Terrestrial Core-Connector Network, Northeast U.S.

Metadata Updated: November 12, 2020

The Terrestrial Core-connector Network is one of a suite of products from the Nature’s Network project (naturesnetwork.org). Nature’s Network is a collaborative effort to identify shared priorities for conservation in the Northeast, considering the value of fish and wildlife species and the natural areas they inhabit. This product consists of two components: core areas and connectors. A number of additional datasets that augment or complement the core-connector network, including Road-bounded Natural Blocks that surround the cores areas and a set of Grassland Bird Core Areas, are also available in the Nature’s Network gallery: https://nalcc.databasin.org/galleries/8f4dfe780c444634a45ee4acc930a055. A detailed technical guide to the Terrestrial Core-connector Network is available at: http://jamba.provost.ads.umass.edu/web/lcc/DSL_documentation_tCoreNet.pdf.Terrestrial and wetland core areas are intact, well-connected places that, if protected, will support a diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants, and the ecosystems they depend upon. Each core area contains important or unique features, including intact, resilient examples of each major ecosystem type in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Core areas contain widespread ecosystems (such as hardwood forests), rare natural communities (such as bogs), and important habitat for a variety of fish, wildlife, and plants. By design, they encompass approximately 25% of the landscape of the region.Core areas are linked together by a network of connectors. If protected, the connectors will foster the movement of animals and plants between core areas and across the landscape into the future.Intended UsesIdentify the best places to begin land and water protectionSustain natural resources on private lands by promoting stewardship with private landownersInform strategic acquisition of parcels by public or nonprofit organizationsSet local conservation priorities with a regional perspectiveProtect biodiversity by understanding the ecological importance of individual areasIdentify important natural areas vulnerable to future developmentDetermine which areas in the network remain unsecured from developmentThe Terrestrial Core-connector Network (including the grassland bird cores, available separately) can serve as a starting point for a regional conservation network that can be used in combination with other sources of information to direct action. You might explore it in combination with:Other data layers to identify additional areas of high ecological value. Layers to consider include: 1) Aquatic Core Network, 2) Index of Ecological Integrity, 3) The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Terrestrial Resiliency Index, 4) individual species landscape capability indices, and 5) Habitat Condition for Imperiled Species.The Secured Lands (Eastern U.S.) layer to identify the places in the network that remain unsecured from development, and thus could represent priorities for land protection.The Probability of Development layers (2030 and 2080) and regional vulnerability layers to identify places in the core-connector network that are relatively vulnerable to future development, and thus could represent priorities for land protection.Resource priorities identified at the state or local level, but that are not available across the entire region (e.g., from State Wildlife Action Plans, towns, and land trusts), to further rank areas for land protection.Description and DerivationThe core-connector network is based on GIS analyses designed to assess the physical and biological value of resources across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and to identify the most important places and connections for them. Core areas integrate four components:High integrity examples of more than 90 terrestrial and wetland ecosystem types across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Ecosystem locations have been mapped through a partnership of TNC and the Northeast state fish and wildlife agencies. Their integrity has been assessed using the Index of Ecological Integritydeveloped by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.Terrestrial sites assessed as having the greatest potential to be resilient over the long term, as identified by TNC.Rare natural communities identified and mapped by state natural heritage programs.High quality habitat for 27 terrestrial and wetland wildlife species carefully selected to represent the habitat needs of a large number of species that share many of the same habitats. These habitats have been mapped by UMass Amherst.Core areas were built from focal areas (“seeds”) with high value based on one or more of the attributes listed above. These "seeds" were expanded to encompass surrounding areas that provide additional ecological value and resilience to both short- and long-term change. These surrounding areas are typically of high to moderate ecological value. To maintain a coherent shape and size, in some cases core areas contain low-intensity development and minor roads, but high-intensity development and major roads are excluded. Collectively, terrestrial core areas encompass 25% of the area of the region, as decided by the partnership. Core areas range in size from 3.6 to 107,996 ha, with an average size of 794 ha. The total number of disjunct core areas is 20,358, encompassing 16 million ha.This version of terrestrial core areas is based on stratifying