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River Corridor Assessment for the North Atlantic Region

Consistent Assessment of River Corridor and Floodplain Ecosystems and Cultural Resources Vulnerable to Flooding

An urgent need exists to uniformly assess river corridors, including floodplains, and to prioritize areas for protection across the North Atlantic landscape. This project will develop a river corridor assessment method and conservation prioritization toolkit. The tools will be tested through three pilot projects across different topographies before being expanded to additional river corridors across the region.

An urgent need exists to uniformly assess river corridors, including floodplains, and to prioritize areas for protection across the North Atlantic landscape. These are daunting tasks since there are no well-defined methods to delineate and assess scores of diverse river corridors in this region. The RiverSmart research group at UMass Amherst has made meaningful strides toward a uniform assessment of North Atlantic river corridors having assembled a task force of river specialists, analyzed ecologic and geomorphic threats, scrutinized the wide-ranging approaches to assess riparian habitats, and performed initial evaluations in diverse watersheds. In this project, we will build on this base. During the first year, we will develop a multi-layered river corridor assessment method and conservation prioritization toolkit based on ecologic integrity, geomorphic processes, flood extents in a changing climate, and existing cultural resources. This method will be tested and reviewed by our task force first in characteristic watersheds—mountainous, coastal and low-relief. In the second year, we will expand analysis to more river corridors across the North Atlantic region. We will quantitatively assess threats at regional and local scales and prioritize protection areas. The results will be disseminated by two reports, presentations to the NALCC, and collaboration with our 30-member task force, who can further disseminate and use our findings. Overall this project will lead to a comprehensive evaluation of river corridors and floodplains in the North Atlantic region that can be updated as improved climate predictions emerge and as land use in changes.

Project Objectives

Task 1. Coordinate task force.
Task 2. Assess regional dataset needs.
Task 3. Develop river corridor assessment method.
Task 4. Apply assessment to river corridors and determine protection priority areas.
Task 5. Compile and test climate projections of changes in high flows, low flows, and temperatures.
Task 6. Summarize threats to North Atlantic river corridors and floodplains.
Task 7. Reporting and outreach

A Task Force has been assembled and new members continue to be added, with the goal of meeting mid-summer. Currently the project is focused on assessing available data and meeting with potential collaborators to ensure capability and avoid redundancy with other projects. A manual for using GIS and remote sensing data to uniformly compute stream power and predict areas most prone to erosion or deposition along river corridors is in draft. In February, they submitted a paper to the peer-reviewed publication Journal of River Research and Applications (JAWRA) entitled Defining the River Corridor: A participatory approach to incorporating geomorphic risks into flood management in Massachusetts, USA.

Quarterly Reports
2015 Jan-March Quarterly Report

$99,999 - North Atlantic LCC