Slow the Flow for Climate Resilience: Reducing Vulnerability to Extreme Flows and Providing Multiple Ecological Benefits in a Non-Stationary Climate

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 12:00pm
Eastern Standard Time
Richard Palmer and Keith Nislow

“Slow the Flow” describes an ensemble of integrated watershed management strategies designed to mitigate hydrologic extremes (floods and droughts) by reducing or delaying the arrival of a flood peak.  Many of these interventions, though not all, are associated with natural (non-structural) management.  These types of management options typically include a component of one of the following: increasing soil infiltration, storing water in natural features (ponds, ditches, floodplains), increasing river channel complexity, and increasing resistance to rapid flow (natural vegetation).

This webinar will present a portion of the research conducted on a “capstone research project” funded by the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.  The research consists of three major topics: 1) the impact of land use change on flood peaks in the Maidstone Bends portion of the upper Connecticut River, 2) the interdependent effects of land use change and climate change on flood flows in Otter Creek in central Vermont, and 3) a spatial analysis of the impacts of sandbars and sediment deposits on riparian biodiversity habitat area.  Useful applied results of this research include: 1) changes in land use in riparian zones to primarily forested areas can decrease flood peaks by as much as 12% and delay the arrival of peak flows significantly, 2) by the end of the 21st century, impacts from climate change could increase peak flows by 50%; however, this increase can be reduced by management interventions such as reforestation, and 3) a GIS spatial analysis of riparian habitats revealed long-term persistent impacts of an extreme flood on riverine and riparian habitats which in turn may influence future responses.  

Richard Palmer is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and University Director of NE CASC. 

Keith Nislow is Adjunct Associate Professor of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Relationships Team Leader of USDA-Forest Service Northern Research Station, and Research Fisheries Biologist of USDA-Forest Service Northern Research Station as well as a Co-Principal Investigator for NE CASC.