the ecosystem and species inputs by large watershed (HUC 6 level) such that core areas comprise 25% of the landscape of each watershed. This ensures that core areas are well-distributed and well-connected across the landscape. However, this also means that some of the highest quality examples of ecosystems and habitats from a regional perspective are not included in core areas, where their inclusion would otherwise result in more than 25% of the area of a watershed being assigned core areas. A complementary version of terrestrial core areas that is not stratified by watershed (Terrestrial Ecosystem Core Areas, Unstratified, Northeast U.S.) is also available as part of the Nature’s Network package (naturesnetwork.org).Core-to-core Connectors represent “corridors” that could facilitate the movement of plants and animals (i.e., ecological flow) between terrestrial core areas. These connectors increase the resiliency of the core area network to uncertain land use and climate changes. They are wider where more movement between cores is expected because of larger and closer core areas and a more favorable natural environment exists between them. Connectors primarily link adjoining core areas where there is the greatest similarity in ecosystems; they do not necessarily represent travel corridors for any individual species. Connectors may traverse through areas of low-density development and cross roads of all classes, but they do not include high-intensity development. Connectors are not identified between core areas that are greater than 10 km apart. Collectively, connectors encompass an additional ~17% of the Northeast area. Note: an additional connectivity component (Regional Flow, Anthropogenic Resistance (Simplified Categories), Eastern U.S. and Canada), which represents the permeability or connectivity of the landscape for animals and plants without regard to the location of the terrestrial core areas, is available in the Nature’s Network package (naturesnetwork.org).Known Issues and UncertaintiesAs with any project carried out across such a large area, the Terrestrial Core-connector Network is subject to limitations. The results by themselves are not a prescription for on-the-ground action; users are encouraged to verify, with field visits and site-specific knowledge, the value of any areas identified in the project. Known issues and uncertainties include the following:The results do not incorporate important social, economic, or feasibility factors.Users are cautioned against using the data on too small an area (for example, a small parcel of land), as the data may not be sufficiently accurate at that level of resolution.The mapping of ecosystem locations and development is known to be imperfect, which consequently affects the mapped values for ecosystem integrity and species habitat. While the ecosystem mapping is anticipated to correctly reflect broad patterns of ecosystem occurrence, errors in classification and placement do occur, as with any regional GIS data. In addition, errors in mapping and alignment of development, roads, traffic rates, and a number of other data layers can affect the model results.It is not possible to map all factors affecting ecosystem integrity and species habitat across the Northeast, and the omission of such factors can be anticipated to create pose some limitations in the results. An example is the limited ability to map the regional impact of invasive species.Not all locations of rare natural communities have been mapped by states and therefore may not be components of core areas. The current version of core areas does not reflect rare natural community data from Rhode Island.The habitat needs of the representative species used in the project do not fully reflect the habitat needs of all species with which they co-occur; some specialized habitats may be missed entirely.The identification of core areas is predicated on the assumption that biodiversity is best supported by intact, well-connected landscapes. While this assumption is soundly grounded in conservation biology theory and findings, it is recognized that many species of conservation concern may depend on habitat currently existing in a less intact state or otherwise missed by core areas. The Core Habitat for Imperiled Species product, in particular, is intended to complement the core areas by focusing on such areas.

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Metadata Date August 23, 2018
Metadata Created Date November 12, 2020
Metadata Updated Date November 12, 2020
Reference Date(s) 2017-04-25T14:23:12+00:00 (creation), 2017-10-17T18:59:18+00:00 (lastUpdate), March 15, 2017 (end)
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Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Date August 23, 2018
Metadata Created Date November 12, 2020
Metadata Updated Date November 12, 2020
Reference Date(s) 2017-04-25T14:23:12+00:00 (creation), 2017-10-17T18:59:18+00:00 (lastUpdate), March 15, 2017 (end)
Responsible Party (Originator, Point of Contact); North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (Point of Contact)
Contact Email
Guid 58ff5bd0e4b006455f2d628b
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Bbox East Long -66.031064
Bbox North Lat 49.3439
Bbox South Lat 34.558383
Bbox West Long -83.672623
Coupled Resource
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Metadata Type geospatial
Progress completed
Spatial Data Service Type
Spatial Reference System
Spatial Harvester True

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