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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Science to Assess Future Conservation Practices for the Mississippi River Basin


USFWS Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) throughout the Mississippi River Basin (MRB) have identified high nutrient runoff, a major contributor to Gulf hypoxia, and declines in wildlife populations (especially grassland and riparian birds), as conservation challenges requiring collaborative action. This project aimed to develop a spatial decision support system (DSS) to address these issues.

The DSS was designed to identify MRB watersheds where application of conservation practices can (1) reduce nutrient export to the Gulf hypoxia zone and (2) enhance conservation for grassland and riparian birds, based on (3) identifying landowners willing and capable of implementing these practices. The DSS is expected to identify appropriate conservation practices to be implemented, and quantify resulting benefits for both nutrient export and bird habitat. The DSS is also expected to enable analyses of whether landowner willingness to implement desired practices is affected by perceptions of climate extremes.

This project was supported by and included contributions from LCCs and agencies throughout the MRB, including federal and state resource management agencies and universities. The project, a pilot for a larger future effort, sought to move current conservation approaches to a more strategic level, by identifying where to locate projects in critical watersheds for the greatest overall conservation benefit.