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Natural Heritage Elements - Landscape level


Enduring Features 

Definition  

                 Enduring features are the parts of the landscape that resist change. They are the hills and valleys, the underlying bedrock, and the deposits left behind by glaciers. They remain the same even when changes in land cover and wildlife occur. They remain the same as plants and animals move, and they remain the same even as the climate changes. 

        If we liken nature to a dramatic play, we can think of the enduring features as the stage and the individual species as the actors. The play is the natural community that occurs in a given place at a given time, with all its interactions, but regardless of the action, the stage does not change. 

        Four kinds of enduring features are considered here:

         bedrock - the rock that underlies upper surface material;

         surficial materials - the gravel, sand, silt, clay, and peat that sits on top of the bedrock;

         elevation - strongly influences climate; and

         topography or landforms - mountaintops, sideslopes, and valleys. 

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Importance  

                 Enduring features are important in conservation planning because they can serve as a surrogate, or substitute, for information on natural communities and species when that information is not available. Conservation of or providing long-term stewardship for the diversity of enduring features will in turn help protect the diversity of natural communities and species. 

                Some enduring features are helpful in locating specific natural communities and species. For example, we know that in Vermont the community called Valley Clayplain Forest is found exclusively on clay soils. And, two of its component plant species, bur oak and barren strawberry, are also most common on those soils. Therefore, it is possible to examine information on surficial geology to determine where clay deposits exist and, with that information, predict the potential location of a Valley Clayplain Forest and its component species. Ecologists and conservation planners have used this technique successfully to locate places where they should look for significant natural communities or rare species. 

                The Vermont Biodiversity Project (VBP) analyzed enduring features throughout the state and found some interesting patterns. First, the greatest diversity of enduring features is in the lowlands, where calcareous rocks tend to be found and where glacial meltwaters deposited a variety of sand, gravel, and clay formations. Second, the greatest amount of conserved land is found at high elevations, away from the diversity of the lowlands. To ensure long-term conservation of Vermont 's biodiversity, more conservation, especially of large landscapes, will need to occur in lowland areas. This same analysis identified a number of specific areas throughout the state that contain enduring features that are not protected on any conserved lands. These are called 'complementary landscapes' because their conservation would complement the enduring features that are already protected.  

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Conserved lands versus elevation. (Source: Vermont Biodiversity Project)

Conservation Goals

        A town might set one or more of the following conservation goals for enduring features: 

1.        Ensure that conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship cover the full range of elevations in the town. 

2.        Ensure that conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship in the town cover all the town's bedrock types and surficial geology types, especially those types that are unusual in the state. 

3.        Ensure that conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship encompass a diversity of landforms. 

4.        Seek to conserve or provide long-term stewardship of the complementary landscapes identified by the Vermont Biodiversity Project (see Vermont's Natural Heritage). Sometimes this will require cooperation with neighboring towns. 

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Obtaining and Interpreting Information

Information Sources

See Resources for information on how to contact or visit the websites of the agencies and organizations mentioned below.

        The Vermont biodiversity Project (VBP) The VBP did a detailed analysis of enduring features including bedrock, surficial geology, landforms, and elevation. Interpreting these analyses requires the assistance of a natural resource professional. The VBP website explains the project and these analyses, and their report, Vermont's Natural Heritage, provides more detailed information and results.

       Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI): This group maintains digital data provided by the Vermont Biodiversity Project, as well as data on geology and soils.

        Vermont Geologic Survey: The survey is part of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and can provide data on surficial and bedrock geology for your area.

         Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS): The NRCS can provide information on soils and can help you interpret that information. 

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Interpreting the Information

The four maps below show different components of the enduring features of Jericho. The bedrock map shows that two classes of bedrock (as defined by the Vermont Geologic Survey for the Vermont Biodiversity Project) occupy most of the town. Each area of bedrock may support slightly different vegetation types. 

                The map of soils shows many different types in the town. Interpreting the soils map requires the help of a professional, but one thing that is clear is that there are more kinds of soils in the low areas, where roads and development are more prevalent. 

                The map of landforms is useful for locating unusual landforms in the town, including cliffs and steep slopes, as well as specialized landforms, such as caves, which may harbor uncommon communities or rare species.  

