U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS)

The goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) is to improve the health, function, and connectivity of southeastern U.S. ecosystems 10% by 2060. One of the central undertakings to support this goal is the development of SECAS’ Southeast Conservation Blueprint, a spatial tool which compiles subregional conservation blueprints from across the region to identify important places for conservation in the southeastern U.S. In the northern Gulf of Mexico (the Gulf) there is a particularly strong need for such actionable, science-based tools to support conservation and restoration efforts as both natural and anthropogenic stressors result in a loss of critical habit.

The Challenge

While the Southeast Conservation Blueprint is being used to help prioritize areas in need of restoration and conservation across the northern Gulf, its current application is limited to particular localities. There is ongoing, considerable investment in conservation and restoration projects, as well as in tools for project prioritization and planning to mitigate both natural and anthropogenic threats in the northern Gulf. In order to expand utility of the Southeast Conservation Blueprint, and support SECAS in meeting their goal, it is necessary to integrate additional data and links in order to allow the blueprint to be applied more broadly and scalable whether the interest is in a regional, state-based, or very localized project. The northern Gulf, where there is a pressing need for such tools, is the ideal region in which to begin this process.

The Approach

This project builds upon previous work by The Water Institute to develop and compile geospatial data layers that relate to Gulfwide habitat types, ecosystem threats, and community/social metrics to support restoration planning throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico. Within that project, a total of 40 individual datasets of threats, 19 related to habitat type and intactness, and 10 community related parameters were compiled and synthesized into layers of overall threat to success of restoration or conservation projects as well as potential for community benefits from those projects or programs.

This information, along with needs identified in six subregional blueprints, will be integrated with the overall Southeast Blueprint. Ultimately, this will allow for scalability and provide opportunities for linking the Southeast Blueprint tool to local, state, and Gulfwide planning mechanisms.

For example, The Water Institute is working on identifying specific pathways and potential linkages between the Southeast Blueprint and state-led mechanisms such as the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan that can promote information flow into the Southeast Conservation Blueprint as well as utilize the Blueprint to enhance planning and prioritization efforts. On the local scale, a conceptual model illustrating the influence of the Chandeleur barrier island chain (Breton National Wildlife Refuge) on regional hydrodynamics, geomorphology, habitat availability, and estuarine and sound water quality. The SECAS framework will be utilized to identify a suite of metrics that quantify the ecosystem value of the Chandeleurs to inform specific restoration designs in the future. This will result in a better coordinated and more scientifically robust view of the northern Gulf of Mexico needs and priorities.