Extension Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst;
Coordinator, North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative
The North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) was created to take advantage of all the players in region that have an interest in restoring river and stream networks and supporting healthy fish and wildlife populations in the long term. The first step is data collection, but it doesn’t stop there. We want to look at the nexus between connectivity, infrastructure, and public safety, to understand economic and policy aspects, and to really become a forum for people to work together to try and interconnect these systems before it is too late.
How Connect the Connecticut connects
When I look at distribution of road-stream crossings and dams across the region, I am shocked by the degree of fragmentation. Ecologically speaking, you only have so long to reconnect these systems. We have the opportunity to do that now, and we need people to work together and be as efficient as possible. That’s where components of the Connect the Connecticut will help.
Our priority is interconnection, and understanding the quality of habitat and degree of aquatic connectedness gives us a sense of connectivity. This information is key for us, and now we have the capacity to look at these factors over large scales.
As the landscape changes, thinking changes, and priorities change, the core components of this model can continue to be run and provide updated information for planning and action at the state, regional, and local levels.
How it will inform work on the ground
What’s great about the design is that it seeks to implement basic conservation rules of thumb to inform decisionmaking and planning, which is difficult to do in a large, complex landscape. With the power of computing, you can do more sophisticated, and comprehensive analysis, including every structure, dam, and crossing. You can evaluate every cell of the landscape, rather than just outlining polygons and saying: We want to protect what’s inside.
Beyond the actual design, I think the long term value is that as the landscape changes, thinking changes, and priorities change, the core components of the model can continue to be run and provide updated information for planning and action at state, regional, and local levels.
The data that we collect as part of the NAACC are incorporated into Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) and Critical Linkages – models that are also part of Connect the Connecticut. So it’s a hand in glove relationship.
Among these elements are a prioritization of subwatersheds that are good candidates for assessments, and linkages that identify the highest priorities for assessments. We can start with the ones that are likely to have biggest impact ecologically, so right from the outset, we are using components of the design to target work. That is the greatest strength.
Additional information and resources
- University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Environmental Conservation
- North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative
- Critical Linkages – Modeling approach and tools developed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and The Nature Conservancy
- CAPS – Modeling approach and tools developed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst