By Charlotte Harris, Contributing Writer

The University of New Hampshire has long been invested in environmental issues and has recently joined the USDA Northeast Climate Hub — an initiative aimed at helping farmers and forest landowners adapt to changing land conditions and weather variability brought on by climate change. 

The USDA has established seven hubs in regions throughout the country to help them spread science-based information and risk management tools to farmers. The Northeast Climate Hub reaches from Maine to West Virginia, encompassing farmland and forests. The changes that northeastern farmers face include increasingly intense precipitation, such as 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and warmer temperatures, which cause extended growth seasons and more common weed, pest and disease outbreaks. The Hub helps land managers deal with these changes, providing technical support.

The Hub also supplies assessments and forecasts to help plan hazard response and adaptation, as well as outreach to educate land managers on ways to thrive despite climate change. 

“From policymakers to farmers, growers and producers across the state, UNH research helps the Granite State better adapt to and mitigate the agricultural, environmental and economic impacts of climate extremes,” said Jon Wraith, dean of the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture and director of the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station.

UNH is one of 12 land-grant universities in the Northeast to join the Northeast Climate Hub, which also includes a coalition of peer institutions, USDA agencies and state agencies. UNH will serve an important role for the Hub, based right here in Durham.

“Partnering with land-grant universities throughout the Northeast is a significant step in developing a network of resources that will be local, accessible and the best available science,” said Michael Rains, director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. The university’s extensive research capabilities will be an important asset to the Northeast Climate Hub.

UNH will also benefit from the partnership, as the Climate Hub will fund university projects aimed at discovering adaptive solutions and tools for farming and forestry practices in the face of climate change. 

According to David Hollinger, director of the Northeast Climate Hub, UNH will aid in providing “science-based, region-specific information and technologies that enable climate-smart decision-making … The land-grant universities have a long and successful history of delivering science in forms that people can use.” 

The goals of UNH’s Cooperative Extension, which aims to educate the state’s communities to facilitate economic success and environmental health and productivity, align well with the objectives of the Northeast Climate Hub. Ken LaValley, interim dean of the UNH Cooperative Extension, said their statewide network “lends itself well to our overall efforts to understand the concerns of New Hampshire citizens in relation to climate change and to help deliver information concerning climate to the public.”

According to USDA Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change, “USDA’s Regional Hubs will deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners within each region of the United States to support decision-making related to climate change. These Hubs are needed to maintain and strengthen agricultural production, natural resource management and rural economic development under increasing climate variability.”

“The heart of the Northeast Climate Hub is serving land owners in the Northeast, from dairy farmers to family forest owners and providing tools and information that they need,” Rains said.