Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool Wins National Award

UMass Amherst conservation researchers and colleagues show 'exemplary leadership'
Marbled salamander
Marbled salamander

AMHERST, Mass. – The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategyworking group announced May 8 that it has selected the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool to receive its 2017 Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources in the “broad partnership” category. It recognizes the partners for “demonstrating exemplary leadership in reducing climate-related threats and promoting adaptation of the nation’s natural resources.”

The honor is one of eight national awards announced yesterday at the National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul, Minn. In its citation, the working group noted that the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool “inspires action to protect natural resources and help them adapt in a changing climate.”

Though designed for Massachusetts, the tool launched in 2015 offers “broadly relevant information and could serve as a model” for many other states, the working group noted. It is intended to help decision-makers, conservation groups and managers find information on climate change impacts and the vulnerabilities of fish and wildlife species and their habitats.

The team that developed the online climate action tool included extension associate professor of environmental conservation Scott Jackson, Michelle Staudinger, adjunct professor of environmental conservation and science coordinator of the Northeast Climate Science Center, and project manager Melissa Ocana, all at UMass Amherst, and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife biologist John O’Leary.

Staudinger says, “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 their resilience to better cope with these changes. This tool is designed to inform and inspire local action to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources including species of greatest conservation need.”

Tool users can explore adaptation strategies and actions to maintain healthy, resilient natural communities in the face of climate change. The tool synthesizes the best available science, providing information on climate change impacts with projections for over 30 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, and on-the-ground actions including forestry practices, land protection and restoring wildlife movement corridors through landscape connectivity.

The tool highlights challenges for such iconic species as brook trout that are affected by warming stream temperatures and fragmented habitat, marbled salamanders affected by changing rainfall patterns, piping plover and other coastal shorebirds susceptible to sea-level rise and storm events and beech-birch-maple forests where warming temperatures affect sugar maples and other northern trees.

Melissa Ocana, project manager in the department of environmental conservation at UMass Amherst, says “We’ve built a dynamic platform where we can showcase the best available science and case studies of adaptation action from partners across Massachusetts. Now, partners and experts can help us continue to populate the tool with new information and success stories as they develop.”

The climate action tool was developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, UMass Amherst’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment and its Department of Interior Northeast Climate Science Center, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. In addition to the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategyworking group, the award is sponsored by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S.D.A. Forest Service and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.


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