The Massachusetts Bays Program (MassBays) is a U.S. EPA National Estuary Program dedicated to protecting, restoring, and enhancing the estuarine resources of Ipswich Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and Cape Cod Bay.
MassBays began updating its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) with a focus on nearshore estuaries and embayments, changing ecosystem conditions at the embayment level, and other management priorities. The main goal of the update was for the CCMP to serve as a tool for assessing and tracking localized trends and changing conditions of estuarine and inter-estuarine species and habitats, providing information for resource managers and decision-makers to improve ecosystem health, and alleviate the impacts of stressors.
Geosyntec's work focused analyzing and prioritizing the nearshore estuaries and embayments by delineating the 47 estuarine watershed boundaries, encompassing all tributary areas that are tidally influenced, as well as open water regions of the estuary that contain important ecological resources; developing a set of geospatial indicators that can be used to assess the ecological health of each estuarine watershed; and comparatively analyzing each watershed with regard to management priority along the entire MassBays management area and within each of the MassBays planning regions.
We delineated estuarine watershed boundaries using a variety of spatial data, including topography, habitat and coastal ecological resources, regulatory boundaries, groundwater contributing areas, and professional judgment. Next, we selected 22 geospatial indicators comprised of both indicators of anthropogenic influence (stressors) as well as extents of various important estuarine resources, and classified within three MassBays management priorities: reduce bacterial contamination and minimize the risk of eutrophication, protect and restore estuarine habitat, and to improve the continuity of estuarine habitat
Geosyntec developed a robust and low-cost method of estuary analysis that can be easily adapted to other regions and habitat types. We determined which proposed environmental indicators would require cost-prohibitive research and field work to obtain. We suggested surrogate data that would provide similar indications of environmental stressors and resources. When data gaps such as estimates of annual storm water runoff existed, we synthesized other existing data sources into new spatial representations of environmental indicators. Our analysis allows MassBays to focus and prioritize its funding over the next five years based on each watershed's particular stressors and resources.