Tag Archives: climate change in maine

Each student works diligently; transplanting seedlings, mixing soil, working together to help strengthen coastal Maine.

Roots of a lasting conservation legacy

50 years after Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring

Later this month, on May 27, we celebrate the birthday of Rachel Carson. Carson was a world-renowned marine biologist, author and environmentalist who served as an aquatic biologist and editor-in-chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her seminal work, Silent Spring, awakened the world to the indiscriminate use of pesticides and is credited with launching the contemporary environmental movement. Today the roots of that legacy are still strong.

Each student works diligently; transplanting seedlings, mixing soil, working together to help strengthen coastal Maine.

Each student  from Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport, Maine, works diligently; transplanting seedlings, mixing soil, working together to help strengthen coastal Maine.

A few weeks ago, at the Maine national wildlife refuge that bears Carson’s name, the next generation of conservationists contributed their own reserves of strength to a new conservation challenge. About 30 students and alumnae from the Coastal Studies for Girls (CSG) in Freeport, Maine transplanted native plants as part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to strengthen the Atlantic coast against intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, which are predicted to be more frequent with a changing climate. This federally funded Hurricane Sandy resilience project enhances 50 acres in coastal Maine, helping to protect wildlife and communities against future storms.

In a greenhouse alive with chatter and laughter, CSG students and alumnae worked alongside Service staff. They carefully handled the seedlings, and worked together to transport the plants, remove them from trays and allow their roots to drink in fresh air.

Zopfi directs CSG students on how to carefully transplant seedlings from cell pack trays.

Zopfi directs CSG students on how to carefully transplant seedlings from cell pack trays.

The volunteers, guided by Service staff, transplanted a variety of natives — Virginia rose, bayberry, swamp rose, meadowsweet, speckled alder, black cherry, chokecherry and gray birch — to be placed at refuge sites in Maine this fall. The students also planted milkweed for Monarch butterflies, which rely heavily on the plant for egg-laying.

Molly Thibault, CSG student and coastal Maine native, said learning more about climate change and studying its effects on marshes inspires her personal conservation commitment. “Knowing that I’m helping to reduce the effects of climate change is really important. I don’t come from a town that’s really conscious of their impact on climate change and what it means for the coast.”

The Service’s work to conserve fish and wildlife must always consider the ever-changing world of nature. Carson suggested this is why conservation must be “dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective.” Her words perfectly describe this group of empowered and dynamic young women who continue Carson’s legacy.

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

The Atlantic puffin is already at the southern end of breeding range. Photographed at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Fred Yost/USFWS

Climate change and the future of Maine’s wildlife

Today you’re hearing from Bob Houston, a biologist and GIS specialist in our Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. He’s one of the authors of the report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine, released today. The report identifies 168 vulnerable species of fish, plants, birds and other wildlife that could experience large range shifts and population declines in Maine as a result of climate change by 2100.

Today you’re hearing from Bob Houston, a biologist and GIS specialist in our Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. He’s one of the authors of the report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine, released today. The report identifies 168 vulnerable species of fish, plants, birds and other wildlife that could experience large range shifts and population declines in Maine as a result of climate change by 2100.

Photo courtesy of Bob.

What will happen to the animals, plants and habitats for which we work so hard to protect? Will their environment change so much in the coming century that they will face hardships they can’t tolerate?

These and other questions were on my mind as I sat at a table with other scientists to discuss the future of ducks, seabirds, shorebirds and other bird species.

I have been very lucky to be a part of Maine’s Beginning with Habitat team from its early beginnings. The partnership, which includes state and local agencies and non-government organizations, was formed to share important information about plant and animal habitats with towns and land trusts to inform decisions about town planning and open space conservation.

The program has been a great success. But now we wrestled with questions about climate change and sea-level rise: How would it affect the plants and animals that are the focus of the Beginning with Habitat program? What will happen when the temperatures increase, rainfall and snowfall patterns change, non-native pests and plants expand their invasion, and the sea rises?

A sub-team of the partnership was formed to try to answer these questions and investigate the impact of climate change on Maine’s priority plants, animals and habitats. Led by Andrew Whitman of Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the team decided to rely on the expert opinion of many scientists throughout Maine and the Northeast.

More than 100 scientists contributed their expert knowledge and opinions to the process through an in-depth online survey and an intensive one-day workshop. It was at this one-day workshop that I found myself at a table with other wildlife biologists who have spent their lives researching and conserving all types of birds and their habitats.

As other groups discussed plants, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and invertebrates (such as beetles and dragonflies), our group discussed the future of birds. I quickly found that we had no definite answers. The uncertainties were overwhelming at times.

The Atlantic puffin is already at the southern end of breeding range.  Photographed at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Fred Yost/USFWS

The Atlantic puffin is already at the southern end of its breeding range. Photographed at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Fred Yost/USFWS

For instance, Atlantic puffins nest on Maine’s coastal islands and feed on herring and other fish in the Gulf of Maine. But they also spend a considerable amount of time outside the Gulf of Maine – in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Sea and other areas along the Atlantic coast. It is difficult to predict the effects of climate change on their food base in the Gulf of Maine, much less all the other areas that puffins rely on in a typical year.

We discussed these and many other questions that day. In the end, we identified 168 vulnerable species that could experience large range shifts and population declines as a result of climate change in Maine by 2100. They include Atlantic salmon, Blanding’s turtle, least and roseate terns, Atlantic puffin, red knot, saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, American oystercatcher, piping plover, moose and Canada lynx.

The eastern moose may be vulnerable to outbreaks of moose ticks that survive mild winters well and can cause stressful hair loss and increased calf mortality. Credit: David Govatski/USFWS

The eastern moose may be vulnerable to outbreaks of moose ticks that survive mild winters well and can cause stressful hair loss and increased calf mortality. Credit: David Govatski/USFWS

We found that many of our existing habitat conservation efforts should succeed despite climate change. We also found that we might need new adaptive strategies—ones that put even more emphasis on connected habitats to allow plants and animals to respond to changing climate.

While only time will confirm our assessments, we hope this report will support decisions and actions that ensure a strong future for Maine’s natural heritage.

See the results of the vulnerability assessment.