The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be providing $300,000 in additional funding for an important research and extension project led by Kevin McGarigal and Scott Jackson of the Department of Natural Resources Conservation. The project is a collaborative effort involving the Department’s Landscape Ecology Program, UMass Extension and state agencies to use the Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) as the basis for a comprehensive wetlands monitoring and assessment program.

CAPS is a computer software program and a method to prioritize land for conservation based on the assessment of ecological integrity for various ecological communities (e.g. forested wetland, shrub swamp, headwater stream) within a particular landscape. CAPS provides an objective and scientifically credible approach for assessing ecological integrity and supporting decision-making for land acquisition, ecological restoration, project review and permitting to protect habitat and biodiversity. The approach has been under development by UMass researchers over the past several years. The CAPS Project Team includes Kevin, Scott, Brad Compton, Kasey Rolih, Eduard Ene and graduate student Theresa Portante.

This grant of $300,000 will allow for further development of a Site Level Assessment Method (SLAM) to assess wetland condition and calibrate the CAPS models in freshwater wetlands and to begin a pilot study to develop a SLAM using CAPS in coastal wetlands. Of the $300,000 in the grant award UMass will receive $175,000 for their part of the project. This supplements $260,000 in funding previously received from EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to initiate the project. An additional amount from the grant will go to the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) to collect data in salt marshes for use in investigating stressor-condition relationships and calibrating CAPS.