As you might remember, the big focus for the 2023 update to the Southeast Conservation Blueprint is expanding consistent methods from the contiguous Southeast to the U.S. Caribbean and remaining parts of the Gulf and Atlantic. Other than improved consistency, here are some of the improvements likely to make it into the 2023 Blueprint.
- Updated and expanded marine indicators in the Atlantic Ocean: Marine mammal, marine birds, hardbottom, and deep-sea coral related indicators are now updated based on newer data. They also extend all the way down to the southern tip of Florida.
- New marine indicators and full coverage of the U.S. federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico: The current Blueprint only includes the nearshore waters in the Gulf. Now, there are new indicators to better cover the deeper ocean, including ones for marine mammals, sea turtles, and deep-sea coral.
- New marine indicators and coverage in the Caribbean ocean: While there wasn’t enough available data to go into the deep ocean, there are a bunch of indicators now in the shallow ocean. That includes things like seagrass, shallow hardbottom and coral, fish nursery habitat, and fish hotspots.
- New inland indicators and coverage for all islands in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands: There are now lots of new indicators covering the terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in the Caribbean. Many of them–like natural landcover in floodplains, greenways and trails, and urban park size–are similar to existing Blueprint indicators. Others–like reforestation potential and landscape condition–are new, but include ideas that could eventually make it into indicators in the continental United States.
Expanding the Blueprint and indicators into the Caribbean was a significant effort. Almost every dataset we use for the contiguous Southeast isn’t available in the Caribbean. That meant getting creative and working with different data to capture similar concepts. Luckily, all the folks we’ve been working with in the Caribbean have been so helpful and supportive in sharing data, reviewing indicator options, and sharing their local knowledge of important places and resources.
Workshops to review draft Blueprint priorities in the Atlantic/Gulf marine and Caribbean will be in late May. Just like in previous years, we’ll use the workshop feedback to prioritize what to try to fix before the 2023 Blueprint becomes final. Anything we can’t fix, we’ll include in the Blueprint known issues and prioritize it for future Blueprint updates.