Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Harvard study shows sprawl threatens water quality, climate protection, and land conservation gains

11.12.2013
Important new findings reveal promise and peril of land-use decisions

A groundbreaking study by Harvard University's Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality, and limit the natural landscape's ability to protect against climate change.

The scientists researched and analyzed four plausible scenarios for what Massachusetts could look like in the future. The scenarios were developed by a group of forestry professionals, land-use planning and water policy experts, and conservation groups. The scenarios reflect contrasting patterns and intensities of land development, wood harvesting, conservation, and agriculture. The two-year study is unique in its forward-looking approach and its use of sophisticated computer models to conduct a detailed acre-by-acre analysis of the entire forested landscape of Massachusetts over 50 years.

"What we found is that land-use decisions have immediate and dramatic impacts on many of the forest benefits people depend on," said Jonathan Thompson, Senior Ecologist at Harvard Forest and lead author of the new study. This is the first time a study of this magnitude has been conducted for an entire state. Thompson goes on to say, "Massachusetts is an important place to study land-use because it is densely populated, heavily forested, and experiencing rapid change – much like the broader forested landscape of the eastern U.S. The results of the study show that sprawl, coupled with a permanent loss of forest cover in Massachusetts, create an urgent need to address land-use choices."

"We know from decades of research that forests are more than a collection of trees, they are 'living infrastructure' that works 24-hours a day to provide climate protection, clean water, local wood products, and natural areas for people and wildlife. The results of this new study show that seemingly imperceptible changes to the land add-up in ways that can significantly enhance or erode these vital benefits, depending on the choices we all make," said David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study.

The stakes are high but there is good news in the study. "The Forests as Infrastructure scenario shows it's possible to protect forest benefits while also increasing local wood production and supporting economic development, by making important but achievable changes," said Thompson. Forests as Infrastructure clusters more of the development, implements "improvement forestry" on much of the harvested land, and increases the rate of forest conservation with a focus on priority habitat. By 2060, compared to Recent Trends, this scenario would:

•Limit flooding risks in virtually all of the state's major watersheds

•Protect water quality by minimizing impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots

•Grow 20% more high-value trees like large oak, sugar maple, and white pine

•Double the amount of local wood harvested

•Maintain a 35% increase in the storage of carbon that would otherwise warm the earth

•Reduce forest fragmentation by 25%

•Protect a quarter-million more acres of high-priority wildlife habitat
Kathy Fallon Lambert, Director of Science and Policy at the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study, says the timing of the study is critical for the Commonwealth. "Not only are we experiencing this historic downturn in forest cover, but the legislature is contemplating changing our zoning laws for the first time in 40 years. In addition, the environmental bond bill will set conservation funding levels for the next five years." Lambert says the study's findings point to three broad policy directions: recommitting to land conservation, promoting sustainable forestry in the Commonwealth, and redoubling land-use planning and smart-growth efforts.

The team has received funding from the National Science Foundation to extend the study to include the five other New England states. By using science to understand and inform land-use decisions here in Massachusetts, the researchers are building on the Commonwealth's history as a leader in science and conservation to help shape the future of one of the most globally significant forested regions in the world.

Download the report and the executive summary with policy addendum; watch a short video on the report; and access maps, figures, and b-roll at: http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/changes-to-the-land.

For interviews with the authors or project collaborators, contact: Clarisse Hart, 978-756-6157; hart3@fas.harvard.edu or Barbara MacLeod – 207-752-0484; barbara@crosscurrentcommunications.com.

The Harvard Forest is a department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) of Harvard University. The research center is based in central Massachusetts and is comprised of 3,500 acres of land, research facilities, and the Fisher Museum. Since 1988, the Harvard Forest has been a Long-Term Ecological Research Site funded by the National Science Foundation to conduct integrated, long-term studies of forest dynamics.

Clarisse Hart | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fas.harvard.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>