Science for Climate Action on Martha’s Vineyard

Supporting climate-smart land management and risk reduction strategies.

Team Collaborators
  • Ben Robinson Commissioner, Martha's Vineyard Commission
  • Adam Moore Executive Director, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation

National and international efforts to combat climate change are not yet close to meeting the severity of the problem; however, states and municipalities are rising to the challenge, working locally to identify solutions that can slow, offset, or facilitate adaptation to climate change.

Martha’s Vineyard, an 87-square-mile island off the southern coast of Massachusetts, is one such example. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission Climate Action Task Force (CATF) has embarked on developing an Island-wide climate action plan that includes a range of scientific and engineering studies designed to support climate-smart land management and risk reduction strategies.

Our Work

In collaboration with the CATF and Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, a local Vineyard land trust, Woodwell scientists are launching a comprehensive study with goals to:

  1. Understand the potential of natural climate solutions—cost-effective approaches to mitigating climate change through improved land stewardship—to increase the carbon sequestration potential of the Vineyard’s forests, soils, and wetlands. Key questions include: How much additional carbon can the Vineyard’s natural and working lands sequester?  Where can improved land management practices lead to emissions reductions?
  2. Evaluate the risks to Vineyard communities from climate-driven natural hazards. Key questions include: What hazards pose the greatest risk? What parts of the Island are most threatened? Can these risks be mitigated and what will potential interventions cost?
Research area
LiDAR image of Martha's Vineyard

Airborne LiDAR point-cloud images of Martha’s Vineyard. Individual points are colored by elevation above sea level: at/near sea level is blue and the tallest objects (e.g., tree tops) are red.

Impact

The results of this study will be incorporated into a series of guidance documents on best practices for realizing natural climate solutions across the Vineyard’s forested, agricultural, coastal, and managed lands as well as in a set of risk assessments to address the threats from climate-driven natural hazards facing the six Vineyard towns. These findings will be used to inform local action around sound and sustainable decision making across a range of industries including construction, agriculture, and landscaping.

Beyond Martha’s Vineyard, this initiative can serve as a model for communities motivated to do more in their own backyards to mitigate and adapt to climate change.