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Massachusetts Bays Project

Created: 1/10/2010 - Updated: 5/09/2019

Photo attributed to John Phelan. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.


The Massachusetts Bays Project (MBP) was one of six pilot projects 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. Using conceptual models and expert input, the MBP plans to provide detailed recommendations for salt marsh management at federal, state, and municipal levels; in addition, the MBP plans to use the findings to inform revisions to their own Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.


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 in 2009. Climate change impacts of concern include sea level rise, precipitation changes, and increased frequency and severity of coastal storms.


The MBP is receiving support from the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) under a technical assistance award by the Climate Ready Estuaries Program. The ORD created a conceptual model for salt marshes that demonstrates the links between climate drivers, stressors, ecosystem processes, and identified indicators. The project team is also looking at scale sensitivities in order to figure out how to prioritize the problems facing salt marshes; community trophic structure and sediment retention have been singled out to examine the potential impacts of climate change. The conceptual model shows the effect of climate stressors on salt marsh environments; a panel of experts in sediment retention and wetland ecology will examine the model and are charged with identifying determinations of sensitivity. Through this panel, the MBP hopes to have a clear vision of what needs to be changed at the state and local levels, and to have clear findings and direction toward making targeted recommendations. In addition, the MBP anticipates that they will look at their own Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan to see what changes can be made based on this improved understanding of salt marshes. The MBP recognizes the need to look at regionwide adaptation efforts despite some of the barriers that these efforts have encountered and are likely to face in the future. Some of these barriers include a lack of economic resources to fully implement adaptation, a general concern about the uncertainty of some climate projections, and a resulting lack of support from key stakeholders. Getting support from a broad and diversified stakeholder pool is key in MBP’s efforts to incorporate climate change into their work.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The MBP plans to make recommendations for how salt marsh management plans and policies can be improved at federal, state, and local levels, and eventually hopes to develop an adaptation plan for the entire region. With help from an expert panel review, the MBP expects to be able to use the created conceptual models to make recommendations for how specific salt marsh management policies may be improved in the face of climate change. In addition to making specific salt marsh recommendations, the MBP hopes to be more involved in adaptation efforts at the state and regional levels.


Information gathered from interviews and online resources. Last updated on 1/10/10.


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Massachusetts Bays Project [Case study on a project of the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated January 2010)

Project Contacts

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.


Scale of Project: 
Community / Local
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Climate Type: 
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Capacity Building
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Effort Stage: 
In progress

Related Resources

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program

Photo attributed to Walter Siegmund. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Development (socioeconomic)
Transportation / Infrastructure

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program works to build capacity in different National Estuary Programs to prepare for and adapt to climate change. Twelve National Estuary Programs received grants and/or technical assistance in 2008 and 2009.

Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration

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