It's here! Dave Jacobs, our Climate Change Vulnerability Researcher, is finished with all the on-the-ground phases of his survey of ecological systems. He has created this beautiful map with his data that will be invaluable to the Trust's stewardship and acquisition decisions moving forward.
How we got this map
Dave started with a 1984 map from the TN Heritage Program that loosely defined the land cover types of the TN River Gorge. Combining that map with current satellite imagery data, Dave used these tools as a rough guide to gather data on the ecological communities as they stand in 2015.
Dave took his preliminary results to present to the Tennessee Water Science Center in Nashville, TN. Scientists from USGS gave him feedback on his process and data, input which has been reflected in his final map!
How the Trust will use this map
There is one more step left to Dave's process, which is inputting this map data into a Climate Change model in order to see how the Trust's ecological communities will shift and change when effected by climate change. Once we understand how our particular ecological systems will respond, the Trust can use this information in two ways --
Acquisition: While the Trust protects over 17,000 acres in the Gorge, there are still approx. 10,000 acres of land in the Gorge left unprotected. Some of this land has already been developed by private landowners, but much of it has not. As the Trust begins to make decisions on acquiring land, we want to make sure our limited resources are going to protect the most vulnerable pieces of property in the Gorge. For instance, perhaps we know that there's an endangered species of plant that only grows in the Southern Appalachian Low-Elevation Pine Forest, and this plant is integral to the health of small mammals in the Gorge. We can now know where all instances of Southern Appalachian Low-Elevation Pine Forest occur in the Gorge and pursue those properties of with the most valuable resources based on scientific data rather than hunches.
Stewardship: Each ecological community has its own management guidelines according to the flora and fauna that inhabit that community. Now that we know what ecological communities we have and where they are, we can make appropriate decisions on forest management techniques.
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