Designing Sustainable Landscapes (DSL)

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Science Themes: 

This project is focused on assessing the capability of current and potential future landscapes within the extent of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NALCC) to provide integral ecosystems and suitable habitat for a suite of representative species, and provide guidance for strategic habitat conservation. To meet this goal, we are developing a Landscape Change, Assessment and Design (LCAD) model for the NALCC.Two regional Landscape Conservation Designs  have been coproduced with regional stakeholders. Connect the Connecticut and Nature's Network.

The current focus is on extending the landscape modeling, which was developed in pilot areas in phase 1,  to the entire Northeast (13 states), modeling an additional 20 representative species, expanding 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).

Planning has begun for the formal review of some high priority species models (i.e., wood thrush, black duck, and American woodcock). Bill will be meeting with the ABDJV in October and has begun organizing a meeting for the WOTH model by the end of 2015.

Read more about the project here:


See the gallery of products from this project here:

Change in Landscape Capability (LC) from 2010 to 2080 for the Blackburnian Warbler. LC is an index reflecting quality, accessibility and suitability of the landscape and climate to provide breeding habitat for this species. The Blackburnian warbler (Setophaga fusca) is predicted to have a 71% reduction in LC in the northeastern U.S. by 2080. This reduction isolates the effect of climate change while controlling for any potential changes in habitat.







For more information on the Blackburnian Warbler, see:


The CT River Landscape Conservation Design identifying terrestrial conservation cores and their connectors. The network is designed to provide strategic guidance for conserving natural areas, and the fish, wildlife, and other components of biodiversity that they support within the Connecticut River watershed. Core areas incorporate four main components: (1) ecological intergrity, (2) species landscape capability, (3) floodplain forests and (4) rare communities.







For more information on modeling focal sepcies see:




  • William DeLuca, University of Maryland, BC, Department of Geography seminar series and at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in November, 2016.
  • William DeLuca, Designing sustainable landscapes project as an invited speaker at the International Association of Landscape Ecology in Asheville, NC in April 2016
  • William DeLuca, Designing sustainable landscape models Wood Thrush Landscape Capability models at the USFWS RO in Hadley, MA. The model was presented for critical review to a diverse group of stakeholders
  • William DeLuca, Designing sustainable products at a regional meeting in Albany, NY to work with regional stakeholders to develop a final landscape conservation design
  • William DeLuca, Designing sustainable landscapes with species Landscape Capability models, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Newport, RI, April 2015. This talk highlighted the role of species landscape capability and persistence in light of climate change to inform landscape conservation design.
  • William DeLuca, Effects of climate change on species cliamate niche breathe and a session on climate change at the North American Ornithological Councol in Washington DC, August, 2016
  • William DeLuca, A moose landscape capability model applied to predictions of climate and land use change, Moose, boreal forest and climate change-state of the science, A workshop organized by the NE CSC, Westborough, MA, 2015
  • William DeLuca, Designing sustainable landscapes with species Landscape Capability models, Northeast Regional Conservation Opportunity Area Workshop, Northeast Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, Hadley, MA, 2015 
  • William DeLuca, Designing sustainable landscapes: Landscape Capability for marsh species, Hurricane Sandy Tidal Marsh Resiliency Workshop, Northeast Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, Hadley, MA, 2014
  • William DeLuca, Montane Bird Conservation Ecology (chaired symposium), A montane bird distribution model applied to climate change predictions inform landscape conservation design (presentation), Joint meeting of American Ornithologists’ Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists in Estes Park, CO, 2014
  • William DeLuca, Invited presentation, Response of species to projected climate and landscape changes inform the design of sustainable landscapes, Symposium on species response to climate change. Northeast Natural History Conference, Springfield, MA, 2013.
  • William DeLuca, Invited presentation, Designing sustainable landscapes using species responses to projected landscape changes, Symposium on modeling wildlife populations for conservation. 2nd Northeast Bird Conservation Conference, Plymouth, MA, 2012.
  • McGarigal K, Compton B, Plunkett EB, Deluca WV, and Grand J. 2017. Designing sustainable landscapes project. University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Project page URL:
  • William DeLuca completed an additional Landscape Capability map for the Piping Plover to fufil requirements for the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliancy project
  • William DeLuca met with USFW staff to devise a plan to solicit formal review of the Wood Thrush and American Woodcock DSL models. October, 2015
  • Symposium: William V. DeLuca was invited to speak at the 2016 symposium titled "Interesecting forest management, adaptation, and climate change: biodiversity implications" for theInternational Association of Landscape Ecology in Asheville, NC
  • Symposium: William V. DeLuca chaired a symposium on “Montane Bird Conservation Ecology” at the 2014 Joint meeting of American Ornithologists’ Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists in Estes Park, CO
  • Products: As a followup, the project completed the suite of products for 14 of the 14 species selected for the CT River Watershed Landscape Conservation Design.
  • The project also completed an Index of Ecological Integety (IEI) and several landscape settings variables for the 13 northeastern states.
  • News: Designing Sustainable Landscapes in Partnership with Stakeholders. March 20, 2015
  • Connecticut River Watershed Landscape Conservation Design Pilot Workshops: To date there have been 19 workshops held since early 2014 where the DSL team, in conjunction with and organized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the NALCC, has collaboratively interacted with many state, federal and NGO stakeholders to develop a landscape conservation network design.

  • The Connecticut River Watershed Pilot Landscape Conservation Design has been completed and all supporting products and information are available onthe DSL website. 23 species Landscape Capability models have been completed as well as many of the regional products:
    • Ecological settings grids – a broad suite of static and dynamic, biotic and abiotic  variables that represent the natural and anthropogenic environment throughout the Northeast.
    • Ecological integrity grids – a suite of grids that support the primary Index of Ecological Integrity grid which is a multivariate assessment of ecological integrity based on a coarse-filter approach of identifying unique and distinctive environments that are intact, connected and resilient.
    • Focal species grids – a set of products for 30 representative species that define their landscape capability, climate suitability and climate response.
    • Landscape conservation design grids - a package of data products that collectively identify terrestrial core areas and connectors, aquatic core areas and their watershed-based buffers, and restoration opportunities for dam removal, culvert upgrades, and terrestrial wildlife road passage structures. This package also includes a variety of supporting data layers that separately provide information on the ecological value of all lands and waters regardless of their inclusion in the core area network.
    • Ancillary grids – traffic, edited high resolution NHD flowlines, boundaries for regions, ecoregions, watersheds and states.
  • The DSL is used in the Connect the Connecticut and Natures Network, tools that help proiritize lands for conservaiton in the Connecticut River watershed and the North Atlantic LCC.