• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
Trout Unlimited New England worked with partners to implement a series of actions to help riparian forests and coldwater streams adapt to climate change. They partnered with watershed partners on a successful application to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund in 2015, which launched the implementation of this project.

Project Area

Trout Unlimited New England, Franklin Land Trust, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation formed the Crowingshield project team, and collaboratively implemented a series of actions to help riparian forests and cold-water streams adapt to climate change within the North River watershed a subwatershed of the Deerfield River basin.

The North River Watershed covers 93 square miles of land, which is primarily forested (83%), agricultural lands (13%), and urban development (4%) and includes 193 miles of streams. Several property owners worked on this project, including the H.O. Cook State Forest managed by the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation and privately owned parcels conserved through the Franklin Land Trust. The parcels consist of primarily northern hardwood forest with areas of lowland hardwood and conifer forest. Areas near streams tend to have steep slopes and narrow valleys, and have been identified as coldwater fishery resources.

Management Goals

All land owners and professionals participating in this landscape-scale project shared common strategic interests that span their individual management goals and objectives, including:

  • Maintaining healthy and productive forests
  • Maintaining and improving the integrity of the watershed
  • Improving habitat and stream connectivity to benefit trout and other aquatic organisms
  • Enhancing the ability of the watershed to cope with extreme precipitation events

Climate Change Impacts

The project team combined broad-scale information from regional assessments of forest vulnerability to climate change (Janowiak et al. 2018; Janowiak et al. 2014) with their knowledge of the local landscape to identify characteristics of the area that they believed would increase or decrease risks from climate change. The location was identified as being most vulnerable to altered precipitation regimes across seasons an impact that posed the greatest risks to maintaining ecosystem functions. The valley type and sheltered nature of some locations may keep some areas buffered from warming temperatures. Overall, the project team determined the project areas to have moderate-high vulnerability to climate change by end of century.
Altered winter precipitation conditions (including reduced snowfall, and more frequent rain-on-snow events)
Longer warmer growing seasons leading to reduced water levels and moisture stress later in the growing season
More frequent intense heavy rain and extreme storm events that produce high velocity streamflow, reduce soil-water infiltration, and can result in streambank erosion
Many tributary streams and road crossings were viewed as vulnerable to extreme rain events because these areas had been affected by past storms
Climate-related declines in northern tree species and enhanced stressors such as forest pests and invasive species were identified as factors that may increase risks to forests and riparian areas

Challenges and Opportunities

The most concerning climate-related management challenges were based on the climate change impacts and vulnerabilities identified. Although climate change creates significant challenges, the project team determined that their goals for improving aquatic habitat conditions were feasible in the near and long-term and did not warrant substantial modifications to address climate change. However, they also recognized that some of the goals associated with preserving cold-water aquatic habitat would become more challenging and may require more investment to maintain by end of century.


Rising temperatures, particularly in summer months will reduce the water quality of aquatic habitats and reduce thermal refugia for the temperature-sensitive fish like brook trout, mottled sculpin, dace, and darters that the project team hopes to promote
More frequent and intense precipitation events threaten local infrastructure, and create challenges for the long-term management of aquatic habitat
More frequent and larger rain events leading to increased streamflow may exceed the hydraulic capacity of some undersized and aged culverts and stream crossings, resulting in erosion, channel instability, or even failure of the structure
Events resulting in “flashy” high velocity streamflow can reduce aquatic habitat quality by dislodging and dispersing large woody material downstream, and alter stream stability over-time
Adjacent riparian areas dominated by hemlock are at risk of pest infestation by the hemlock woolly adelgid as the pest expands its range northward with rising temperatures
Declines in hemlock and other northern conifer species are expected to negatively affect water quality if reduced forest cover allows water temperature to rise


Tree mortality may provide opportunities to increase natural wood additions into streams and enhance riparian forest diversity through the management of underrepresented tree species

Adaptation Actions

After considering the effects of climate change on the North River Watershed, staff from Trout Unlimited identified adaptation actions to target the following four issues:

  • Stream warming and species’ access to thermal refugia
  • Invasive species infiltration and associated tree mortality
  • Geomorphologic instability and associated sedimentation
  • Loss of road-stream infrastructure due to undersized hydraulic capacity

Trout Unlimited and local partners received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund to improve the ability of the North River Watershed to cope with changing conditions. The project team used the Adaptation Workbook to identify restoration and adaptation activities for implementation.

Within stream channels
Place large woody material into streams to improve habitat structure, increase stream complexity, and maintain coldwater refugia.
Select and cut trees from adjacent riparian areas that are at-risk from climate change and other stressors to be used for in-stream wood additions.
Stream bank
Construct log-jam and use wood additions to stabilize highly-erodible stream banks.
Riparian forest
Harvest selected trees within riparian areas to reduce the abundance of hemlock and other at-risk species and increase species diversity.
Promote the growth and establishment of conifer and hardwood species that are expected to persist in the future (Janowiak et al. 2018), such as white pine.
Infrastructure at road-stream crossings
Inventory and evaluate all crossings for competency of passing a 100yr storm, and evaluate failure risk. Replace undersized culverts with more appropriately-sized culverts, arches, or bridges to accommodate larger flows, reconnect coldwater habitat, and
Removed aged and failing culvert on low-use road. Replace with reinforced ford that allows for occasional vehicle access.


The project team, with the assistance of Cole Ecological Inc. and Antioch University New England identified monitoring items that would help evaluate the effectiveness of the adaptation tactics selected for implementation. The monitoring plan will help the team characterize alterations in channel-morphology, water quality, fluvial processes and habitat prior to and post-restoration activities.
The plan outlines efforts to monitor in-stream temperature for two years post-restoration
Measure sediment deposition in the fall and spring
Conduct annual macroinvertebrate surveys to monitor habitat establishment and aquatic health
Conduct inventory surveys of fish, aquatic organisms and forests for two years prior to and post-restoration

Project Documents

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Fish habitat
Insect pests
Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods
Water resources

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