Tag Archives: manomet

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.

Red knots at Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Calling all red knot fans

Red knots at Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Red knots at Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

A group of conservation organizations is building a base of red knot fans in the Delaware Bay. While this may sound like a strategy for a sports team, this group is dedicated to the conservation of a rare shorebird that faces serious declines in its populations.

Melissa Bimbi, endangered species biologist for our agency, holds up a red knot just banded at Kiawah Island, S.C. Credit: USFWS

Melissa Bimbi, endangered species biologist for our agency, holds up a red knot just banded at Kiawah Island, S.C. Credit: USFWS

The red knot (Calidris canutus ssp. rufa) stops to rest in the Delaware Bay during its 9,000-mile journey from their wintering grounds in the southern tip of South America to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. The Delaware Bay provides the crucial stopover habitat and food to fuel the red knot’s final leg to the Arctic. Year after year, the birds arrive here in May to feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs.

“The conservation community has dedicated efforts to educate local communities about the importance of the Delaware Bay to migratory birds like the red knot,” says Caleb Spiegel, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shorebird biologist. “Despite the recent stability of the red knot population, it remains low and vulnerable to climate change.”

Check out other stories of endangered plant and animal conservation in the Northeast – We’re sharing them throughout the year!

Faced with a population crisis for red knots and other shorebirds that visit the Delaware Bay, these organizations are using an innovative approach to help protect this iconic bird.

“We’ve worked with our local partners on three campaigns in Patagonia, Argentina, for red knots,” says Charles Duncan, director of Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project. “The conservation outcomes are more than impressive. Now we want to replicate those successes at Delaware Bay.”

The campaign includes four distinct tactics, all designed to engage and empower the local community to act on behalf of the red knot and their own interests. …Read the rest of the story to learn about these tactics!

Closeup of an American oystercatcher. Credit: Pam Loring, UMass

New study following Atlantic seabirds to help siting of wind turbines

An American oystercatcher released.

By following Atlantic seabirds, federal agencies will obtain important information on bird movement and migration. Here a researcher from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, a study collaborator, releases an American oystercatcher with a backpack-style VHF (very high frequency). Credit: Pamela Loring/USFWS.

Most of this post is from an article by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management‘s Jim Woehr and Marjorie Weisskohl, originally published in the May/June 2013 edition of ECO magazine. We are managing the study, which is funded by BOEM and led by the University of Massachusetts.

University of Massachusetts student Pam Loring is the principal investigator for the study (see a post written by her last year). Photo courtesy Pam Loring.

University of Massachusetts student Pam Loring is the principal investigator for the study (see a post written by her last year). Photo courtesy Pam Loring.

In making decisions on where to permit construction of offshore Atlantic wind turbines, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaged with offshore wind energy permitting as well) will need information on the movements of priority bird species such as common terns and American oystercatchers up and down the east coast, from Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound south throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

The movement patterns of these two species are not well documented and, although they are not protected under the Endangered Species Act, they are species of high concern.

To help fill the information gap, BOEM recently awarded a $292,000 study to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to research the movements of these birds over the next 12 to 18 months using VHF (very high frequency) backpack transmitters.

Biologist Caleb Spiegel working on New Providence Island. Credit: USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Caleb Spiegel is heading out this week with Pam this week to capture and tag American oystercatchers at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Caleb says, “The study, which our migratory bird program helped design, will test the ability of cutting edge technology, called NanoTags, to track offshore movements of the birds off southeast Cape Cod and Nantucket, with possible expansion of the work pending success of what is essentially a pilot season. Credit: USFWS

The Service, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, will capture up to 15 American oystercatchers and 75 common terns during the nesting season, and will attach external backpack VHF NanoTag transmitters that send signals to receiving stations in and around Nantucket and southeastern Cape Cod.

Because the common tern in Nantucket Sound is commonly found in mixed flocks with the endangered roseate tern, the common tern could serve as a surrogate for that endangered species in future research.

Information gathered will improve BOEM’s ability to discriminate between sites potentially suitable for wind energy development and sites that are unsuitable because of local activity of birds of high conservation concern.

The study is scheduled for completion in 2014. For more information, read the BOEM study plan (p. 175).

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