STATEWIDE – From the shores to the summits, Maine has a lot to offer, but the views as we know them are slowly changing.
“I think the effects I‘m most concerned about, as an ecologist, are the places I love changing in totally irreparable ways,” said Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie.
Climate change researchers say current warming conditions are alarming.
“With that come things like pests, ticks, pests for crops,” said Aaron Putnam, an assistant professor at the University of Maine. “So for Aroostook County, for potatoes, introducing new species can be problematic. Diseases, tick born diseases and mosquito born diseases, will have a greater probability of making it into the state.”
That’s why a team of researchers from the University of Maine made their way to the Himalayas to take a look at the earth’s history.
“What we do is compare glacial histories in these different areas to try to get at questions about how the global climate system operates and what sort of mechanics can lead to abrupt changes that have been observed in both the recent past and geologic past,” said Peter Strand, a doctorate student who was a part of the research team.
By dating and comparing ice-cores, climate trends become more apparent.
An ecologist and Second Century Stewardship Fellow at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute has been using a similar method to track how climate change impacts plant life at Acadia National Park.
“In looking at ways we can assess the vulnerability of different species, we need to come up with things that are quick, that you can do in a couple years, that aren’t labor- or money- or time-intensive things,” said McDonough MacKenzie.
When it comes to studying plant life in Acadia National Park, micro-climates that exist at different elevations and areas make that possible.
McDonough MacKenzie said data shows plants are leafing out earlier in warmer areas.
“If the plants are leafing out and flowering out earlier, but migratory birds aren’t arriving earlier, then they might be missing their food services or nest materials,” she said. “A big question mark around climate change for ecologist is, what happens?”
McDonough MacKenzie said it’s important to respect the roped off areas in Acadia because they protect what’s already there.