Habitat is the subject of chapter 2 of the 2015 RI Wildlife Action Plan. The draft plan is ready for public comment and meetings in December.
RI's key habitats are described in the context of the larger northeast region, which in turn you can explore in A Guide to the Freshwater and Terrestrial Habitats of the Northeast. If you like to go hiking, kayaking, fishing and/or hunting, you will enjoy reading these Habitat Guides for the northeast states. Specific reports for RI are the Terrestrial Habitats of RI and Acquatic Habitats of RI.
A few points to note about chapter 2 of the RI Wildlife Action Plan draft:
Key habitats are Identified for RI's species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) beginning on p. 49.
You will find information about Rhode Island on the following topics in chapter 2: Physiography, impervious surface, geology, soils, climate, ecoregions, ecological habitats, vegetation systems, land use, early successional habitats, agricultural lands, freshwater wetlands, estuarine wetlands, salt marshes, impaired water quality, bathymetry, aquatic habitat systems, surface waters, flowing waters habitat, lakes and ponds, marine habitats, riverine habitats.
Note that some of these topics, such as land use, might not be considered "environmental" as such, but the Providential Gardener hopes more people will realize how everything is interrelated. Our activities have all sorts of consequences.
Of particular concern are pollinators, because they are essential for food production. Numerous organizations in Rhode Island are concerned and proactive: I've noted increasing numbers of "Bee Schools" the last few years, offered in the spring by the RI Beekeepers Association. I just checked their website and noticed that the Southern New England Beekeepers Assembly workshop this Saturday, November 22, 2014, is on Keeping Honey Bees Healthy.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in RI has focused in recent years on improving habitat for pollinators. You can read about their assistance to the Conanicut Island Land Trust is the RI 2013 Executive Summary (p. 14). They seeded four acres of '"high intensive" pollinator habitat" there, with a mix of 16 species of native wildflowers and one native grass. The plants are mostly perennials. The flowers are favorite food sources for native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and European honeybees. The grass provides places for bees to nest. NRCS has also promoted Best Management Practies for bee conservation through collaboration with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to farmers and private landowners who want to seed areas on their lands. Ask NRCS about WHIP, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. This photo is from the NRCS Summary -- surely a field no pollinator can refuse!
It's not hard to imagine that a major problem in Rhode Island is habitat fragmentation, which is rapidly increasing:
"Although there is more forest acreage in Rhode Island today than there was 100 years ago (Table 2.1), few areas [of] core habitats [are] large enough to support the full complement of expected species and natural ecosystem processes. Key characteristics that determine a forest’s value for breeding bird habitat, for example, are its size and shape, nearness to other forest tracts, and surrounding land use. In contrast, Rhode Island forest patches are becoming smaller and more isolated, primarily due to fragmentation caused by housing, roads, and other developments."
If you are not a biologist or natural scientist, you may run into some words that you've never seen before. It would be good to include a glossary in the final plan. There's a list of acronyms in the 2005 plan, and I hope there'll be one in the 2015 plan as well. Here are a few terms that should be in the glossary. Palustrine is new to me, and I tend to forget what bathymetry means. I thought I could guess the meaning of physiography, and I just like the idea of successional habitat so I threw that one in, too.
Bathymetry - See NOAA: "The term “bathymetry” originally referred to the ocean’s depth relative to sea level, although it has come to mean “submarine topography,” or the depths and shapes of underwater terrain.... Bathymetry is the foundation of the science of hydrography, which measures the physical features of a water body. Hydrography includes not only bathymetry, but also the shape and features of the shoreline; the characteristics of tides, currents, and waves; and the physical and chemical properties of the water itself."
Early Successional Habitat: NRCS Vermont has a whole info sheet on this: "weedy areas, grasslands, old fields or pastures, shrub thickets (e.g. dogwood or alder), and young forest. If these habitats are not mowed, brush hogged, burned, cut, grazed or disturbed in some other fashion, they will eventually become forest over time." Some species require these types of habitat.
Palustrine: See USGS: "The Palustrine System (Fig. 6) includes all nontidal wetlands dominated by trees, shrubs, persistent emergents, emergent mosses or lichens, and all such wetlands that occur in tidal areas where salinity due to ocean-derived salts is below 0.5 ‰. It also includes wetlands lacking such vegetation, but with all of the following four characteristics: (1) area less than 8 ha (20 acres); (2) active wave-formed or bedrock shoreline features lacking; (3) water depth in the deepest part of basin less than 2 m at low water; and (4) salinity due to ocean-derived salts less than 0.5 ‰."
Physiography: Wikipedia: "During the early 1900s, the study of regional-scale geomorphology was termed "physiography". Unfortunately, physiography later was considered to be a contraction of "physical" and "geography", and therefore synonymous with physical geography, and the concept became embroiled in controversy surrounding the appropriate concerns of that discipline." / "Geomorphic, or physiographic, regions are broad-scale subdivisions based on terrain texture, rock type, and geologic structure and history." See USGS.
The draft documents may disappear at some point in the future when the plan is finalized. FYI: This is the main page for RI's Wildlife Management Plan: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/swap15.htm#swap.