Ecosystem Services

Protecting our natural resources preserves valuable ecosystem services such as flood mitigation, pollination, pest management, erosion control, water and air filtration, and many other services that maintain the stability and livability of our local environment.

Restoration & Conservation

Resilience Benefits

Howard County aims to ensure that the resiliency benefits provided by ecosystems are valued and protected. Wetlands, forests, and streams act as natural sponges and filters in the landscape. They absorb water and the energy that carries it during storms. They sequester carbon and remove or breakdown various pollutants from the air, ground, and water. These ecosystems provide countless additional services which need to be better understood and supported as we prepare for increased community stressors associated with climate change.

Restoration & Conservation

Wetlands Protection

The County is working to increase protections for wetlands, especially in vulnerable watersheds and near underserved populations. In addition, the County is investigating options for wetland preservation, restoration, and creation. Since many wetlands are on private land, it can be challenging to implement regulations and protection policies. Fortunately, stormwater management and farm management practices lend themselves to opportunities to address the concerns of multiple stakeholders through wetland stewardship.

Restoration & Conservation

Forest & Tree Canopy Protection

Howard County is focused on using a variety of tools to protect and enhance the forest and tree canopy resources, as well as to further research our forest needs. For example, the County may look at different types of forests and tree canopy and evaluate how they might merit different levels of protection in preparation for climate change. Periodic updates of the Forest Conservation Act and Forest Conservation Manual, and funding for the upkeep of Forest Conservation Easements and other County owned, forested lands are all essential to successful forest protection in Howard County.

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In 2019 the University of Maryland Baltimore County created tree canopy maps for Howard County based on land cover data from The Chesapeake Conservancy. The main goal was to establish a tree canopy baseline. Click here to explore the interactive map!

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Healthy streams provide clean drinking water, habitat for a multitude of species, recreational opportunities, aesthetic value and other ecosystem services. Healthier streams come from watersheds with significant forest acreage and limited impervious surfaces. These streams are often recognizable by their low banks which allow water to enter the floodplain during storms, an important process for stream resiliency and sustainability. 

Restoration & Conservation

Stream Protection

Howard County aims to improve stream resiliency benefits to developed areas and ecosystems. The ability of stream systems to absorb and retain water volume and dissipate erosive energy is reliant on the health of the stream prior to a severe weather event. Streams that are connected to their floodplains and streams with forested banks and buffers are more resilient to extreme weather and provide greater resiliency benefits to surrounding developments.

Green Infrastructure Network (GIN)

Importance of Connectivity

Connectivity between ecosystems is critical for their health and function, especially in the wake of a natural disaster or with shifting climate patterns. After a major disturbance such as fire, flood, or an insect invasion, ecosystems which are connected to healthy ecosystems will recover more quickly than areas without those connections. 

Similarly, if shifting weather patterns degrade an ecosystem in one location, such as the long-term drying of a wetland, the Green Infrastructure Network (GIN) provides potential routes for species to emigrate to other locations. The plant and animal species in the GIN rely on its connectivity for their long-term vitality, and human populations rely on the ecosystem services provided by these species and their associated ecosystems.

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Howard County’s Green Infra­struc­ture Net­work maps the most eco­log­i­cally valu­able forests, wet­lands, mead­ows, water­ways, and other nat­ural areas as well as the lands that con­nect them together.

Click here to view the Green Infra­struc­ture Inter­ac­tive Map.

What You Can Do

Promote Overall Wildlife and Plant Benefits

Taking steps around your home or neighborhood can benefit the ecosystems around you. Learn about environmental planning and other county efforts to preserve and enhance our ecosystems.


Check if your property qualifies for a Howard County tree planting program under the Forestry section of the Natural Resources page.
Learn more about Howard County's Green Infrastructure Network, Forest Conservation, Green Neighborhoods, and Watershed Planning.