This article was featured in the 2023 Winter Newsletter by Rob Williams and Megan Pistolese-Shaw-SLELO PRISM. 

Scientists predict a 6th extinction crisis, because of habitat loss and, in particular, climate change(1).  Invasive species are the second largest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss(2). However, considering that invasive species alter ecosystem function and reduce habitat we can consider them to be a form of habitat loss. The climate of Northern New York is predicted to rise 3°F by 2080 (3), giving us seasonal temperatures resembling that of West Virginia and North Carolina by the end of the century. Therefore, protecting our lands and waters from the impacts of invasive species while simultaneously addressing the impacts of a changing climate go hand-in-hand.

Our host organization, The Nature Conservancy has identified a network of resilient and connected landscapes that if protected will enhance the resiliency of these habitats against climate change and other external stressors. By applying this concept of connected landscapes, we can see that the invasive species work done in the SLELO region serves to protect between 1 to 5 million acres of connected land and waterscapes respectively based on the extent of connectivity applied. For example, what we do in the Oswego River serves to protect the Finger Lakes; why-because these waterbodies are connected via the Erie Canal which also connects Oneida Lake, Lake Ontario, and hundreds of miles of inland waterways within New York. What we do in the core forest of Tug Hill helps to protect the entire 750,000-acre forest supporting the health of the Algonquin to Adirondack or Frontenac Arch, and the entire Blue Ridge to Boreal (Appalachian) forest system; why – because they are all connected. This large-scale connectivity concept expands the benefit that our work has far past backyard conservation and brings into perspective the gravity of our impact.

Enhancing the impact of invasive species prevention and management at this large- scale requires collaborations and partnerships. New York’s PRISM network, in collaboration with the NYS DEC, many state agencies, and partners, is in a unique position to lead the way towards preventing and managing invasive species well beyond backyard conservation into large-scale connected land and waterscapes. Invasive species management enhances the resiliency of our lands and waters against climate change and biodiversity loss.

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