MAPPR Resource Layers

MAPPR would not be possible without important data sources compiled by the Massachusetts Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS). The statewide Level 3 Assessors’ Parcels were crucial for the project and are embedded in this tool. The Protected and Recreational OpenSpace layer, maintained by GIS staff in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, was also integrated into the analysis. In addition, this tool uses the BioMap2 layers that are available as web map services directly from MassGIS.


The Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and The Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts Program developed BioMap2 in 2010 as a conservation plan to protect the state’s biodiversity.

BioMap2 is designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation in Massachusetts over the next decade by focusing land protection and stewardship on the areas that are most critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and other native species and their habitats, exemplary natural communities, and a diversity of ecosystems. 

To capture all the elements of biodiversity, BioMap2 approaches the conservation of Massachusetts’ biological resources at multiple scales. Thus, BioMap2 combines hundreds of individual pieces of geospatial data about the state’s species, ecosystems, and landscapes.

BioMap2uses specific data and sophisticated mapping and analysis tools to spatially define each of these components, calling on the latest research and understanding of species biology, conservation biology, and landscape ecology.

A BioMap2 summary document, interactive map, municipal reports, and a technical report are all available at the BioMap2 website.

Resilient Sites for Conservation

The Nature Conservancy mapped Resilient Sites for Conservation in 2012. Lasting conservation depends on identifying and protecting places where the effects of climate change are buffered by the natural properties of the site. Conserving these places is vital to maintaining a diversity of species and natural processes regardless of changes in the climate.

These “natural strongholds” are places where the direct effects of climate change are moderated by complex topography and connected natural cover. In these sites, species can find areas of suitable moisture and temperature within their local neighborhood.

These “micro-climates” buffer the impacts of change by providing species with a variety of options. This allows resident species populations to remain strong and helps ensure that changes in the composition and structure of natural communities will be more gradual. Natural strongholds can serve as a bridge to grant safe passage into the future for thousands of species.

The Nature Conservancy developed data representing complex and connected landscapes, then selected the most resilient examples of each “geophysical setting”, unique combinations of geology, elevation, and landforms. These diverse places have supported a full suite of biodiversity in our region over millennia, and if protected will do so into the future.

A Resilient Sites summary report, interactive map, data downloads, articles and maps are available at the Resilient Sites website.

Critical Linkages

In 2013, the University of Massachusetts, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and The Nature Conservancy, completed a comprehensive analysis of areas in Massachusetts where habitat connections must be protected and restored to support the Commonwealth's wildlife and biodiversity resources.

Changes in species distribution will become increasingly important as climate change makes large areas of former habitat no longer suitable for many species. For such long distance dispersal to be possible, the landscape must be interconnected for terrestrial species. Roads, agriculture, and suburban development all fragment the landscape, reducing connectivity at all scales.

Critical Linkages is a spatial analysis tool that assesses regional connectivity to identify places where land protection and changes to transportation infrastructure will provide the greatest benefit for wildlife connectivity. Large, high quality habitats (nodes), connecting areas between nodes (links), and segments of roads (linkages) are evaluated for their contribution to overall landscape connectivity.

Critical Linkages employs a "coarse-filter" approach; one that does not involve any particular focal species but instead holistically considers ecological systems. The results identify links between high quality habitats where it is most important to maintain a connected landscape for plants and animals, and areas where successful movement between habitats is most likely. The results also identify road segments where wildlife passage would be most beneficial, however this transportation infrastructure data was not incorporated into this parcel prioritization tool as it does not apply directly to land parcels.

Critical Linkages reports and data are available at the Critical Linkages website.

Under-represented Settings

In 2013, the Open Space Institute identified a set of landscapes/settings (i.e. unique combinations of geology and topography, each of which supports unique and important biodiversity over long time frames) in the Northeast US that were under-represented in the portfolio of protected lands regionally.

The under-represented geophysical settings that were part of The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Landscape Conservation were assessed and prioritized regionally. We were interested in conducting an equivalent search restricted to Massachusetts. In order to do this, we used the geophysical settings layer that the Massachusetts chapter of TNC maintains to identify the distribution of these settings throughout the state.  We then overlaid protection onto these settings to identify those settings that are under-represented in the network of protected lands in Massachusetts.