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Bedrock Geology of Vermont Elevation Zones of Vermont
This map was developed for the Vermont Biodiversity Project from an existing map of the bedrock geology of Vermont (Doll, 1961). The nine classes of rock are defined by their ecological influence rather than on their origin or age. Generally, the rocks that dominate much of the Green Mountains (grey on the map) are acidic, whereas the rocks that dominate the Champlain Valley and the eastern part of the state (blue on the map) are basic because they are buffered by carbonates. (Source: Modified from Doll, 1961, by Majorie Gale and Laurence Becker, Vermont State Geologist Office. Used with permission.)

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Soils Landforms
The soils in Jericho are diverse, and different types are found in the valleys and uplands. A soil map like this can help you locate unique community types A diversity of landforms can be found in Jericho, from ridges to the stream valleys that wind their way through town

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Conservation Strategies

                 Once information has been obtained on enduring features and conservation goals have been established, it is possible to develop Conservation Strategies to help achieve those goals. Examples of strategies specific to each goal follow. 

 

1. Goal: Ensure that conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship cover the full range of elevations in the town.  

Strategies: 

        a. Include a map of elevation zones in your town plan and emphasize the importance of conserving land within each elevation zone. Sample Language: In order to ensure the conservation of a diversity of landscapes and their associated plant and animal communities in town, lands will be under long-term stewardship or permanently conserved in each of the following elevation zones: 0-800 feet; 800-1,700 feet; 1,700-2,500 feet, 2,500-3,900 feet; and above 3,900 feet. This same language can be adapted to include the goals of conserving bedrock types, surficial soil types, and complementary landscapes. 

        b. Compare elevation maps to conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship in town to see in which elevation zones conserved lands are located. If there are elevation zones that do not have any conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship, make conservation in those zones a priority by developing plans and programs for open space and land acquisition. c. In addition to direct land acquisition, conservation of lands representing specific elevation zones can also be accomplished through the establishment of conservation easements on common land designated in PUDs and through TDR programs. (See Tools  for more information on PUDS  and TDRs.) 

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2. Goal: Ensure that conserved land, or land under long-term stewardship, in the town cover all the town's bedrock types and soil types, especially those types that are unusual in the state.  

Strategies: 

        a. Include a map of bedrock types and soil types in your town plan and emphasize the importance of conserving land representing as many of these bedrock and soil types as possible. Note which types are currently underrepresented in conserved lands and lands under long-term stewardship in town. Example language can be adapted from strategy 1a. 

        b. Compare VBP data layer of bedrock types to conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship in town to see which bedrock types are not represented. Make conservation or stewardship of these bedrock types a priority in your open space and land acquisition plans and programs. Do the same with soils and surficial geology.  

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3. Goal: Ensure that conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship encompass a diversity of landforms.  

Strategies: 

        a. Include a topographic map of the town in your town plan and emphasize the importance of conserving land representing as many of the landforms (e.g., valleys, steep slopes, gentle slopes, flat valley floors) as possible. Note which landforms are currently under-represented in conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship in town. Language can be adapted from strategy 1a. 

        b. Compare VBP data layer of landforms to a map of conserved lands or lands under long-term stewardship in town to see which landforms are not represented in conserved lands. Seek the advice of an ecologist to determine whether those landforms are important to meeting other conservation goals. Make conservation or stewardship of these landforms a priority in your open space and land acquisition plans and programs. 

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4. Goal: Seek to conserve the complementary landscapes identified by the Vermont Biodiversity Project (see Vermont 's Natural Heritage). Sometimes this will require cooperation with neighboring towns.  

Strategies: 

        a. Include a map of the complementary landscapes that occur in your town in the town plan and emphasize the importance of conserving these landscapes. Examine the complementary landscapes data layer and compare it with conserved lands or ones under long-term stewardship in your town and neighboring towns. Note in your town plan which complementary landscapes are currently not conserved or under long-term stewardship. Language can be adapted from strategy 1a.. 

        b. Make the conservation of complementary landscapes that are not already conserved a high priority in open space, stewardship, and land acquisition plans and programs. 

        c. Because complementary landscapes are discrete polygons, many conservation strategies can be applied to them that are not as suitable for the other types of enduring features. These strategies include: 

        i. Complementary landscapes in an overlay district with specific conditions designed to protect these features from development in and near the features; and 

        ii. Allowing for PUDs in the town zoning and/or subdivision regulations as an alternative to conventional subdivisions, and require or provide incentives (e.g., density bonuses) for PUD designs that cluster development away from complementary landscapes and protect them with conservation easements.      

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