Massachusetts Bays Program: An Evaluation of Salt Marsh Vulnerability to Climate Change

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 1/10/2010 - Updated on: 10/28/2021

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP) was one of six pilot efforts to receive a technical assistance award in 2008 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program. The primary purpose of the project was to conduct a vulnerability assessment of salt marsh habitat in the area in order to adjust management policies to properly address the challenges of climate change. The final report, released in 2012, presents the vulnerability assessment results, potential adaptation options, and opportunities for mainstreaming adaptation into strategic planning.


In 2008, the MBP was selected as one of six pilot efforts for the Climate Ready Estuaries Program. The original goal was to do a vulnerability assessment of all coastal habitats to climate change; this focus was narrowed to look at salt marsh habitat specifically. Climate change impacts of concern include sea level rise, precipitation changes, and increased frequency and severity of coastal storms.


The MBP collaborated with the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) to trial a novel methodology for conducting a vulnerability assessment of salt marsh ecosystems under a technical assistance award by the Climate Ready Estuaries Program. The project included the following steps: (1) identify key management goals and ecosystem processes; (2) create conceptual models of selected ecosystem processes; (3) assess ecosystem sensitivities to climate change; (4) consider resulting vulnerabilities with respect to management goals; and (5) explore implications for adaptation planning. The ORD created the conceptual model for salt marshes that demonstrates the links between climate drivers, stressors, ecosystem processes, and identified indicators. The sensitivity analysis, vulnerability assessment, and analysis of management implications were accomplished through a two-day expert elicitation workshop.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The final report detailing project methods and findings was released in 2012. The expert elicitation workshop identified many adaptation options that could be applied to salt marsh ecosystem process components. MBP is already undertaking a variety of activities related to these adaptation options, including restoration, nutrient management, and monitoring and research projects. MBP released an updated version of their Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan in 2019, which details programmatic responses to climate change including improving understanding of climate impacts, examining alternative management options for adaptation, and promoting responses that sustain coastal habitats and their associated functions.


Gregg, R. M. (2020). Massachusetts Bays Program: An Evaluation of Salt Marsh Vulnerability to Climate Change [Case study on a project of the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated July 2020)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

The Climate Ready Estuaries program works with the National Estuary Programs and other coastal managers to: 1) assess climate change vulnerabilities, 2) develop and implement adaptation strategies, 3) engage and educate stakeholders, and 4) share the lessons learned with other coastal managers.

Related Resources

Adaptation Phase
Sharing Lessons
Sector Addressed
Climate Justice
Conservation / Restoration
Culture / Communities
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
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