• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
Preserving white pine and oak forest for the Blanding's turtle in Mass Audobon's Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary will become more important under projected changes to the hydroperiod of isolated wetlands, impacts on stream flow and temperature, disappearance to climate sensitive species, and an increase in upland invasive species.

Project Area

Poject area - wetland habitat
The Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary covers 421 acres in Groton, MA; this area is dominated by oak/pine forests and extensive wetlands surrounding the prominent Snake and Rocky Hills. All indicators – from the presence of exemplary natural ommunities and rare species, to evidence of minimal historical land use and minor presence of invasive species in the area – reinforce the idea that this sanctuary has conservation value of regional and statewide significance. The sanctuary is part of the 25,000+ acre Petapawag Area of Critical Environmental Concern (designated in 2002), and hosts populations of several rare species, including the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), which is state-listed as a Threatened species.

Management Goals

The overall management goals for this area are: 

  • Preserve white pine and oak forests;
  • Create habitat for the threatened Blanding's turtle; 
  • Maintain healthy streams

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

The hydrology of vernal pools where turtles nest can be impacted by changes in precipitation events.
Insect pests and forest disease could become more problematic in pitch pine-scrub oak forests under a warmer climate.

Opportunities

The increase in precipitation that is likely to occur may benefit vernal pools and facilitate the creation of structural habitat for turtles.
Pitch pine-scrub oak forests may be tolerant of increased wildfire activity due to climate change.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Central hardwood-pine forest
Creating a diverse mix of forest or community types, age classes, and stand structures to reduce the availability of host species for pests and pathogens.
Restricting harvest and transportation of logs near stands already heavily infested with known pests or pathogens.
Thin forests to reduce stocking densities, and perform shorter harvest cycles to reduce interception and transpiration and increase water retention in forested systems.
Wetland habitats
Remove “hard measures” that restrict channel flow and alter channel shape (e.g., check dams, concrete armoring, and undersized culverts) and replace with structures designed to accommodate a natural stream channel that allows for geomorphic adjustment.

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
A 30% increase in Blanding's turtle populations by 3 years after habitat creation
Stream temperature and flow every 2 years for 10 years.
An increase in tree diversity after planting (survival).

Next Steps

Mass Audobon is planning to assess the vulnerability of a variety of habitats in this region, in order to inform additional adaptive management to enhance resilience to an array of projected climate effects.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Maria
.

Keywords

Wildlife habitat