This article was originally published in the Portland Press Herald on February 28, 2014. View the original article here.
Some troubling news came out this week about serious threats facing Maine’s wildlife. More than a third of Maine’s most vulnerable wildlife species are threatened by climate change, according to a recent study by a team of scientists.
The report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine, identifies 168 vulnerable species that could experience large range shifts and population declines in Maine as a result of climate change by 2100. Iconic Maine species, such as the common loon and moose, were among the many species found to be at risk.
“Maine will experience more warming than most states and this may pose a huge threat to our wildlife,” said lead author Andy Whitman, of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. “We identified Maine’s wildlife and habitats most vulnerable to climate change. This is the first step for moving forward on this issue.”
But Whitman and others also point out some good news that past conservation efforts place Maine in a strong position to reduce climate change impacts.
“As the report shows, continuing these efforts and adding new conservation strategies will make a difference,” Whitman said. “Yet, our greatest challenge may come from outside Maine. We will have to work with states to our south to ensure that their species are able to move north and fill gaps left by species we lose.”
The report was written by a team of scientists from Manomet; Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; The Nature Conservancy; Maine Coast Heritage Trust; Maine Audubon; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the report, native plant and animal species will be affected by temperature increases, changes in rainfall and snowfall patterns, invasive pests and plant species, drought, sea level rise, and other factors driven by climate change.
Researchers looked at 442 already vulnerable species in Maine and found that climate change could greatly affect more than a third of them. Mountain, coastal, and wetland habitats and cold water streams, habitats that cover about 33 percent of Maine, were found to be at greatest risk.
The climate change study assessed more species and habitats than any other state climate change assessment. It completes a 2010 Maine Department of Environmental Protection recommendation to report back to the Maine legislature. More tha 100 scientists from across Maine contributed to this work.
Barbara Vickery, The Nature Conservancy’s director of conservation programs in Maine, helped produce the report.
“The implications of climate change for the natural world are so complex that it can be paralyzing. This report helps tremendously by focusing on species and habitats that are most vulnerable and it outlines actions we can take to help,” Vickery said. “The report also underscores the value of work Maine is already doing, like conserving a variety of habitats and connections between them and reconnecting rivers and streams and helping communities adapt in ways that work with nature. And it recommends developing new approaches to make sure species and habitats and people can better accommodate the many ways our world is changing.”
Working on an array of scientific and government relations fronts, The Nature Conservancy and our partners treat climate change and its impacts on our communities and natural resources as one of the top priorities of our times. With your help, we’re hopeful we can help the resiliency of natural systems here in Maine and beyond.