Connections Improve the Watershed

Developing a network of greenways and blueways is one of the best ways to prepare our watershed to withstand the impacts of climate change.

Connections with greenways and blueways ensure that that we can enjoy the plants and wildlife that make our region special.

Greenways Connect Nature to Nature

NepRWA has been focusing a lot of effort lately to improve the network of greenways that connect people with nature. But greenways don’t just connect us with nature, they also connect nature with nature. It’s that connection between natural areas, which is becoming increasingly important for our wildlife’s ability to survive climate change.

Recent experiments have demonstrated that natural areas that are connected to other natural areas support more plants and animals. They also have lower local extinction rates than isolated natural areas. Habitats with more plants and animals are better able to recover after major events like floods and droughts. In other words, well-connected habitats are climate resilient habitats.

Greenways provide the natural corridors that wildlife needs to safely travel among a wide variety of habitats. As climate change causes individual habitats to change, wildlife that can access more habitats have a better chance of survival.

Unfortunately, connectivity among natural areas wasn’t often a high priority when developers built out the landscape of our watershed. With some gentle guidance from NepRWA, redevelopment provides a great opportunity to build greenways and restore some of those critical lost connections.

Blueways are Important, Too!

People and wildlife also benefit from connected waterways. Obsolete dams and poorly designed culverts create barriers that fragment our waterways and increase flooding.

Removing those dams and replacing bad culverts benefits people by eliminating expensive maintenance and rehab costs, reducing flooding, and improving recreational safety. As a result, aquatic wildlife also benefit greatly because it gives them access to the whole river for shelter, food, and spawning grounds.

Imagine a Neponset without the Baker and T&H dams. A kayaker could paddle freely from Sharon to Boston Harbor. A fisherman in Norwood could catch a striped bass that’s been following the herring run up from the ocean.

These aren’t just fantasies they are real possibilities. Removing those dams would completely transform the Neponset for people and wildlife. It would restore a natural exchange between the river and ocean that hasn’t been seen in over 200 years.

 

The Neponset Watershed is unique among the Metro-Boston watersheds in its richness of cold-water trout streams. Our native brook trout are highly sensitive to increasing water temperatures, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what climate scientists are predicting for our region in the near future.

Increasing the connectivity of our streams by removing dams and replacing culverts allows our trout and other sensitive fish to access the deep cold refuges on those long summer heat waves.

When we recently removed a dam on Traphole Brook in Walpole, within 30 minutes, we began seeing brook trout swimming upstream for the first time in decades.

If we want a healthy watershed full of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the plants and wildlife that make our region special, developing a strong network of greenways and blueways is one of the best ways to prepare our watershed to withstand the impacts of climate change.

Chris Hirsch, Environmental Scientist

October 2019

 

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