Addressing the Threat of Climate Change
Saving Maine’s Native Plants and Animals
Maine Coast Heritage Trust is addressing threats to the Maine coast through the largest coastal conservation Campaign in Maine’s history.
Seventy-five percent of Maine’s native plants and animals are vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. This was the conclusion of a 2014 report by Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
The report, called “Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine: Vulnerability of Habitats and Priority Species,” [summary] identifies threatened habitats and species. If we can make the Maine coast more resilient in the face of climate change, Maine’s native plants and animals have a better chance of adapting to rising seas and temperatures.
So… what’s this “coastal resilience” all about?
This term is getting tossed around more and more lately. Coastal resilience is the ability of natural communities to adapt to changing conditions, and to withstand and recover from major natural events, such as hurricane damage and flooding.
MCHT is making the coast more resilient for Maine’s wildlife in two ways: 1) by protecting land identified as naturally resilient, where wildlife can thrive into the future, and 2) by ensuring that they have the ability to move around landscapes in response to climate change.
Saving Maine’s Salt Marshes
MCHT is focusing conservation efforts on one of the most critical coastal habitats for threatened plants and animals (including many important commercial fish species): salt marsh.
We’ve launched The Marshes for Tomorrow Initiative, a coast-wide effort to identify marshes currently surrounded by undeveloped land and to protect that land. That way, as sea levels rise, there’s potential for these marshes to migrate inland and reestablish themselves. We’re also working with people, towns, and other organizations to support efforts to restore marsh systems, and make sure they’re working as well as they can.
Saving Maine’s salt marshes doesn’t just help wildlife—it makes human communities more resilient as well. Salt marshes are cleaning the air we breathe and absorbing storm surge and protecting our homes and buildings from destruction.
In recent years we have protected land surrounding Mount Desert Island’s Jones Marsh, high priority marshes in Old Pond in Hancock, and 133 acres (including a significant amount of salt marsh) on the Weskeag River in South Thomaston.
MCHT continues to reach out to landowners, other land trusts, and towns to help them save the marshes that make their communities more resilient to climate change.
There’s a lot more work to do on this front.
Conserving Connected Landscapes
We’re protecting some of the last places on the East Coast where inland forest stretches all the way to the coast. If we preserve and conserve these connected landscapes, as the climate changes wildlife will be able to move to find food.
Ultimately, connected landscapes and connected waterways are critical to a healthy Maine coast. That’s why MCHT has launched The Rivers Initiative to support coastal river restoration and fish passage efforts. Sea-run fish, like alewives, play an outsized role in Maine’s food chain. When they’re numerous, other Maine fish, birds, and mammal are more numerous.
We have also focused attention on protecting land between Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge and the Cutler Coast Unit, and have made significant progress since the Campaign began, protecting nearly 3,000 acres in less than two years.
MCHT played a critical role in creating nature-like fishways in the Bagaduce River. A year later, alewife runs doubled at those sites.