By: Eric Walberg, Senior Program Leader, Climate Services Program
Maximizing the resilience and benefits provided by natural systems is a critical component of minimizing climate change related impacts such as global warming, biodiversity loss, water quality degradation, sea level rise, and related economic damage.
Manomet is currently working with an interdisciplinary team in the Taunton River watershed to provide land managers with insight on the value of strategic conservation planning. The project is dedicated to providing a framework that links a watershed-wide analysis of high value natural resource areas with tools and approaches to link local land use decisions to the regional framework.
Manomet is leading the analysis and mapping of green infrastructure resources in the watershed and modeling land use alternatives. The Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District is leading the development of the case studies, and Mass Audubon is leading the development of the educational curriculum. The training program is engaging local leaders on how to use the newly developed tools and information.
Location of Taunton Watershed
This multi-year effort will be coming to a close in September 2017. Much has been accomplished and additional follow-on work is planned. This is a good time take stock of where we are in this work and discuss plans for the future.
Green Infrastructure Analysis Complete
The regional green infrastructure analysis is complete and a data package that includes both the GIS shapefiles and high resolution image files soon will be available for download by the localities in the watershed, regional planning agencies, and other land use and conservation decision makers. The package provides a regional template for strategic conservation planning that can be used to link local planning decisions to regional green infrastructure networks. The green infrastructure network identified by Manomet includes lands that are important due to high biodiversity, occurrence of rare species, protection of water quality, limiting damage from freshwater and storm surge flooding, and resilience to climate change. Riparian corridors are a key component of the network due to the important functions they perform in biodiversity support, water quality protection, and flood control.
Local Workshop Series Complete
A series of five workshops to engage local land managers on green infrastructure planning is complete. The workshops were held at multiple locations in the watershed to engage as many of the localities as possible. Participants learned about projected climate change impacts in the watershed and the regional green infrastructure network. They also engaged in exercises addressing local flooding and water supply and water quality problems from both regional and local perspectives.
Modeling of Differing Conservation Futures Underway
Manomet is continuing to work with EPA to quantify climate and land use impacts on water quality and water balance in a sub-area of the Taunton watershed using the WMOST model. This effort will provide insight on the cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with differing future land use and best management practice alternatives.
The Resilient Taunton Watershed Network (RTWN) will utilize the analyses and curriculum developed in this project to continue engagement with localities in the watershed. A training module based on the Taunton curriculum is being developed for the Massachusetts Citizen Planner Training Collaborative, a mechanism for transferring the approach to strategic conservation planning developed in the Taunton watershed to other watersheds. The WMOST modeling effort will continue. Once the model calibration is complete we will have a powerful tool for examining land use and best management practice alternatives in light of projected climate change.
For more information on the Taunton watershed project and other nature-based infrastructure projects, please contact Eric Walberg at email@example.com.