Riparian Prioritization and Status Assessment for Climate Change Resilience of Coldwater Stream Habitats within the Appalachian and Northeastern Regions
Among a host of other critical ecosystem functions, intact riparian forests can help to reduce vulnerability of coldwater stream habitats to warming regional temperatures. Restoring and conserving these forests can therefore be an important part of regional and landscape-scale conservation plans, but managers need science and decision-support tools to help determine when these actions will be most effective. To help fill this need, we developed the Riparian Prioritization for Climate Change Resilience (RPCCR) web-based decision support tool to quickly and easily identify, based on current riparian cover and predicted vulnerability to air temperature warming, sites that are priority candidates for riparian restoration and conservation. This tool was successfully incorporated into the suite of open-source data layers and delineation tools currently served by the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative, including the Eastern Brook Trout Assessment. Critical objectives included 1) transfer of the RPCCR to an Open-Source platform (from ARC-GIS) 2) extension of the RPCCR range-wide 3) ability to prioritize sites at any user-determined spatial scale 4) input from, and training for, users and stakeholders. In addition to development and application of the RPCCR, we used the riparian and landscape-level spatial coverages to establish current riparian cover levels across the entire range with the goal of comparing cover levels across jurisdictions and catchments with and ithout brook trout and other salmonids, and to serve as a baseline for future detection of status and trends.