UConn Extension connects thousands of people across Connecticut and beyond each year, with the research and resources of the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. We are comprised of more than 100 educators and a vast network of volunteers. UConn Extension works collaboratively to build more resilient communities through educational initiatives aimed to cultivate a sustainable future and develop tomorrow’s leaders. The work of UConn Extension connects communities and individuals to help make Connecticut a better place to live, and a better place for future generations.
By Judy Benson
Stonington – Battered by coastal storms and infestations of wooly adelgids, gypsy moth, winter moth and emerald ash borer, sections of the 200-acre Hoffman Evergreen Preserve will now serve as a living lab and demonstration site for how land managers can help forests adapt to climate change.
“We want to increase the resilience of the forest and maintain the water quality filtration services it provides to Long Island Sound,” said Juliana Barrett, coastal habitat specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant. “We’re trying to plant the right trees for the right time.”
Owned by the Avalonia Land Conservancy and popular with hikers and bird watchers, sections of the forest became unsafe over the last decade due to large numbers of diseased and storm-damaged trees. That prompted the land trust to contract with Hull Forest Products to do selective logging in 2019 that left open areas that will now be the subject of a joint project between Avalonia and CT Sea Grant.
“This is about helping to restore a healthy forest,” said Beth Sullivan, Stonington chairperson for Avalonia. “It’s something we’ve been working towards for the last five to six years.”
A grant of $57,144 from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, announced last week, will provide funds for the development of a unique forward-looking forest management plan for the cleared areas, along with a series of public education programs. Barrett said the project is one of the first of its kind in Connecticut that incorporates climate change projections and assisted migration techniques for plants better adapted to future conditions. Some seedlings and seeds will be planted as part of the yearlong project, chosen both for their ability to regenerate under future climate conditions and their value as food sources for wildlife. Robert Ricard, a forester and senior extension educator with UConn, will help develop the plan and planting list, and provide guidance on the best locations for particular species.
“We’re going to try some species at the edge of their limits in Connecticut that, based on climate change projections, we think will do well,” Barrett said.
Instead of replanting the same species of hemlocks, oaks and ash shown to be vulnerable to the pests and weather disruptions brought by climate change, the plan will identify tree and shrub species likely to be more resilient in warmer temperatures. These could include loblolly pine, tulip poplar, sweetgum and others more common in the mid-Atlantic region. About a dozen loblolly pine seedlings planted last spring, in fact, have already become well established despite last summer’s drought, Sullivan said.
The preserve, located at the north end of town several miles from the shoreline, nonetheless provides important services to Long Island Sound by absorbing runoff and filtering pollutants that would end up in the estuary, Barrett noted.
The public education component was developed with Avalonia project collaborator Sharon Lynch, George Washington University professor emerita in the School of Education and Human Development. An expert in science teacher education, Lynch currently works on education initiatives with the National Science Foundation. The education component will consist of a series of four webinars on topics relevant to the project, including the history of New England forests and the carbon sequestration services they provide. The series is intended for municipal officials, land trust officials, forest landowners and the general public. In addition, a two-day workshop on guiding principles for coastal forest resilience in the Long Island Sound region will be offered specifically for municipal officials, resource managers, land trust officials, forest landowners and students. An accompanying fact sheet will be developed and published.
Nancy Balcom, CT Sea Grant associate director of CT Sea Grant, said she hopes the project will provide valuable information for land managers throughout the region.
“Given the devastation our local forests have suffered which threatens their ability to provide critical ecosystem and recreational services, it’s important to not only test the ability of new species to survive and thrive in our changing climate but to also share the progress and results widely so other land trusts and organizations can pursue similar paths,” she said.
Barrett said the lessons learned at the Hoffman preserve will be shared with other land trusts and land managers, and hopes that tours of the site can be offered in the future to show how different plant species are adapting. The project, she said, will be an opportunity “to educate and engage land trust stewards, resource managers, municipal officials and neighbors in understanding coastal forest ecosystem services, impacts of climate change on these systems and guiding principles for management under changing conditions.”
The grant for the Hoffman Preserve, which will be matched with $33,600 in in-kind services from Avalonia volunteers, is one of 38 awarded in this year’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund program. The 15-year-old program combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support projects that improve the water quality and restore habitat in the Long Island Sound watershed. This year, $3.8 million in funding will support 15 projects in Connecticut, 14 in New York, three in Massachusetts, three in Vermont, one in New Hampshire and two in multiple states.
“It is heartwarming to see innovation at work, people and organizations getting together, planning and acting now for what the world will look like in decades,” said Sylvain De Guise, director of CT Sea Grant. “At the same time, it is encouraging that grant programs are open enough to recognize and fund innovation, even if riskier than sticking with old habits.
“I think we are heading in the right direction,” he concluded.
Judy Benson is the communications coordinator for Connecticut Sea Grant.
Learn about bringing more diversity to the sciences, environmental justice, the Shoreline Greenway Trail, a new diversity fellowship and the unique career of Bob Pomeroy with fish and fishermen across the globe in the Fall-Winter 2020-21 issue of Wrack Lines magazine.
