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Current and future hydrologic variability is a major driver underlying large-scale management and modification of inland waters and river systems. In a climate-altered future, identifying and implementing management actions that mitigate anticipated flow regime extremes will be an important component of climate adaptation strategies. These concerns will be particularly focused on extreme flows (floods and droughts) that have ecological, social, and economic importance, and whose impacts are inversely proportion to their frequency. Climate warming is expected to increase the frequency of extreme precipitation. It is critical for natural resources conservation that responses to these risks incorporate ‘green’ infrastructure which potentially benefit both ecosystems and human infrastructure

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Invasive species and climate change represent two of the five major global change threats to ecosystems.  An emerging initiative of the Northeast Climate Science Center aims to develop management-relevant research to improve invasive species management in the face of climate change.  Through working groups, information sharing and targeted research, this project addresses the information needs of invasive species managers in the context of climate change

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Climate change is shifting the hydrodynamics and temperature of both the Great Lakes and their tributary rivers.  Both hydrology and temperature may play potent roles in mediating the magnitude of watershed nutrient load and their fate upon reaching the lake.  Tributary hydrology reflects the source of water (groundwater vs. surface runoff) and seasonal timing of discharge, while tributary temperature determines the density difference between river and lake water.  Similarly, mixing patterns in these massive lakes strongly influence whether tributary loads remain near the shore or become diluted in the open water, while the thermal profile determines whether inflowing river water is trapped at the surface, sinks to the bottom, or stays at an intermediate depth.  These physical interactions are critical for understanding the ecological impact of tributary loads, and how it is mediated by climate change

Project

The goal of this project is to identify statistical trends in observed and simulated maximum, minimum and base (mostly groundwater contribution during low flow months) flows in the Northeast Climate Science Center domain during the 20th and 21st century, assess the temporal (annual and seasonal) and spatial distribution of the trends, and evaluate the impact of warmer climates on the statistical properties of streamflows (mean and variance). A secondary goal is to determine what GCMs best represent the observed climatology of the region using statistical metrics. Base and minimum flows are vital for fish ecosystem functioning and for riparian vegetation. Climate projections indicate summers will get warmer and drier in the NE CSC domain which will affect aquatic ecosystems. Larger streamflows peaks will affect existing infrastructure, e.g. bridges, dams, cities)

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Fish and Wildlife agencies across the United States are currently revising their State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs). These documents are important planning documents over 10 year timescales.  SWAP Coordinators have been challenged to incorporate climate change impacts and species responses as part of their strategic approaches to managing vulnerable fish and wildlife resources. The Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center is assisting Northeast and Midwestern States meet this charge by developing a regional synthesis document that provides: 1) Regional and state-specific climate change projections for approximately twenty climate variables (e.g., air temperature, precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture, sea level rise). 2) A regional overview of existing climate change vulnerability assessments and our current knowledge of regional species and habitats at greatest risk to climate impacts

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Consistent and accurate landscape datasets are important foundational products for ecological analyses and for understanding and anticipating the effects of climate change on forested, agricultural, and freshwater systems across the U.S. and Canada. The objective of this project was to extend an existing terrestrial habitat map of the north Atlantic U.S. to Atlantic Canada and southern Quebec, using and modeling field-collected data combined with national and provincial datasets. This GIS map 1) provides a foundation upon which further research, such as species vulnerability analyses, can advance, 2) allows each relevant state and province to identify terrestrial habitats consistently across borders, 3) allows for analysis of regional connectivity, and 4) facilitates an understanding of terrestrial animal and plant populations in relation to climate change. The map can be viewed here:  http://maps.tnc

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Project

This research identified opportunities to manage flows, connections, and landscapes to increase the resilience of human communities and ecosystems. This research identified dynamic and adaptive solutions to managing river flows that allow continued provision of valuable infrastructure services such as flood control, hydropower, and water supply, while also supporting thriving river ecosystems - both today and into the future. The research is directly responsive to the NECSC’s FY15 Science Theme 3: Climate impacts on freshwater resources and ecosystems, Priority 1: Effects of Climate Change on Hydrologic Regimes, Ecological Flows, and Aquatic Connectivity

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Small dams and impoundments are ubiquitous in stream networks in the northeastern and north central US.  Concerns about their effects on stream fish population connectivity and their risks to human infrastructure and safety have prompted efforts to remove many of these dams.  Dams also have  potentially significant impacts on stream thermal regimes, and as a consequence their removal may either ameliorate or exacerbate effects of increasing air temperatures.  Also, given their ubiquity, temperature modeling and monitoring efforts need to account for the effects of small impoundments for assessment and prediction. From the results of the first two seasons of field work, it appears that the direct effects of impoundments may persist considerable distances downstream and that these effects are flow-dependent

Project

For the past four years, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have funded a study at UMass to evaluate the impacts of climate change on the biological resources in river and to investigate how the negative impacts of reservoir regulation could be ameliorated in the face of climate change.  It is fortuitous that this study provides an excellent basis for future “watershed” type studies that may be performed by the NE CASC. The study has resulted in a full calibrated hydrology model of the Connecticut River Basin, a set of 112 different future hydrology scenarios associated with climate change, and a simulation and optimization model of the major reservoirs in the basin

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There are a number of fundamental questions that remain unanswered in the Northeast concerning the likely changes to climate and their impacts on hydrology

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