Where to restore: Using regional and local soil maps to identify potential pine barren and sand plain habitat

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Jeffrey D. Corbin , Emma Flatland

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Tools to identify locations for restoration and rewilding efforts are especially crucial where land conversion, succession, and other processes leave potential habitat cryptic on the landscape. We quantified potential habitat for the globally rare pine barren and sand plain ecosystems of New York State, whose current extent is greatly reduced from the past yet host a variety of rare and threatened biota. They occur almost exclusively on deep, sand and gravel soils. We used spatially explicit soil maps at two spatial scales to identify glacially-derived sand and gravel soils that, potentially, support these ecosystems. We matched the output of our analysis with known distributions of remnant habitat and indicator species. Our analysis revealed over 1.8 million ha of sand and gravel soils, 50 times the area of known pine barren and sand plain habitat. Our modeled soils matched closely onto known distributions of indicator arthropod, amphibian, and plant species. More than half of the potential area is presently forested, with nearly all of the remainder split between agriculture and urban land uses. Our analysis shows that opportunities exist to supplement the conservation of existing habitat by restoring sites that possess suitable physical soil conditions. We suggest that priority be given to areas that are nearby existing high-quality habitat, including ones that are currently forested or even agricultural. Combining soils maps with the locations of remnant populations can greatly expand the palette open to those seeking to restore and rewild landscapes for the sake of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program