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Environmental Conservation

Providing steady supplies of water, safe drinking water, and sustaining diverse, healthy aquatic ecosystems are objectives of watershed managers. Disruptions in water supplies and quality can have serious economic and ecological impacts. Addressing water security is becoming an important aspect of watershed management that can increase the sustainability and resiliency of watershed systems. Therefore the question arises: How can water managers plan for and maintain secure water supplies under uncertain conditions?

The value of trees planted in residential settings has been well documented (Shroeder et al. 2006; McPherson et al. 2007), but value is only realized if trees grow to maturity. The same settings where trees provide benefits, however, present challenging and even severe growing conditions that may thwart survival and growth (Jutras et al. 2010). Empirical data to describe the survival and growth of such trees are limited, and most of the work has considered trees growing in field plots rather than actual residential settings (Watson et al. 1986; Morgenroth 2011).

It has been hypothesized that climate change will cause plant species ranges to shift northward with plants at the south end of ranges declining in vigor and growth rate. The purpose of this research is to test this hypothesis for red spruce and balsam fir along the southern end of the continuous distribution of these species, in Massachusetts. By measuring the growth patterns of these trees, we can determine if the southern end of the range has been declining, relative to more northern stands of these species.

This project will link fluvial geomorphology to New England-specific climate, landscape, ecology, population, and infrastructure to develop best management practices for flood prevention. Also, it will uncover challenges and constraints caused by distinct jurisdictional and institutional fragmentation, highlighting successful strategies for overcoming these. The extension aspect will take this much-needed scientific and institutional knowledge and disseminate it among towns, government officials, landowners, businesses, environmental organizations, road crews, and others.

One of the key missions of the UMass Extension Turf Program is to promote natural resource protection through responsible turf management. The following featured videos profile current UMass research for which the primary focus is the conservation and protection of one of our most precious natural resources: water.

Video 1 of 3

Presenter - Dr. Michelle DaCosta, Turf Physiologist

Total wetland area in the U.S. has been in precipitous decline since the 1900's, and although recent decades have slowed the decline and advocated strongly for the services and economic benefits (not to mention ecological benefits!) these lands provide, still much more work needs to be done to preserve existing wetlands and promote restoration of impaired ones.

With the rapid development and wide application of nanotechnology, the introduction of manufactured nanomaterials into both solid and liquid wastes (and to the environment) is inevitable through production, use, and disposal. It has been reported in 2008 that nano-TiO2 is leached out of house facades into receiving surface waters. Currently, there are over 800 products on the market containing nanomaterials such as lotions, sunscreens, paints, and socks. This research will determine the environmental behavior and process of several types of manufactured nanomaterials.

Urbanizing watersheds in the northeastern United States face rapid changes in forest cover, urbanization, and conflicts in water use (USGS, 2002) that require careful evaluation of trends in components of the watershed system. This research will evaluate land use/land cover changes, assess their impacts on surface and groundwater supplies, and evaluate forest management strategies in a rapidly urbanizing watershed in southeastern Massachusetts.

Increased use of biomass fuels is a promising option for renewable fuels that could decrease our dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, we currently do not have clear knowledge about the plant traits that should be considered bioenergy traits and should be subjected to breeding and selection. We propose to use a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with two promising plant biomass transformation techniques (biological and thermochemical conversion) to examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency.

The red-backed salamander P. cinereus is an important component of forest ecosystems and, because they are widely distributed, occur at high densities, and are sensitive to environmental change and habitat disturbance/alteration, they are an ideal indicator species for assessing forest ecosystem health. However, the behavioral ecology of P.

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