Science Initiatives - Overview

Ecological science enhances our understanding of the natural world and can help inform and inspire landowners, policymakers, and other stakeholders to sustainably manage and permanently conserve the woods and waters of New England. 

Although conservation is often achieved at a local scale, ecological impacts can be regional, national, and even global in scope. Better understanding the dynamics of single woodlots, local watersheds, or the New England region as a whole — and factoring in the role of people in those ecosystems — helps to inform decisions that sustain rather than degrade the natural landscape.

W&W partner science initiatives include new, updated research results in the September 2017 vision report, and a series of multi-year initiatives described below.

Landscape Scenarios, Ecosystem Services, and Benefits to Society

The New England Landscape Futures Initiative, a multi-year project established by Jonathan Thompson and Kathy Fallon Lambert at the Harvard Forest, published its first landscape-change scenarios report in 2013, with a focus on Massachusetts. It evaluated how the extent and distribution of development and forest harvest could impact the Massachusetts landscape and the ecological and economic values it provides. The four scenarios examined how carbon sequestration, water flows, wood products, and wildlife habitat could change over the next fifty years in Massachusetts—depending on the decisions we make today.

A new report, due in summer 2019, will employ new stakeholder-driven scenarios to map land-use futures for all of New England.

A 2018 report called Voices from the Land explores the New England scenarios and the highlights of interviews and workshops with 169 New Englanders to answer the question: What does the future hold for the New England landscape?

Stewardship Science

The W&W Stewardship Science initiative, led by Ed Faison at Highstead, provides a clear methodology that allows groups and individuals throughout New England to monitor long-term plots on their conserved land.  This “citizen science” initiative is contributing to a growing database on New England forest dynamics. The project encourages landowners, organizations, and agencies to better understand and use ecological research results in forest management and policy decisions. 

Landscapes and Resilience

The Landscapes and Resilience initiative of the Science Policy Exchange is led by interdisciplinary teams of environmental scientists, policy experts, and land managers, all tackling pressing land-use and forest health issues that have important feedbacks to climate change mitigation and resilience. The work of the initiative includes the Wildlands and Woodlands iniatitive, New England Landscape Futures (see above), and the Forest Pests and Pathogens project.