More than a third of Maine’s most vulnerable wildlife species are threatened by climate change, according to a recent study.
The report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine, identified 168 vulnerable species that could experience large range shifts and population declines in Maine by 2100 as a result of climate change. Iconic Maine species, such as the common loon and moose, were some of the 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.”
“The good news is that past conservation efforts place Maine in a strong position to reduce climate change impacts,” Whitman said. “As the report shows, continuing these efforts and adding new conservation strategies will make a difference. 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 168 species. Another 38 percent, or 171 species, were moderately vulnerable. Mountain, coastal, and wetland habitats were found to be at significant risk; these habitats cover about 33 percent of Maine.
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. Over 100 scientists from across Maine contributed to this work.
“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,” said Barbara Vickery, Director of Conservation Programs at The Nature Conservancy’s Maine chapter. “The report also underscores the value of work Maine is already doing, like conserving habitats and connections between them and taking care of rivers and streams. And it recommends developing new approaches to make sure species and habitats can better accommodate the many ways our world is changing.”
Click here to access a summary of the report.
Click here to access the full report.