The term “climate resilience” is one you’ve probably been seeing with increasing frequency. It refers to the set of conditions that allows an ecosystem to endure, recover from, and adapt to severe weather, including storms, flooding, droughts, and high temperatures. Similar to the way in which many people and man-made systems are stressed beyond capacity during this assault on the norm caused by the pandemic, elements of the natural world are at increasing risk of losing function owing to the ongoing shocks of a warming climate.
The good news is that Sebago Clean Waters (SCW), in collaboration with watershed land trust partners, plays a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change by helping to identify, protect, and manage landscapes that are able to adjust to changing conditions. These lands not only support wildlife, but also offer a host of human health benefits, including clean air and water. As a coalition of organizations, we are able to share resources and knowledge that make more of this critical work possible.
You might be wondering, “How does one determine which lands have these climate-resilient superpowers?” Enter the Resilient and Connected Lands data developed by The Nature Conservancy, an SCW partner. This data is one key set of information our partners map—along with other wildlife habitat and water quality characteristics—to inform the decisions they make about land conservation priorities.
The Resilient and Connected Lands data rates resiliency based on factors such as geophysical settings, landscape diversity, local connectedness, and biodiversity. Geophysical settings include the underlying geology, elevation, and landform variety. Sites with a variety of these factors allow and support a diverse range of species. Landscape diversity comes from having numerous microclimates that offer a variety of temperatures and moisture ranges. Connectedness is the ability of species to move within and between areas based on the number of barriers such as roads and developed areas. By stringing conserved lands together, a network of resilient sites can be created, allowing for safer wildlife migration. Biodiversity measures the array and number of different groups of species.
The Tiger Hill Community Forest and Peabody-Fitch Woods are two high-resilience lands that our partner Loon Echo Land Trust recently conserved. For example, Peabody-Fitch Woods shares a boundary with the 1,400-acre Perley Mills Community Forest and is close to Bald Pate Mountain Preserve, making it highly connected. Among the elements that make the Tiger Hill Community Forest rank high in biodiversity are its waterways that support eastern brook trout, landlocked salmon, and a smelt spawning run.
Financial and technical support from SCW and several of our partner organizations was instrumental in conserving these climate-resilient lands, and will continue to be as our watershed partners identify other high-value parcels to protect in the future. Our partnership structure is a crucial part of building a network of lands that are able to recover quickly from disruptive change. We are stronger—and more resilient—together.