A new exhibit on how climate change will affect Acadia has opened at the Sieur de Monts Spring Nature Center. PHOTO BY DICK BROOK

Climate change looms

The multitude of effects that climate change could have on Acadia National Park and the surrounding ocean waters by mid-century is the subject of a new exhibit at the park’s Nature Center at Sieur de Monts Spring.

The ongoing warming of the atmosphere caused by greenhouse gases will alter the habitats of plants and animals both on the land and in the sea, according to climate scientists. They predict that the changes will reach from the shoreline to the mountain summits, and that virtually nothing that flies, walks, swims or sprouts from the soil will be unaffected.

“Some crustaceans and other shellfish will become less abundant because the increase in dissolved carbon dioxide will make the ocean more acidic,” one panel in the exhibit explains.

As the atmosphere warms, the pace of glacial melting increases. And that causes sea levels to rise. Eventually, the ocean could permanently flood Mount Desert Island’s salt marshes, and that would have major consequences, as Nature Center visitors learn:

“Considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, marshes not only provide habitats for a variety of plants and animals, but support wildlife nurseries and breeding areas for migratory birds, filter pollutants from water and control shoreline erosion.”

The hearty trees and shrubs high up on Acadia’s peaks withstand bitter cold, heavy rain and snow, and the gale-force winds that sometimes blow even on sunny days. As temperatures rise, plants that now thrive at lower altitudes gradually will move up the slopes, while some species near the summits could disappear.

Climate scientists also predict that coastal storms will become stronger and more frequent as ocean waters warm, pumping more energy into the atmosphere. Violent storms, with their high winds and high seas, reshape Acadia’s landscape in all sorts of ways, including uprooting trees and depositing tons of additional sand on beaches. Nature Center visitors learn that such impacts are expected to intensify as the earth continues to warm.

The Nature Center at Sieur de Monts Spring is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from mid-June through Labor Day.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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