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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

New Publication: Mapping Climate Change Vulnerability of Aquatic-Riparian Ecosystems Using Decision-Relevant Indicators

Sunday, March 28, 2021
The eight-state area investigated by Delaney and Bouska along with the area's corresponding Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC)-8 watersheds.

A team led by John Delaney and Kristen Bouska recently completed a study, "Mapping climate change vulnerability of aquatic-riparian ecosystems using decision-relevant indicators,"  which has been published in the journal Ecological Indicators. This work is part of the ongoing NE CASC project "Vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning for projected changes in water quality and quantity for protected areas in the Upper Mississippi watershed."

For their study, Delaney and Bouska worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managers to create a watershed-based climate change vulnerability assessment map for the Midwest. The vulnerability map was focused on aquatic-riparian ecosystems and combines fifteen different climate change indicators based on changes in temperature, precipitation, and hydrology. The percent change in each of these indicators from the baseline period (1986-2005) to the future period (2040-2059) was consolidated into a composite potential impact score for each watershed for two greenhouse gas concentration scenarios.  Landscape scale metrics related to each watershed’s adaptive capacity were combined with the impact composite to produce a vulnerability score for each watershed. The maps revealed regional differences in climate change vulnerability with greater vulnerability under the higher greenhouse gas concentration scenario. By quantifying and mapping hot-spots of climate change vulnerability, resource managers can identify areas that may be more, or less, impacted by climate change to prioritize adaptation strategies and restoration efforts. An online interactive version of the vulnerability assessment has been piloted in adaptation efforts and will be available soon.

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