Losing Ground: Nature's Value — Glossary

Losing Ground VI cover image of wetland near road © Julie Archibald
© Julie Archibald

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The following list provides more information, as well as links to additional resources, about the key terms used in Mass Audubon's Losing Ground: Nature's Value in a Changing Climate report.

Glossary of Key Terms


A project of the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) and The Nature Conservancy designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation in Massachusetts. More information is available on the state's website.

BioMap2 Core Habitat

Key areas critical to ensuring the long-term persistence of species of conservation concern, exemplary natural communities, and intact ecosystems across the Commonwealth.

BioMap2 Critical Natural Landscape

Large landscape areas that are best able to support ecological processes, disturbances, and wide-ranging species.

Community Preservation Act

Massachusetts legislation passed in 2000 that allows municipalities to enact a property tax surcharge, matched by the state government, for land conservation, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreational facilities. For more information, visit the Community Preservation Coalition website.

Conservation Land Tax Credit

A state program that recognizes and rewards landowners who donate a real property interest—either outright or through a Conservation Restriction—that permanently protects an important natural resource.

Conservation Restriction

Conservation Restrictions are legal agreements that prohibit certain acts and uses, while allowing others, on private or municipally-owned property in order to permanently protect conservation values present on the land.

Ecosystem Services

Term referring to the human benefits that nature provides, like clean air and water, flood protection, and opportunities for recreation. Healthy, well-functioning ecosystems provide enhanced benefits for people and wildlife, and protecting them ensures that their benefits will persist for future generations.

Gateway Cities

The 26 Gateway Cities in Massachusetts were formerly home to industries that offered residents a “gateway” to the American Dream. In recent decades, many of these cities have struggled economically. Their revitalization and redevelopment offers opportunities for economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Global Warming Solutions Act

A Massachusetts law requiring statewide greenhouse gas emission reductions of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below statewide 1990 levels by 2050.

Green Communities Act

A Massachusetts law that established an incentives and technical assistance program to help municipalities reduce energy use and costs by implementing clean energy projects in municipal buildings, facilities, and schools.

Green Infrastructure Network

A network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources, and contribute to health and quality of life. Key inputs include Resilient Landscapes, BioMap2 Core & Critical Natural Landscape areas, riparian buffers, and areas vulnerable to coastal or inland flooding.


A program of the NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Earth Observation Satellite Company (EOSAT) to gather satellite imagery of the entire Earth surface.

Low Impact Development (LID)

Low Impact Development works to preserve the natural landscape and minimize impervious surfaces to keep stormwater close to the source and use it as a resource rather than a waste product. It applies a variety of techniques to capture, filter, and infiltrate runoff through plants and soils. LID can be applied to new development as well as redevelopment and revitalization projects. More information is available through the state's website.

Mapping & Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience

An online tool developed by Mass Audubon, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and LandVest, to allow Massachusetts conservationists to rapidly identify specific parcels that, if protected, could contribute the most to achieving land protection goals.


The Massachusetts Bureau of Geographic Information—the state's one-stop-shop for interactive maps and geospatial data. Visit the MassGIS website for more information.

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program

Created by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) in 2017, the MVP Program provides resources for cities and towns to assess their vulnerability to climate change, and take action to enhance local resilience through hazard mitigation and climate adaptation planning. This statewide municipal assistance program prioritizes climate preparedness projects that utilize nature-based solutions and reach environmental justice communities with climate solutions.

Natural Resource Protection Zoning (NRPZ)

A method of designing residential development that conserves important natural resources and open space in a new subdivision while permitting development on the least sensitive portion of the property.

Nature-Based Solutions

Refers to the conservation, enhancement, and restoration of nature to reduce emissions, adapt to impacts, and enhance resiliency to climate change. These types of solutions use natural systems, mimic natural processes, or work in tandem with traditional engineering approaches to address natural hazards like flooding, erosion, drought, and heat islands, while preserving or enhancing ecosystem services.

Open Space Residential Design (OSRD)

See "Natural Resource Protection Zoning" above. NRPZ typically protects the majority of the property while OSRD may have greater flexibility but still protect significant natural resources. Older Cluster or Conservation Subdivision bylaws may not be as protective or useful as NRPZ or OSRD, but still improve over traditional subdivisions where virtually all the land is used for individual house lots, roads, and infrastructure. Visit the state’s Smart Growth Toolkit for more information.


The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner.

Smart Growth

Development that enhances existing communities, is compatible with the natural environment, and that uses tax dollars efficiently while attracting private investment.

Sprawl Frontier

The areas of Massachusetts that experienced development at the highest rates, as identified in Losing Ground.

State Hazard Mitigation & Climate Adaptation Plan

Massachusetts' plan—the first of its kind in the country—to comprehensively integrate climate change impacts and adaptation strategies with hazard mitigation planning. The plan is available on the state's website.

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)

Landowners in an area within a municipality targeted for preservation can agree to “sell” their development rights to landowners in areas that are more suitable for development. For more information on TDRs visit the state’s Smart Growth website.

Urban Heat Island Effect

Heavily developed areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water pollution.