Massachusetts: Studying climate change on state forest land

Ecosystems are infinitely complex and climate change models only hint
at the exquisite nature of a place. So here in Massachusetts a unique
team has come together. It’s a collaborative effort, bringing together
state officials, applied scientists, field researchers and
non-governmental organizations leveraging their expertise and
experience to find habits affected by climate change and help them
adapt. Massachusetts began buying up land around Mt. Watatic back in
the 1920’s.

Today it owns about 4,000 acres. Two stands of hardwood
forests converge here among the spruce fir are beech, oak, hickory,
even some black cherry. Scanlon stops next to a hemlock, takes a core
sampling device from his pocket and uses it to get an inside look at
the tree’s health. This tree seems fine. But biologist Hector
Galbraith Director of the Climate Change Initiative at Manomet Center
for Conservation Sciences says look around, and you will find evidence
of warming here.

There are indicators which I think are showing fairly
conclusively that we’re already seeing the sorts of ecological changes
we would anticipate under climate change – changes in times of
breeding and hibernation and migration schedules of organisms, I’m
pretty confident that we’re looking at a climate change signal
already. Joining state forester John Scanlon and biologist Hector
Galbraith and me on our hike up Mt. Watatic is Mary Griffin,
Massachusetts Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife. She says the
department’s computer models anticipate subtle but significant
changes. The state of Massachusetts has done a terrific job in
preserving some of these systems. The question is how do we continue
doing that terrific job in the future under climate change. This is
the adaptation question.

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