Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators
A method to collect data and assess trends is under development.
Efforts are underway to develop a procedure to track habitat connectivity gains before progress for this ecosystem target can be assessed (see below, How Will This Target be Measured?)
Improving habitat connectivity— the degree to which the landscape facilitates fish and wildlife movement between different habitat or resource patches—is relatively straightforward within streams compared to terrestrial habitats.
When an obstruction to the passage of fish, is removed, or even when the flow of water is improved, connectivity increases. Projects can be accomplished with a willing property owner (such as the owner of a dam that is no longer in use).
Barriers also needs to be removed to improve connectivity on land between two nearby parcels with valuable natural resources (such as forests). This could be challenging because the barriers can include community assets such as roads and residential and commercial uses.
Funding may present another challenge for terrestrial and riverine projects. Many restoration projects require a combination of federal and non-federal dollars. If the availability of federal funding is reduced, the number of projects completed will decrease proportionately.
Tracking habitat connectivity is also a challenge. The Long Island Sound Study Habitat and Stewardship Workgroup is looking to develop a database that will keep track of all green infrastructure projects. (see How is This Target Measured?)
Connectivity gains can be both targeted and monitored by mapping restoration and protection projects in a GIS database and using decision support tools such as computer models and simulations, which highlights the best areas of intact, resilient and connected habitat and identifies corridors between these areas of high quality patches.
Decision support tools also will help to guide land protection decisions by highlighting areas on the landscape that have the greatest ecological value and identifying corridors between them.
By 2024, the Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Workgroup will agree upon an applicable model and apply metrics for all restoration and protection projects. By establishing a quantitative metric, the model will estimate a baseline and set a more specific quantitative target to be accomplished by 2035.
Habitat connectivity is a critical component of fish and wildlife conservation. When habitat patches are connected, fish and wildlife can freely move for day to day needs such as feeding, breeding, and resting, or for migration.
These areas tend to have high biodiversity and healthy population levels.
To the contrary, areas that are fragmented, or have a low level of connectivity, prevent fish and wildlife movements between resource patches. Thus, these areas tend to see a rapid decline in species diversity and lower population levels. Dominant species in these areas tend to be those better suited to disturbed areas, typically non-native invasive species.
Promoting restoration and protection projects which increase aquatic and terrestrial connectivity, is an important component of ecosystem resilience, or the ability of an ecosystem and the fish and wildlife it supports to maintain function in the face of change.
Victoria O’Neill, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, [email protected]
Harry Yamalis, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, [email protected]
The technical explanation on how the target was selected is found in Appendix B of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.
Long Island Sound Stewardship Atlas