The Department of Fish and Game is developing and implementing adaptation strategies to help protect, restore
and manage fish and wildlife, with the understanding that some level of climate change will occur and that it will have profound effects on Massachusetts habitats. According to the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment report even with
our best efforts going forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature is predicted to warm approximately 2.5° F to 4° F in winter and 1.5° F to 3.5° F in summer
over the next several decades based on emissions that already occurred.
It is likely that a changing climate will exacerbate the current rate of habitat loss in the Commonwealth. In addition, it is
expected that climate change will also lead to:
Changes in composition and structure of ecosystems
Loss, simplification and fragmentation of habitat
Increased prevalence of weed and pest species
Degradation of water quality and alteration of hydrology
The uncertainty surrounding the extent and potential impacts of climate change requires a flexible management approach
that can be continually revised and adapted. The Department’s adaptive management strategies are iterative processes where
monitoring and assessment continually refine our policies and management decisions. By closely linking research and management
we are better able to anticipate and respond to the effects of climate change.
Some of DFG's adaptive strategies include:
Preserving and expanding habitat connectivity
Improving modeling, mapping, and data collection
Promoting sustainable water and stormwater management
Secretary Ian Bowles of Energy and Environmental Affairs is leading many clean energy initiatives,
and the Department of Fish and Game is a participant in the development of the Climate Roadmap.
DFG Climate Change Initiatives
Adaptation Strategy: Improving modeling, mapping, and data collection
Manomet Project, Integrating Climate Change into the Massachusetts Wildlife Action Plan
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences has received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop tools that will
incorporate potential impacts from climate change into the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The
State Wildlife Action Plan identifies habitats and species with the greatest need for conservation. The Manomet project, led by Dr. Hector Galbraith, Director of the
Climate Change Initiative at Manomet, will take the habitats and species identified in the SWAP and create a comprehensive set of ecological variables that describe
vulnerabilities to climate change. This project will strengthen the Statewide Wildlife Action Plan by:
Identifying vulnerabilities of Massachusetts wildlife and wildlife habitat to climate change.
Creating an addendum to the SWAP that updates its conservation strategies in the face of likely climate change scenarios.
Developing a methodology for rapid assessment of climate change vulnerabilities of wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Establishing a process and methodology that can be easily transferable to other states in New England and beyond.
More information about this project can be found in an article written by John O'Leary in the 2008 MassWildlife Magazine Issue 4.
Monitoring Changes in the Marine Environment
The Division of Marine Fisheries has a number of programs in place that are designed to monitor changes in the marine
environment in response to climate change. The Division maintains an array of bottom water temperature monitors throughout the state waters of
Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards Bay and Nantucket Sound. These are deployed at a variety of depths and the recorded time series goes
back as far as 25 years, providing a historical perspective for comparison. The Resource Assessment Bottom Trawl Program provides a semi-yearly
survey of the abundance and distribution of fishes and invertebrates in all the marine waters of the Commonwealth. Through sampling of over 200
sites per year, the Program tracks the changes in the distribution of marine animals in response to climate change, providing information for
management decisions based on these distributional changes. The Shellfish Program provides comprehensive monitoring of red tide outbreaks which
may change in frequency or distribution in response to climate change.
Adaptation Strategy: Preserving and Expanding Habitat Connectivity
River Restoration & Target Fish
Cold water species are under threat with shifts in water and air temperature. Eastern brook trout (like the one shown)
need cold water throughout the year to survive. Removing dams and protecting habitat corridors are adaptation strategies that are being used today
by DFG to expand habitat connectivity and allow species to seek refuge from temperature change. Riverways Program and partners have over 2 dozen
dam removal projects currently underway. Not only will these
projects improve continuity for species, help stabilize water temperatures and improve migration opportunities, they are also important for enhancing
river ecosystem functions and values. The Town Brook Restoration Project was recently featured on WBZ news as an example of a Climate-Smart habitat restoration project.
