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

he land add-up in ways that can significantly enhance or erode these vital benefits, depending on the choices we all make," said David Foster, Director of the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study.

The stakes are high but there is good news in the study. "The Forests as Infrastructure scenario shows it's possible to protect forest benefits while also increasing local wood production and supporting economic development, by making important but achievable changes," said Thompson. Forests as Infrastructure clusters more of the development, implements "improvement forestry" on much of the harvested land, and increases the rate of forest conservation with a focus on priority habitat. By 2060, compared to Recent Trends, this scenario would:

  • Limit flooding risks in virtually all of the state's major watersheds
  • Protect water quality by minimizing impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots
  • Grow 20% more high-value trees like large oak, sugar maple, and white pine
  • Double the amount of local wood harvested
  • Maintain a 35% increase in the storage of carbon that would otherwise warm the earth
  • Reduce forest fragmentation by 25%
  • Protect a quarter-million more acres of high-priority wildlife habitat

Kathy Fallon Lambert, Director of Science and Policy at the Harvard Forest and co-author of the study, says the timing of the study is critical for the Commonwealth. "Not only are we experiencing this historic downturn in forest cover, but the legislature is contemplating changing our zoning laws for the first time in 40 years. In addition, the environmental bond bill will set conservation funding levels for the next five years." Lambert says the study's findings point to three broad policy directions: recommitting to land conservation, promoting sustainable forestry in the Commonwealth, and redoubling land-use planning and smart-growth efforts.

The team has received funding from the National
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Contact: Clarisse Hart
hart3@fas.harvard.edu
978-756-6157
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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