Ecosystem Services in Working Lands: US Northeast

region; however, more than two-thirds of all new development during this time was classified as low intensity or open space developed, converted from lands previously categorized as upland forest and agriculture (NOAA n.d.). At the same time, the region has struggled with a declining productive landbase (e.g., agriculture and other working lands), decreasing regional self-reliance (Griffin et al. 2015), and population migrating towards the coastline (Horton et al. 2014). The need to sustain critical ecosystem services (e.g., food, fiber, clean water) across multiple spatial scales is an accepted tenant of modern resource management (Rickenback et al. 2011) and is highly relevant to the U.S. Northeast; however, the expansion of privately owned lands challenges cooperative, multi-scale sustainable land management strategies. Ten million private individuals and families own over 35% of all U.S. forestlands, with concentrations exceeding 85% in parts of the eastern United States (Butler 2008). Moreover, many ecologically important sites are on or connect to small private lands (Scott et al. 2006; Ruhl et al. 2007). Balancing land conversion — from forested or agricultural land covers — with land conservation remains a notable trend (U.S. GCRP 2017). Shocks and threats to the U.S. Northeast also motivate the need to increase the pace and scale of ecosystem service provisioning. The COVID-19 pandemic beginning in 2020 laid bare a number of fault lines within production systems of the United States, including food and agriculture, forestry and wood products, and aquaculture and fisheries. However, the pandemic has also stoked public interest in food system resilience (Béné 2020; Hendrickson 2020) and access to outdoor public places (Pouso et al. 2021; Rollston & Galea 2020), and has subsequently driven political will to deliver on these interests. The U.S. Northeast is also expected to experience regionally specific impacts of a changing climate, including rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and a warming ocean, especially in the Gulf of Maine (Horton et al 2014). An example of projected impacts is summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Examples of projected climate change impacts to the U.S. Northeast

Projected Impact M Magnitude of Impact


Rising temperatures

US Global Change Research Group 2020

• More than 3.6°F (2°C) warmer annual average temperatures than during the preindustrial era • Considered the largest temperature increase anywhere in the contiguous United States • Extreme precipitation greater than in any other region in the United States • Frequency of heavy downpours is projected to continue to increase over the remainder of the century. • The greatest increase in sea level rise rate globally has been documented on the stretch of coastline from the Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia to the elbow of Massachusetts (2 to 3.7 mm per year — more than three times the global average). • Less distinct seasonal changes, including milder winters and earlier springs, threaten to alter ecosystems and environments in ways that adversely impact tourism, farming, and forestry.

Increasing precipitation extremes

Rising sea levels

Changing seasons


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