The target fish community approach is a method that the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife standardized statewide for setting realistic expectations for restoration of our
river systems. The method uses the fish community characteristics of relatively unimpacted rivers of similar nature (gradient, Ecoregion, watershed
size) to gain an understanding of the current status of our rivers. The target fish community approach allows us to monitor the condition of these
rivers in a standardized way over time and evaluate anthropogenic impacts of multiple scales, from development to climate change.
Land Protection Program
The Department’s land protection program is helping mitigate potential climate change impacts by reducing habitat
fragmentation and expanding habitat connectivity through the proactive, permanent protection of the Commonwealth’s highest priority fish and wildlife habitats.
Adequate habitat is an important mitigating factor since it increases species' resiliency to environmental stressors that may be associated with climate change.
The Department uses data collected by it's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program to identify land suitable for protection. Each land acquisition
project is evaluated and prioritized based upon its immediate value in protecting species and habitat as well as its ability to provide linkages between conservation
lands to create larger holdings, decrease fragmentation, and create corridors for wildlife.
In December 2007, DFG purchased two hundred forty acres of wildlife habitat that had been slated for an 83-lot subdivision. This $2.5 million acquisition
added to the Commonwealth’s Mine Brook Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and helped create an 8,000-acre ecological landscape that protects and promotes
biodiversity in two states. The newly expanded 1,000-acre Mine Brook WMA now connects to the 5,000-acre Douglas State Forest, which in turn links with Rhode
Island’s 2,000-acre Buck Hill Management Area -creating an 8,000-acre block of contiguous conservation land straddling the borders of Massachusetts and Rhode
Adaptation Strategy: Promoting Sustainable Water and Stormwater Management
River Instream Flow Stewards (RIFLS)
The Riverways RIFLS volunteer stream flow monitoring program helps local communities and river enthusiasts identify and restore
rivers suffering from extreme alteration of flow regimes due to the combined effects of more frequent droughts due to climate change and increased
water needs and decreased groundwater recharge due to development pressures.
RIFLS demonstration projects showcase holistic water resource planning and management techniques focused on maintaining adequate groundwater levels to
sustain summer and fall baseflow periods even during more frequent droughts, such as: the town of Lancaster's integrated stormwater and wastewater
Environmental Overlay Districts, the Ipswich River Watershed Association's low impact development retrofits, and Georgetown's ecological
safe yield analysis of the Parker River
Climate Change Conference (11/15/2008)
"Responding to Climate Change: Working Together to Conserve Wildlife, Plants and Habitat in Massachusetts and Beyond." This conference brought together nearly 200 conservation leaders to discuss adaptation strategies and to build a network to coordinate future efforts. The conference was held Saturday, November 15th at Bentley College in Waltham and was co-sponsored by DFG, DFW, Manomet Center for Conservation Science, New England Wild Flower Society, Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, The Nature Conservancy, MassAudubon, Environmental League of Massachusetts and the National Wildlife Federation. DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin presented along with staff from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The conference agenda is available from the Mass Audubon website.
USFWS Climate Change Workshop (11/14/2008)
This workshop, held at the regional headquarters for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service included presentations that described how the Department of Fish and Game and the USFWS are adapting their conservation and management strategies to respond to climate change. An archived Web Cast of presentations by Rick Bennet of the USFWS, John O'Leary of DFW, and Hector Gailbraith of the Manomet Center for Conservation Science can be accessed with the following login and password.
login: NEClimateChange (no spaces, caps on N,E, C & C)
password: november (no spaces, all lowercase)
Region Five U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Climate Change Workshop (6/3- 6/5/2008)
"Climate Change in the Northeast: Preparing for the Future" workshop was held in Amherst, June 3 to 5, 2008. The goal of the workshop was to
develop a common understanding of natural and cultural resource issues and to explore management approaches related to climate change in the Northeast. Presentations from the workshop are available by filing out a request form. You may request individual presentations or all of the presentations from the workshop on a CD.