Tag Archives: moose

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.

Tuesday Trek: Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, Maine

I’m Tom Barnes; you might know me from TGIF with Tom. And now, I’m bringing you Tuesday Trek! Each Tuesday, I’ll give you some insight about a refuge destination you might enjoy. Planning a winter vacation? Spring break? I might know the perfect spot for your upcoming travels!

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Visitors cross-country skiing at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

Up for a trip to northern Maine? If so, Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge is a great spot for winter sports. This time of year, the refuge in Limestone, offers seven groomed miles of trails perfect for snowshoeing and skiing. If you’re not the cold weather type, and of the angling persuasion, wait until late spring and summer when the refuge hosts an annual fishing derby. Originally part of the Loring Air Force Base, the refuge was founded in 1998 with a primary focus of forest and grassland management.

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Besides removing the Cold War-era military buildings and demolishing fences and railways, the refuge manages around 400 acres of grasslands. Biologists have even investigated using some of the abandoned military bunkers for artificial bat hibernacula! (Really, it’s true; click here) Located in a part of Maine dominated by potato and broccoli farming, the refuge is key in preserving the northern Maine forests and its wildlife, including upland sandpipers and neotropical migratory birds. If that’s not enough to get you up there, this photo should do the trick.

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Moose at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Sharon Wallace
DOI FEATURED PHOTO!

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Ready to visit? This month, the refuge has two upcoming events, a cross-country ski race and a cross-country ski clinic, where the refuge friends group offers the use of free skis and snowshoes, and lessons on how to use them. Learn more>>

Black bear

Viewing conservation through a wider lens

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A black bear. Credit: USFWS

Brawny male black bears can be found rummaging through the thick understory of many New England forests, and about this time, many are getting cozy in their dens. But in the warmer months, these guys are known to do a lot of traveling. A single black bear’s home range can stretch from 20 to 50 square miles, covering acres of forests, wetlands and even communities.

From a conservation point of view, animals with a wide range like the black bears’ can be difficult to manage. But that’s exactly what Ken Elowe wanted to figure out.

Elowe leads one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region programs as the assistant regional director of Science Applications, a program working on the science of today’s conservation methods. He came to the Service in 2010 after working in the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for 23 years. Elowe is incredibly passionate about his work in conservation, which started 30 years ago, when he did graduate research on black bear habitats. He is driven by the desire to ensure that our children and their children can continue to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Ken Elowe

Ken Elowe is the Assistant Regional Director of Science Applications for our agency in the Northeast Region.

“A hundred years from now,” said Elowe, “we want our fish and wildlife to still have a functional place to live and operate on the landscape.”

To face growing threats to the health of fish, wildlife and the natural systems that make up our landscape in the Northeast, Elowe – along with the Service and many of its partners – believes that approaching conservation from a holistic perspective is our best hope for fish and wildlife into the future.

To achieve that vision, the Service is working with partners to do conservation work at a landscape scale and consolidate the multitude of individual environmental, conservation and natural resource management actions into one big picture. For example, when conserving a forest, management plans could very well be applied based on individual animals and plants. A separate plan for moose, a separate plan for eagles and a separate plan for deer and bears could all apply to one forest. But doing conservation work at a landscape scale means that experts work to develop one all-inclusive plan that provides for all wildlife.

Elowe compares each conservation action to a patch on a quilt, and when we create a common landscape design plan, we can sew all those patches together.

“We’ve conserved wetlands. We’ve created wildlife refuges, management lands and we’ve created national parks,” he said. “But we’ve never stitched them all together so that they are a connected, functioning landscape.”

This concept can be seen in Maine’s Beginning with Habitat program, a program that Elowe worked on from the mid 1990s until his move to the Service. The program pulls together federal agencies, Maine, state agencies, local communities and non-governmental organizations. It strives to conserve habitats that support all native plants and animals in Maine. The program also supports towns, land trusts and others in making the best possible scientifically based decisions for people and wildlife.

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Interns learning how to take measures of sea turtle nests at Virginia Beach. Credit: USFWS

The Service’s Northeast Region and its partners are strategically looking at what, where and how much habitat is needed for fish, wildlife and plants. By working through partnerships, like joint ventures and landscape conservation cooperatives (LCCs), experts can bring landscape scale conservation to life, and apply it to the entire region.

The LCCs, like Beginning with Habitat in Maine, are a forum for partners to come together over large areas to coordinate conservation efforts and develop the science and tools needed to put conservation plans into action.

“The LCCs are really doing what no federal agency, state agency or organization can do alone,” Elowe explained. “They integrate people and conservation on large scales.”

Elowe hopes that landscape scale perspectives will make it easier to meet to the needs of all parties, from wildlife to agencies to communities.

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A moose at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Thomas Tetzner/USFWS

“People are concerned with how their areas look, feel and smell, what views they can get, where they can recreate, and where they can farm,” he said. “Through the work of LCCs, those important aspects [and many others I didn’t list] can be built into conservation, bringing people and conservation together on a bigger scale.”

So for the black bear, now snug in his den for his winter hibernation, taking a landscape scale approach can find a sustainable way for nature to provide a home for him, his future generations and his neighbors.

Written by: Raechel I. Kelley

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