Boston, the capital of Massachusetts and the most populous city in New England, is known for its cultural roots, economic base, higher education, scientific research, and innovation and entrepreneurship. As one of the oldest municipalities in the nation, Boston has played a central role in U.S. history and established the country’s first public park, public school, and subway system. Boston’s park system is recognized nationally and a 20-year urban forestry plan was launched in 2020 to equitably grow and protect the tree canopy. As a coastal city located largely on land reclamation, sea level rise is a prominent concern in addition to increased temperatures and precipitation. Integrating tree species vulnerability as well as climate change considerations is critical to land management planning and activities.
Tree Species Vulnerability
Species distribution modeling suggests that the changing climate will shift suitable habitat and heat and hardiness zones for various tree species in the Boston region. A full overview and results for the climate change vulnerability of Boston region tree species, including the adaptive capacity and zone suitability of each species under low and high emissions scenarios, are provided in the draft Boston Tree Species Vulnerability Assessment. The results are also summarized in two handouts: one with just climate vulnerability information, and another with ratings for climate, carbon, and public health considerations.
Climate Change Impacts
Massachusetts has warmed by more than 2°F over the last century. The City of Boston commissioned the first Climate Action Plan in 2007, focused on transportation, energy use, and carbon reduction in buildings. The Resilient Boston Harbor is a separate city initiative focused on coastal resilience. Key climate impacts to the Boston region include increased temperatures, an increase in the number of hot (<90°F) days, increased precipitation, more frequent heavy rainstorms, sea level rise, and an increase in storm-related inland and coastal flooding. Severe storms and sea level rise threaten property, infrastructure, and human health, while eroding beaches, wetlands, and destroying wildlife habitat.