The bulk of this site is dedicated to the DSL landscape conservation design work conducted for the USFWS in support of a regional conservation design. The projects listed on this page are closely related to that work. Many are applications of the data generated for the conservation design while others contributed to the design.

Massachusetts Index of Ecological Integrity

Massachusetts Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) The CAPS model produces the Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI) an important input the conservation designs. The Massachusetts specific CAPS data and model predates CAPS use in the DSL regional conservation design and continues to be updated independently. The Massachusetts version is parameterized differently from the regional version – using a separate ecosystem map and classification that tend to lumps systems together into fewer classes; and for some settings variables better data than were available regionally. Note, for the regional IEI see ecological-integrity-metrics.

Connect the Connecticut stakeholders

Connect the Connecticut [3/17/2016] The DSL team served as the technical partner in this landscape conservation design. We assembled the data and created the algorithms that implemented the design with guidance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service staff and many stakeholders from the watershed. Connect the Connecticut served as a pilot for Nature’s Network and most of the design decisions made in Connect the Connecticut were adopted in Nature’s Network. We recommend using the Nature’s Network and DSL Data (data tab above) instead of Connect the Connecticut data as it is up-to-date and the models are very similar.

Nature’s Network [4/26/2017] As in Connect the Connecticut the DSL team worked with stakeholders to implement major components of the conservation design. We created the terrestrial and aquatic habitat cores; and the connectivity layer as well as a host of intermediate products. The bulk of this site is dedicated to data created in support of the Natures Network conservation design.

New! Regional ecosystem-based connectivity [2023]. ecoConnect, our model of ecosystem-based regional connectivity, maps paths of high connectivity for targeted systems, such as forests or wetlands. Connectivity is assessed across the Northeastern U.S. at multiple scales and without relying on predefined conservation targets, thus it works flexibly with various conservation strategies. Results are now available to inform conservation actions aimed at maintaining connected landscapes for multiple species, both locally and across the Northeast.

Critical Linkages is a set of comprehensive analyses of opportunities for restoring connectivity by upgrading or removing infrastructure. Initiated in 2010, with support from The Nature Conservancy, the initial phase assessed each road stream crossing and dam in Massachusetts for the potential to restore aquatic connectivity by upgrading culverts and removing dams. An additional analysis assessed road segments throughout the state potential improvements in connectivity to be gained by installing road passage structures. A second phase of the project assessed potential longer-distance improvements in regional connectivity improvements from installing road passage structures. The road-stream crossing and dam analyses have been updated regularly as new data become available, and have been applied to 13 states in the Northeast as part of Designing Sustainable Landscapes.

Wood Turtle cores and conductance

Species Climate Refugia Cores and Connectivity [7/15/2021] – Report. Data. For 10 species we identified locally important core areas from the current (2020) landscape capability (LC) and future (2080) Climate Refugia; mapped connections among those cores; and scored the cores.

Coastal Prioritization [4/7/2021] – Coastal conservation prioritization using the Conservation Assessment Prioritization System (CAPS) and Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL); a report to The Trustees of Reservations At the request of The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) we conducted this analysis of coastal ecosystems in Massachusetts to identify areas of high ecological integrity, and to provide information that will aid in the prioritization of conservation action to maintain healthy coastal ecosystems well into the future.

National Wildlife Refuge Species Reports [11/24/2020] This project created maps and statistical summaries of existing DSL species data for the present and the future (given climate change) at each wildlife refuge in the region. Documentation.

North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) The NAACC maintains protocols for surveying and scoring stream crossings along with a database of surveyed crossings. DSL uses NAACC survey data to quantify the passability of road-stream crossings (bridges and culverts) to aquatic organisms within the aquatic connectivity CAPS metric. The DSL team also supplies NAACC with an inventory of unsurveyed crossings in the region and estimates of their passability.

Black Duck Habitat Capability Model

American Black Duck Southeast Habitat Capability Mapping [10/15/2017] Report
We applied the DSL black duck habitat model to the Southeastern US to produce maps for that region. The model scores each pixel across the landscape based on habitat capability accounting for landscape-scaled wetland extent, proximity to coastline, foraging/roosting habitat, and extent of local/regional development.

Fragstats is a free stand-alone program that computes a wide variety of landscape metrics for categorical map patterns. Fragstats has been developed by Kevin McGarigal, the former leader of the DSL team, Eduard Ene, who has written code instrumental to DSL, and Sam Cushman. The newly revised version is available at