Stream classification information is essential to develop and implement flow standards and water management recommendations that will sustain aquatic biodiversity. Unfortunately, standardized information was lacking for the Appalachian landscape. The goal of this project was to develop a state-based, consistent stream classification system for aquatic ecosystems in the region. Unifying state-based stream classifications into a single consistent system, principal investigators at The Nature Conservancy developed a hierarchical classification system and map for stream and river systems for the Appalachian LCC that represents the region’s natural flowing aquatic habitats.
Assessing Future Energy Development across the Appalachian LCC uses models that combine data on energy development trends and identifies where these may intersect with important natural resource and ecosystem services to give a more comprehensive picture of what potential energy development could look like in the Appalachians. A web-based mapping tool allows policy makers, land management agencies, industries, and others to see where development may likely occur and intersect with important natural values to inform regional landscape planning decisions. Ultimately this information is intended to support dialogue and conservation on how to effectively avoid, minimize, and offset impacts from energy development to important natural areas and the valuable services they provide.
Cave and karst systems are unique environments that occur throughout the Appalachians. They provide habitat for a diverse array of species and are an important source of domestic water supply for Appalachian communities. However, a lack of classification and mapping information on these ecosystems creates a significant barrier to conservation. In order to develop and deliver landscape-level planning tools, it is essential to develop an Appalachian-wide map depicting where cave and karst habitats and resources occur across the landscape. Researchers from an array of organizations were funded by the LCC to develop a series of deliverables, including data tables, geospatial information layers, and maps on these ecosystems.
New climate change vulnerability assessments for 41 species and 3 habitats in the Appalachians are now available. The conservation community can view and search each of these assessments by vulnerability scores, conservation status ranks, state and subregion of assessment, and higher taxonomy. In addition, principle investigators NatureServe compiled the results of 700 species assessments previously completed by other researchers as well as assessments on several habitats.
The Data Needs Assessment research project was undertaken to review the variety of resources on conservation planning to provide packages of products, data, and identified data gaps to improve conservation planning in the Appalachian LCC. A suite of core conservation planning products and data from principal investigators at Clemson University are now available to the Cooperative.
Understanding the complete and diverse benefits society receives from nature as well as risks to their sustainability will allow managers, industry, and the public to adopt policies that encourage protection and investments in these resources. To meet this need, the Appalachian LCC is collaborating with the Forest Service on cutting edge research that fully integrates society’s value of ecosystems with future threats to better inform natural resource planning and management across the Appalachian landscape. This unique work provides a comprehensive resource to partners at a regional level, serving as a model for the LCC Network to deliver ecosystem services conservation science.
Well-connected landscapes are necessary to sustain many of the natural and cultural resources important to the Appalachian region today and into the future. If these landscapes are to endure and be resilient to impending environmental changes, it will require a collaborative effort involving many organizations and reaching across jurisdictional and political boundaries. Conservation planning - a process of spatially identifying and prioritizing lands and waters important for functioning ecosystems and biodiversity - is well suited to address the many large-scale biodiversity challenges facing the region and lead to conservation outcomes that link pristine and natural lands into an interconnected landscape for plants, animals, and humans.
An innovative riparian planting and restoration decision support tool, funded by the Appalachian LCC, is now available to the conservation community. This user-friendly tool allows managers and decision-makers to rapidly identify and prioritize areas along the banks of rivers, streams, and lakes for restoration, making these ecosystems more resilient to disturbance and future changes in climate. It will also help the conservation community invest limited conservation dollars wisely, helping to deliver sustainable resources.
The Appalachian LCC provided a grant to Cornell University Environmental Engineers to study how the region’s surface freshwater supply – and the health of natural systems delivering this resource – have been impacted and may be altered in the coming years under increasing water withdrawals.