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Exploring Data, Information Needs and Existing Tools to Protect Forests and Forest Resources in a Variable Climate

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Department of Environmental Conservation
Project Description: 

To increase resistance and resiliency to climate change, forest management practices will need to change to ensure species and structural diversity, and adjust to emerging threats, such as invasive species, pests and diseases.  As a result of this need, there has been a flurry of development of science-based products and tools to incorporate the additional complexity of climate change and inform decisions about forest management and conservation. A number of print resources have been developed for forest decision makers to help provide this much-needed information on vulnerabilities as well as adaptation strategies and actions. Over the past several years, there has also been a proliferation of GIS data and online
tools that are available to inform conservation decision-making. These range from geospatial databases to decision-support tools. Examples include Biomap2, CAPS, Critical Linkages, Nature's Network, TNC's Resilient and Connected Landscapes, MA Climate Action Tool, and Mass Audubon's MAPPR Tool (see full list below). The amount and complexity of data and tools can be overwhelming, but they also offer a wealth of information to help achieve conservation goals.
To date, we have found little research on if and how forest decision makers (landowners, foresters, municipal decision-makers, and conservation organizations) use these products and tools. In this project, we propose to fill in the gaps in our understanding of if and how science- based conservation tools and products are used. Using a combination of literature review, semistructured interviews, and surveys, this project will collect information on the needs of forest decision makers as they relate to protection of forests and forest resources in a variable climate. We will provide a snapshot of the current tool landscape and tool use as well as investigate how to advance their adoption through strategic intervention. Greater use and adoption of the existing tools and products should result in more strategic and informed on-the-ground action to protect and manage forests and forest resources. This research will also provide much needed feedback to designers of these products to better improve the quality and impact of their products and better reflect the needs of their stakeholders.

Environmental Conservation topics: 
Forest and Forest Conservation