University of Massachusetts Amherst

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Data updates

December 7, 2023: CAPS data, the web maps, and Critical Linkages results have been updated to fix a handful of data errors and include the latest field-surveyed road-stream crossings from NAACC. 272 additional crossings have been surveyed since the last release, now including a total of 24% of road-stream crossings in Massachusetts.

Regional ecosystem-based connectivity

November 20, 2023: We’re excited to announce our ecosystem-based models of regional connectivity, created with funding from the USGS Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center. We assessed connectivity across the Northeastern U.S. at multiple scales and without relying on predefined conservation targets, thus model results work flexibly with various conservation strategies. Results are now available to inform conservation actions aimed at maintaining connected landscapes for multiple species, both locally and across the Northeast.

Read about it and try the new stopgap web viewer, to be replaced with a full featured site-scoring tool in Spring 2024.

New web maps!

July 26, 2023: We've added live web maps of IEI and MassDEP Habitat of Potential Regional or Statewide Importance. Look under Data & Maps.

Massachusetts CAPS was significantly updated in 2020

The Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) is an ecosystem-based (coarse-filter) approach for assessing the ecological integrity of lands and waters and subsequently identifying and prioritizing land for habitat and biodiversity conservation. We define ecological integrity as the ability of an area to support biodiversity and the ecosystem processes necessary to sustain biodiversity over the long term. CAPS is an approach to prioritizing land for conservation based on the assessment of ecological integrity for various ecological communities (e.g., forest, shrub swamp, headwater stream) within an area.

CAPS combines principles of landscape ecology and conservation biology with software that compiles spatial data and characterizes landscape patterns. This process results in a final Index of Ecological Integrity (IEI) for each point in the landscape based on models constructed separately for each ecological community.

Statewide IEI
Index of ecological integrity (IEI) for Massachusetts. Darker green areas denote higher IEI values; white areas are developed land.

Our approach is landscape-oriented and focused on a comprehensive valuation of the entire landscape. It attempts to combine many complex spatial relationships in the landscape that drive ecological processes, including population persistence and community dynamics. The CAPS approach seeks to evaluate the ecological integrity of the entire landscape mosaic, not just the rare species and community locations. We assume that by conserving intact, ecologically-defined communities of high integrity, we can conserve most species and the ecological processes that shape and maintain ecosystems over time.

Updated July 27, 2023