Habitat Mapping of the Ecological Preserve

Jamie Deppen and Keri VanCamp

Dylan Finley, Takunda Maisva, Jessie Prutisto-Chang, Mirit Rutishauser and Fate Syewoangnuan

Habitat Mapping at the Farm

An accurate map of ecological communities is essential to making land management decisions and planning ecological research. We updated the 1996 Vassar ecological communities map by collecting field data and reclassifying communities within standardized classification systems. Comparing the two maps allows users to observe trends concerning how ecological communities change and make predictions about how these communities might change in the future. To produce the updated map, teams of field researchers gathered information about species composition and various environmental features at distributed plots. These data were used to classify plots using classifications from New York Natural Heritage and the United States National Vegetation Classification. A revised map was produced with six communities removed and nineteen added, including six novel communities created specifically for the VFEP. The accuracy assessment resulted in a 73.5% overall accuracy and mapped community boundaries were adjusted accordingly. Future work will include another round of accuracy assessment, exploring the expanding role of invasive species in plant communities and classification systems, and using the data gathered in this project to explore more ecological questions. The data and results from this project will provide Vassar students, faculty, and land managers with a launching point for various types of projects, while also serving as a pilot for surveying at other sites in the Environmental Monitoring and Management Alliance (EMMA). Potential uses for the ecological communities map data include modeling species habitat, carbon sequestration, invasive species expansion, and climate change impacts.