With the theme of “Diverse Perspectives in the Environment We Share,” the issue highlights the contributions of writers and photographers from diverse backgrounds delving into topics that are local, statewide, national and international in scope.
This issue also launches the “Talk to Us” feature soliciting reader comments, many of which will be shared on the CTSG website. Comments should be sent to Wrack Lines editor Judy Benson at: email@example.com.
The entire issue can be found here.
Story and photos by Judy Benson
Retreat isn’t defeat.
It’s deliberately stepping back to make a better future.
“Retreat is very difficult, but it’s going to happen,” said A.R. Siders, assistant professor in the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Delaware. “Wouldn’t it be better to have a managed process? It can be an opportunity to do something more exciting than elevating a few houses, and there are resources available.”
A national expert and keynote speaker at the “Managed Retreat in the Age of Climate Change” virtual workshop on Nov. 13, Siders challenged the audience of about 130 municipal and state land-use officials and others to rethink notions of what’s possible. Rising seas and more frequent flooding of coastal and riverine areas means getting people out of harm’s way is necessary, she said. But can also be a chance to improve our waterfronts for everyone.
Siders said she began focusing on how retreat can be done in an orderly, methodical way—rather than as a haphazard reaction to a disaster—after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. It’s the better alternative to the other options: avoidance, fortifying shorelines with concrete or accommodating rising seas by elevating properties, she said.
To begin the hard conversation with communities, Siders urged land use professionals to pose it as challenge to realize a positive vision for the future: “What do you want your city or community or coast to look like in 30 years? 100 years?
“I don’t want to see a coast that’s armored with sea walls, but I would love to see open beaches all the way from Maine to Texas, so everyone can access them. It won’t happen if we don’t plan for retreat,” she said.
The workshop was the latest in a series hosted by the Climate Adaptation Academy, a partnership of Connecticut Sea Grant and The Center for Land Use Education & Research (UConn CLEAR). Juliana Barrett, CT Sea Grant coastal habitat specialist, and fellow organizer Bruce Hyde, extension educator with CLEAR, emphasized that this workshop is considered the first in a series on managed retreat that will delve into this complex and important issue.
“We see this as just getting the conversation going,” said Barrett.
Hyde set the stage for the presentations with a story and slides from Connecticut’s past. After the 1938 hurricane destroyed a beachfront community in New London, the city acquired the property, razed what remained of the homes and turned it into a large public beach. Today Ocean Beach Park is one of the city’s jewels.
“This is an example of using managed retreat 60 years ago and it has been very successful,” he said.
Siders also noted that there have been more recent examples of successful managed retreat projects across the country, including 12 in Connecticut. Most of these have been small scale, however. At the same time, though, new homes are still being built in vulnerable areas. In Connecticut alone, she said, 478 new homes were built from 2010 to 2017 in a 10-year flood plain.
In the second half of her talk, Siders outlined the multiple issues that arise and kinds of expertise needed to carry out managed retreat. Planners must be mindful of income equity issues—not favoring high income over low income properties, for example—the layers of regulatory and financial considerations/ Also critical, she said, is keeping the process transparent and communication lines open between residents and government. Offering financial incentives, help with finding new homes and working through nonprofit groups to build trust are some of the strategies that might be used, she said.
After Siders, Attorney Marjorie Shansky addressed the legal issues of managed retreat. “Can we adapt policies and regulations to promote managed retreat?” she asked.
These could include mechanisms that favor living shorelines over shoreline hardening, enacting stricter coastal setbacks and buffers and limiting and prohibiting coastal development altogether. She noted that the Florida Keys will no longer issue new building permits after 2023.
Starting the discussion about reimaging a local coastline where people aren’t constantly in a futile fight with rising waters is a good first step, she said. But communities need to start doing more.
“We must move from planning to action,” Shansky said.
Two examples of that kind of action offered inspiration for what can be accomplished. In downtown Meriden, a $13 million project funded by various state and federal agencies has transformed a blighted, flood-prone area into a municipal park. Public Works Director Howard Weissberg, City Engineer Brian Ennis and Assistant Planning Director Paul Dickson took turns describing various aspects of what one of them described as “a flood control site first, a park second, and an economic development parcel third.”
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns of Connecticut to help solve the problems that our residents, communities, and state face. Connecting people with agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles are critical components to a sustainable future. Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities for the next generation.
John Inguagiato, Ph.D. and Vickie Wallace, UConn
Michelle DaCosta, Ph.D. UMass
Turf managers and homeowners have been puzzled by the sudden appearance of unusual tan, blighted patches that showed up last week between Tuesday and Friday (Nov. 3 – 6). Reports have been widespread throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
The symptoms appear as round to irregular-shaped patches of light-tan blighted turf (Figure 1 & 5). Patches are often uniformly distributed across affected turf areas. Density of patches may vary from one every 2 feet to as little as a few inches, with some patches coalescing into larger, irregular shapes (Figure 5). Early onset of symptoms appeared silver-gray to dark purple before turning tan (Figure 2). Symptoms appear to be limited to the upper portion of the turf canopy (Figure 3). Foliage lower in the canopy, stems and crowns do not appear to be injured in most cases.
