New Wildlife and Climate Studies to Launch at Northeast Climate Science Center, UMass Amherst

Helping Ecosystems, Plants, Animals and Fish Cope with Climate Change

AMHERST, Mass. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the Northeast Climate Science Center (NECSC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will award over $800,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change in the region.

In the Northeast region, three of a total six studies will directly involve UMass Amherst scientists who will receive approximately $200,000 over the next two years for collaborative work with others. In a joint project with the Southeast CSC, for example, UMass Amherst researchers will address a complex, local-scale conservation problem: Helping resource managers address the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal flooding on migratory water birds and their habitats.

Another UMass team will look at headwater stream management across several agencies to protect salamanders and brook trout, among other species, while another group will create a web-based portal, “NorEaST,” offering short- and long-term stream temperature data to help managers understand baseline conditions, historic trends and future projections.

Mary Ratnaswamy of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and federal director of the NECSC in Amherst, says, “In the Northeast United States, it is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems and species for the future. These and other ongoing studies are aimed directly at the people who need them: Managers and policy makers already grappling with the effects of climate change. Indeed, they are our partners in identifying priority resources, sharing available data, setting goals and working together to solve the challenges of adapting to climate change.”

UMass Amherst engineering professor Richard Palmer, university director of the NECSC and co-investigator of the NorEaST research team, says the group is “pleased to receive continued funding from NECSC, which will enable us to launch our new web tool to make large scale, multi-agency stream temperature data available to managers and decision-makers across the region. We are so pleased to be working with USGS personnel, researchers at multiple universities, and many stakeholders in making this tool a success, and proud to be part of the NECSC community of scientists and stakeholders, an important resource for identifying and addressing climate adaptation needs in the Northeast.”

The headwater stream study recognizes that these ecosystems are especially vulnerable to changing climate and land use, but conserving them is challenging because it takes multiple management agencies and landowners to address threats. Providing an example of cooperative landscape-level decision-making, researchers will develop decision-support tools including predictive models of headwater stream habitat and species response to help design long-term management strategies in the face of climate change.

The NorEaST stream temperature web portal project starts by acknowledging that climate change is expected to alter stream temperature and flow over the coming decades, in turn influencing aquatic species in those ecosystems in New England, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states included in the NECSC region. Pooled short- and long-term stream temperature data, not available to most managers at present, should have great value to them in planning ahead. Stream data from nearly 7,900 monitoring locations across 22 states will be available.

At UMass Amherst, Addie Rose Holland, NECSC communications and outreach manager, points out that in addition to the annual competitive research funds, $900,000 in base funding comes annually to UMass researchers for NECSC-related studies.

Interior Secretary Jewell says, “Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country. These new studies and others that are ongoing will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change.”

The NECSC is hosted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and works with a consortium that includes the College of Menominee Nation (Wisconsin), Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It conducts climate science for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.

In addition to scientists from UMass Amherst and the partner institutions above, NECSC investigators are at the USGS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service, Indian tribes, state fish and wildlife agencies and more.