By Eric Walberg, Senior Program Leader Climate Services
In 2015, climate change was all over the news: the hottest year on record, the major storms that impacted our coasts, and the devastating forest fires that scorched the West. Luckily, the story ended on a very high note in December when nearly all of the world’s nations signed the Paris Climate Accord. The Climate Services Program at Manomet has anticipated the increasing significance of a warming climate. We are in a leadership position on the use of a natural systems-based approach to reducing atmospheric CO2 levels and increasing resiliency to climate change. As the world moves forward to implement the agreements made in Paris, the Climate Services program is expanding the number of sectors where we are working and the range of support services that we are providing.
Our Vision for 2016 and Beyond
In 2016, the Climate Services Program will continue to focus on global forest resiliency through expansion of the Climate Smart Land Network (CSLN). We are also working regionally to improve forest resiliency through a series of projects in New England. In addition, we are expanding our range of work to include a green infrastructure-based approach to watershed management and coastal zone resiliency through an EPA-funded effort in the Taunton River Watershed.
The CSLN is a membership organization for forestry companies that are working together to improve forest management in response to climate change. We have enrolled 15.2 million acres of forestland across North America and we recently added two new companies to the Network: LandVest Timberland Division and Acadian Timber Corp. In 2016, we plan to expand our Network, develop a handbook on climate change and forest management for members, and will hold our first member gathering in October.
The regional forestry projects include a continuation of our highly successful series of workshops for forest managers and owners in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. In addition, we will be developing a series of training videos to extend our reach beyond the audience that participates in the workshops.
Finally, we will be working with a consortium of federal, state, regional, and local governmental agencies and several nonprofit organizations to improve understanding and utilization of green infrastructure approaches to climate change resiliency in the Taunton (Massachusetts) River Watershed. The project will include three components: development of a set of regional green infrastructure maps for the Watershed, a set of case studies, and development of a training program for local government staff, board members, and elected officials.
Why This Matters
The Climate Services approach is based on the multiple benefits that healthy, intact natural systems provide. Protecting, enhancing, and expanding natural areas increases sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, helping to reduce the rate and extent of global warming. Intact ecosystems improve resiliency to climate change by limiting flood damage and protecting water quality against the backdrop of rising sea levels and increasing heavy precipitation events. These same natural areas also help to protect biodiversity by providing opportunities for plant and animal ranges to shift in response to warming temperatures. Finally, this green infrastructure approach to addressing climate change minimizes tax burdens when compared to sole reliance on gray infrastructure solutions.