All cool-season turfgrasses have been reported to be affected. Injury seems to be most severe on exposed, well-fertilized, irrigated lawns and fields. Symptoms on turf maintained at lower mowing heights (e.g., putting greens, fairways, some athletic fields), and newly established areas appears to be less severe.
Chilling injury is rare in New England on cool-season turfgrasses. Many experienced New England turf managers have commented in the past few days that they have never seen anything like this. Symptoms similar to these are more common in the south, on warm-season bermudagrass when exposed to sudden cold weather. However, chilling injury has also been reported in the desert southwest on overseeded perennial ryegrass (Moon et al, 1990).
The recent injury to turfgrasses throughout the region is likely due to a unique combination of environmental conditions impacting the physiological activity of turfgrasses. Cold tolerance of cool-season turfgrasses generally develops during November and December over an acclimation period of slowly decreasing temperatures. This acclimation period prepares turf to tolerate cold winter temperatures. However, turf has been actively growing, green, and photosynthesizing in many areas throughout the region this fall, indicating it has not yet acclimated to cold temperatures.
A Perfect Storm
Throughout much of October daily low temperatures were rarely below 40°F. However, a sustained period of cold to freezing daily low temperatures occurred from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. (Figure 4). These cold temperatures also coincided with a very dry air mass (dew points approximately 15 to 20°F), and moderate sustained winds with gusts over 30 mph on Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 2 & 3). Moreover, Nov. 2 & 3 were particularly sunny days with high light intensity (solar radiation ~675 to 750 W/m2 ).
• Sudden onset of cold temperatures
• Dry air and wind (excessive transpiration)
• High light intensity
Similar chilling conditions have been demonstrated to impair the photosynthetic machinery of perennial ryegrass (Moon et al, 1990). When normal photosynthetic processes are interrupted under high light, damaging free radicals can be produced that can destroy important membranes within cells. Ultimately, the integrity of the cells is affected, foliage becomes desiccated, and blight symptoms occur.
The unique patterns associated with the chilling injury are more difficult to explain. It is not entirely clear why areas of the same turf are differentially affected. It is likely due in part, to how turbulent air moves across the surface, affecting where cold pockets of air settle to injure turf
Fortunately, in most cases the symptoms associated with this chilling injury appear to be superficial. Only the upper canopy has generally been affected. Crowns remain healthy, and therefore blighted foliage will grow out. It is possible that with continued warm weather, actively growing turf may fully recover this fall. However, in many cases it is more likely that symptoms will persist through the winter until spring when growth resumes, and blighted tissue is mowed off.
Fertilizing to encourage growth and recovery of the symptoms this fall is not recommended. Since a late fall fertilization can promote succulent turf growth, delaying acclimation and increasing potential for snow mold and other forms of winter injury.
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Job Opening: The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at the University of Connecticut is seeking a full-time Director of Communications. Reporting to the Dean, the incumbent in this position will provide vision, leadership, and direction to support CAHNR’s communication and marketing strategies and promote its brand and reputation. The Communications Director must be an energetic, creative and dedicated leader who is accessible and responsive to faculty, staff and students and fosters collaboration and an organizational culture that promotes diversity and inclusion.
Full information is available at https://bit.ly/CAHNR_Comm_Dir.
When talking about community response to climate change issues, retreat is the “R” word. But it is already happening in coastal states throughout the country, including here in Connecticut. Is it a good or bad idea? Will we be forced to retreat due to sea level rise in 30 years or 50 years? What does it mean to a community and how do we manage it?
This special issue of Parks Stewardship Forum, guest-edited by Connecticut Sea Grant Research Coordinator Syma Ebbin, looks at how the “blue humanities” can bolster the public’s ocean literacy and sense of stewardship for the seas. Articles in this issue make the case that the arts and humanities can and should contribute to marine conservation. In addition to her CT Sea Grant post, Ebbin is also associate professor in residence in the UConn Maritime Studies Program.
With a full title of Parks Stewardship Forum, The Interdisciplinary Journal of Place-Based Conservation, current and past issues can be found at these two websites: https://escholarship.org/uc/psf for scholarly reference and use; and https://parks.berkeley.edu/psf for online browsing and reading.
Featured theme articles in the current issue include two by Ebbin, “Humanizing the Seas: A Case For Integrating the Arts and Humanities into Ocean Literacy and Stewardship,” and “Immersing the Arts: Integrating the Arts into Ocean Literacy,” in which she discusses Connecticut Sea Grant’s arts support awards program. In addition, Colleen Franks, UConn research specialist, writes about the Connecticut Blue Heritage Trail in “Integrating Maritime Heritage and Ocean Literacy: Free-choice learning along the Connecticut Blue Heritage Trail.” In “Ocean Literacy and Public Humanities,” UConn Maritime Studies Professor Helen Rozwadowski argues that ocean literacy principles and the framework for carrying them out are well developed, but that the humanities and arts are largely — and needlessly —absent.