The federal government has increased its support for the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC), hosted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, by approximately $1 million over the next year. This additional funding, which supplements the five-year, $4.5 million grant renewal awarded to the center last fall, will advance its mission of developing the knowledge and tools necessary to help fish, wildlife, and ecosystems adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The expanded funding is part of a new federal investment in the eight-member Climate Adaptation Science Center (CASC) network, which was established in 2010 through a competitive award selection process conducted by the U.S. Department of Interior. During the recent federal budget appropriations process, Congress boosted support for the network by $13 million.
All of the climate adaptation science centers feature unique collaborations between scientists and natural resource managers, partnerships that fuel the “co-production” of actionable climate science. Resource managers use this co-produced knowledge to guide their long- and short-term stewardship strategies, which have far-reaching ecological, economic, and cultural implications.
Approximately $4 million of the new investment will be used to establish a ninth regional CASC in the Midwest while the remainder will underwrite new research projects in existing centers. Aside from the Northeast, the Department of Interior has established centers in the Southeast, North Central, South Central, Northwest and Southwest regions of the contiguous United States. Regional centers also operate in Alaska and the Pacific Islands.
“I am greatly encouraged by the recent Congressional decision to expand funding for the CASC network generally and NE CASC specifically,” said Richard Palmer, director of the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “This new investment signals that governmental leaders across the political spectrum recognize both the importance of the CASC mission and the effectiveness of the network in meeting the needs of the natural resource management community. As a result, NE CASC is now better positioned than ever to deliver the best available climate science to these stakeholders, who will make the best possible use of it. We are also happy that this new funding will draw greater attention to the positive societal impact UMass Amherst and its partner institutions are having in a critically important area, the development of large-scale responses to the sweeping challenges posed by the impacts of climate change.”
Palmer notes that the infusion of new funding into NE CASC will allow the center to broaden the scope of its work, elevating its position as a prominent locus for climate science research. In addition to scientists at UMass Amherst, NE CASC’s 50+ ongoing projects are led by researchers affiliated with the U.S Geological Survey and the center’s academic consortium, which includes the College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Cornell University, Michigan State University, Woods Hole Research Center, and the universities of Missouri, Vermont, and Wisconsin-Madison. Since NE CASC’s inception nine years ago, this team has contributed to more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, delivered hundreds of presentations at professional meetings, and developed over 25 interactive tools used by dozens of wildlife ecologists, state agencies, Tribes, town planning boards, and local conservation groups.
To date, some of its signature accomplishments include:
- Through a partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, NE CASC has provided a standard, peer-reviewed set of projections illustrating how the climate is likely to change in Massachusetts through the end of this century. This data will help municipalities, industry, non-governmental organizations, state agencies and others plan for the gradual rise in sea level as well as anticipated long-term changes in temperature, precipitation, and the magnitude and intensity of floods and drought.
- The center has also supported the development of a model to assess ecosystems and their capacity to sustain wildlife populations in the Northeast facing urban growth, climate change, sea-level rise and other stresses. This work led to the development of “Connect the Connecticut,” an online tool that helps identify priority areas for strategic habitat conservation in the Connecticut River watershed.
- As part of the Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change (RISCC) Management Network developed by the NE CASC, researchers assist resource managers in monitoring the climate change-induced spread of range-shifting invasive species that pose the most significant threat to native species in the Northeast.
- NE CASC is working to improve the conservation options for cold-water fish amidst rising stream temperatures and increased drought. Toward this end, the center has helped conservation groups decide how to best protect streams, maintain water flow, and keep fish cool.
- NE CASC researchers also examined ecological impacts of the invasive emerald ash borer beetle on New England’s native black ash forests, a culturally important species for many regional Tribes. By conducting large-scale experiments, researchers have documented impacts of black ash mortality on ecosystem processes and wildlife communities in addition to evaluating adaptation strategies under future climate scenarios.