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Designing Sustainable Landscapes


The overall purpose of this project (known colloquially as the Designing Sustainable Landscapes project, or DSL for short) is to assess the capability of current and potential future landscapes, currently within the extent of the Northeast United States (13 states), to provide integral ecosystems and suitable habitat for a suite of focal (e.g., representative) species, and provide guidance for strategic habitat conservation. To meet this goal, we developed the Landscape Change, Assessment and Design (LCAD) model, as described in the documentation (see documentation page). This project is supported primarily by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NALCC), with additional support from the Northeast Climate Science Center (NECSC) and the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.

Project executive summary [updated 3/10/2017] -- This is a 4-page executive summary of the DSL project and LCAD model. Read this to get started.

Phase one of this project, which began in December 2010 and was completed June 2012, focused on developing the overall modeling framework for simulating landscape change and assessing the ecological consequences of those changes (i.e., landscape change and assessment), and piloting the model in three study landscapes: 1) Kennebec River watershed in Maine, 2) middle Connecticut River watershed in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, and 3) combined Pocomoke and Nanticoke River watersheds in Maryland and Deleware.

Phase two of this project, which began in July 2012 and was completed June 2014, focused on extending the landscape change and assessment modeling to the entire Northeast United States, modeling an additional 20 representative species, expanding the scope of the ecological integrity assessment, coupling the landscape change model with a third party sea level rise model, improving the vegetation succession modeling, and developing an approach for integrating the results of the landscape change assessment into decision support for landscape design (i.e., landscape conservation design).

Phase three of this project, which began in July 2014 and continued through December 2016, focused on major improvements to the landscape change model (including a major revision of the urban growth module), completing the 30 representative species models, and extending the landscape conservation design component of the model (piloted in the Connecticut River watershed in phase 2) to the entire Northeast United States as part of the Regional Conservation Opportunity Areas (RCOA) effort.

Phase four remains to be determined!

This project website provides links (below) to all working technical documentation, selected presentations, and all data products.

How to cite this project

Each of the documents available from the documentation page has a title page that provides a suggested reference (citation) for that particular document. To reference the overall DSL project, we suggest either referencing the "overview document" available from the documentation page, or this website, as follows:

McGarigal K, Compton B, Plunkett EB, Deluca WV, and Grand J. 2017. Designing sustainable landscapes project. University of Massachusetts, Amherst. URL:


Many individuals have contributed to the DSL project in various ways, including providing data and input to the design and implementation of the LCAD model. In particular, USFWS members of the NALCC have been intimately involved in all aspects of the DSL project and have provided helpful input and guidance throughout, including especially Andrew Milliken and Scott Schwenk, as well as Ken Elowe, Randy Dettmers, Mitch Hartley, Jeff Horan, and BJ Richarson. In addition, we also would like to thank the additional Connect the Connecticut participants and contributors: Mark Anderson, The Nature Conservancy; Georgia Basso, USFWS; Dee Blanton, USFWS; Rachel Cliche, USFWS; Patrick Comins, Audubon Connecticut; Jenny Dickson, CT DEEP; Catherine Doyle-Capitman, Cornell U.; David Eisenhauer, USFWS; Renee Farnsworth, North Atlantic LCC; Andrew Fisk, CT River Watershed Council; Andy French, USFWS; Bob Houston, USFWS; Bill Jenkins, US EPA; Katie Kennedy, The Nature Conservancy; Anne Kuhn, US EPA; Bill Labich, Highstead Foundation; Tanya Lama, USFWS; Ben Letcher, USGS; Kim Lutz, The Nature Conservancy; Bridget Macdonald, North Atlantic LCC; Andrew MacLachlan, North Atlantic LCC; Maritza Mallek, USFWS - North Atlantic LCC; Christian Marks, The Nature Conservancy; Nancy McGarigal, USFWS; Marvin Moriarty, Friends of Conte Refuge; Pete Murdoch, USGS; David Paulson, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife; Lori Pelech, North Atlantic LCC; Dave Perkins, USFWS; Emily Preston, New Hampshire Fish and Game; Chad Rittenhouse, U. of Connecticut; Ana Rosner, USGS; Colleen Sculley, USFWS; Mike Slattery, USFWS; Eric Sorenson, VT Fish and Wildlife Dept.; Ken Sprankle, USFWS; Dave Stier, Springfield Science Museum; John Warner, USFWS; Tim Wildman, CT DEEP; Jed Wright, USFWS.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Kevin McGarigal
Department of Environmental Conservation
University of Massachusetts
304 Holdsworth Natural Resources Center
Box 34210, Amherst, MA 01003
Fax: (413) 545-4358; Phone: (413) 577-0655

Copyright 2000 University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts, 01003. (413) 545-0111. This is an official page of the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. All material in this website is made available according to the Fair Use Statute of the U.S. Copyright Act