A coalition of research institutions, including the the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the state’s fish and wildlife agency, and the Northeast Climate Science Center this week unveiled a new online tool
for use by local decision-makers, conservation managers, land trusts, regional planners, landowners and community leaders in Massachusetts who are interested in taking action in response to climate change.
With the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool, users can access information on climate change impacts and the vulnerabilities of various fish and wildlife species and their habitats. Entries include brook trout, which are impacted by warming stream temperatures and fragmented habitat; marbled salamander, which are impacted by changing rainfall patterns; moose, which are at the southern end of their range; blackpoll warbler, which are vulnerable to changing forest habitat conditions; and beech-birch-maple forests, where warming temperatures impact sugar maples and other northern trees. The tool, which can expand as new information becomes available and partners join, also allows users to explore adaptation strategies and actions to help maintain healthy, resilient natural communities in the face of climate change.
The online tool was developed by the Massachusetts Climate Adaptation Partnership, made up of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW), Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment at UMass Amherst, the Northeast Climate Science Center and the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
John O’Leary, Assistant Director of Wildlife with MDFW, says, “While there is an overwhelming amount of information on climate change, it is often not easily accessible to the public and it can be challenging to incorporate scientific information into day-to-day management and planning.”
“The climate action tool focuses on what people can do now to reduce climate change impacts on natural resources such as fish, wildlife, and their habitats, in the coming decades. Users can access information and data from the scientific literature that have been synthesized by scientists for the tool,” he adds.
The tool synthesizes the best available science, providing information on:
- climate change impacts, with projections for over 30 climate variables;
- vulnerability assessments for fish and wildlife species and habitats;
- information about non-climate stressors such as development and loss of landscape connectivity that must be accounted for;
- on-the-ground actions including forestry practices, land protection and restoring landscape connectivity.
Michelle Staudinger, an ecologist with the USGS and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst, says the climate is changing rapidly in Massachusetts in ways that have already had an effect on human and natural communities across the state.
“But there are actions we can take now to adapt to climate change and protect fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as help human communities increase resiliency to better cope with these changes,” she points out. “This tool is designed to inform and inspire local action to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources, including species of greatest conservation need, and help them adapt to a changing climate.”
Scott Jackson, UMass Amherst extension associate professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation, says, “This tool makes science available to inform on-the-ground action, the information provided is research-based and vetted by scientists. It provides adaptation information that can be integrated into a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for an organization or community, including local actions related to land protection, forestry practices, and connectivity across roads and highways. It provides links to relevant resources and experts who can offer additional information and assistance in implementing actions, such as replacing a culvert or conserving land.”
Robert A. Jonas, chair of the board of trustees of Kestrel Land Trust
, adds, “We need up-to-date information and guidance about how we can help our 19 communities adapt to climate change, so we are thrilled to discover the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool. In one online package, we can research climate change impacts on fish and wildlife species, forests and forestry practices, landscape connectivity, land protection and conservation planning.”
The tool’s developers say that although it was designed for Massachusetts, it offers broadly relevant information and can serve as a model for the Northeast. Future updates could include more on transportation, coastal areas and municipal planning.
A Northeast Climate Science Center webinar, "Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool"
was presented on December 2, 2016 by Scott Jackson, UMass Amherst; John O'Leary, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife; and Michelle Staudinger, NE CSC