river and stream) and lentic (lake and pond) cores, were selected based on products scaled by the entire Northeast region to ensure that the best places in the region for each ecosystem were captured in the cores. There are three separate products, as described in the data:
9. Critical local linkages [updated 4/20/2018] these are two primary design products that measure the relative potential to improve local aquatic connectivity through restoration, including dam removals and culvert upgrades. Each road-stream crossing or dam is scored based on its potential to improve local aquatic connectivity through the corresponding restoration action, but only where it matters in places where the current ecological integrity is not already seriously degraded too much. There are two separate products, as described in the data:
10. Alternative landscape designs associated with the LANDSCAPE DESIGN paper [updated 9/10/2018] in this study, we developed 9 alternative sets of terrestrial cores based on various combinations of different biodiversity surrogates (species, ecosystems, and geophysical settings). We evaluated the compositional and spatial overlap among cores, and modeled the impact of 70 years of urban growth and climate change on future landscapes assuming each set of cores was protected. Each of the sets of cores (including the HUC6 Natures Network cores) are included in the data:
The ancillary products include a variety of static data layers used in various model components, or for depicting the various geographic extents for which various products were scaled, or for general purposes such as visual display of the model.
1. DSLland [updated 4/20/2018]:
2. Subsysland (document shared with DSLland) [updated 14 Mar 2019]:
3. HUC6 watersheds [updated 4/20/2018]
4. Untransformed average annual daily traffic rate (shapefile) [updated 4/20/2018]
(see traffic rate settings variable for documentation)
5. Edited high-resolution NHD flowlines (shapefile) [updated 4/20/2018]
6. Roads [updated 4/20/2018]
7. Northeast region [updated 4/20/2018]
8. Ecoregions [updated 4/20/2018]
9. States [updated 4/20/2018]
10. Hillshade (raster) [updated 4/20/2018]
11. Subregions and urban growth projections associated with the SPRAWL paper (shapefile) [updated 4/20/2018]
12. Geophysical settings associated with the LANDSCAPE DESIGN paper (raster) [updated 9/10/2018]. Geophysical settings created by The Nature Conservancy used for our geophysical cores. See Anderson MG, Barnett A, Clark M, Ferree C, Sheldon AO, Prince J (2016) Resilient sites for terrestrial conservation in eastern North America 2016 edition. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Conservation Science. for details.