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Harvard study shows sprawl threatens water quality, climate protection, and land conservation gains
Date:12/10/2013

A groundbreaking study by Harvard University's Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality, and limit the natural landscape's ability to protect against climate change.

The scientists researched and analyzed four plausible scenarios for what Massachusetts could look like in the future. The scenarios were developed by a group of forestry professionals, land-use planning and water policy experts, and conservation groups. The scenarios reflect contrasting patterns and intensities of land development, wood harvesting, conservation, and agriculture. The two-year study is unique in its forward-looking approach and its use of sophisticated computer models to conduct a detailed acre-by-acre analysis of the entire forested landscape of Massachusetts over 50 years.

"What we found is that land-use decisions have immediate and dramatic impacts on many of the forest benefits people depend on," said Jonathan Thompson, Senior Ecologist at Harvard Forest and lead author of the new study. This is the first time a study of this magnitude has been conducted for an entire state. Thompson goes on to say, "Massachusetts is an important place to study land-use because it is densely populated, heavily forested, and experiencing rapid change much like the broader forested landscape of the eastern U.S. The results of the study show that sprawl, coupled with a permanent loss of forest cover in Massachusetts, create an urgent need to address land-use choices."

"We know from decades of research that forests are more than a collection of trees, they are 'living infrastructure' that works 24-hours a day to provide climate protection, clean water, local wood products, and natural areas for people and wildlife. The results of this new study show that seemingly imperceptible changes to t
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Contact: Clarisse Hart
hart3@fas.harvard.edu
978-756-6157
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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