University of Massachusetts Amherst

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System

Ecological Settings

Ecological settings refer to the principal biophysical characteristics at multiple scales that strongly influence the composition, structure and function of a particular ecosystem (site) over the long term and serve to describe and distinguish it ecologically. CAPS characterizes ecological settings via a suite of variables (e.g. wetness, soil depth, temperature, solar exposure, wind exposure) that define ecological community characteristics.

Three metrics used in CAPS (similarity, connectedness and aquatic connectedness) are based on ecological distances computed between the focal cell and those of neighboring cells. Ecological distance is the multivariate distance across various ecological gradients that define ecological communities.

Ecological Settings Variables used in CAPS
Growing season degree days Water salinity Vegetative structure
Minimum winter temperature Wetness Developed
Incident solar radiation Flow gradient Hard development
Soil pH Flow volume Traffic rate
Soil depth Tidal regime Impervious
Soil texture Wave exposure Terrestrial barriers
Substrate mobility Wind exposure Aquatic barriers
Calcium carbonate content Steep slopes  

CAPS Ecological Settings Variables describes the ecological settings variables used in CAPS.

CAPS Ecological Settings Variable Parameters provides information about how the ecological settings variables are parameterized and combined to compute ecological distance.

Following are examples of ecological settings variables from northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts.

Berkshires calcium
Calcium carbonate content of the soil.
Berkshires wetness
Wetness (soil moisture).
Berkshires slope
Berkshires soil depth
Soil depth.
Berkshires wind
Wind exposure.
Berkshires sun
Solar exposure.