WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition will spend three days in Acadia National Park next month as part of their effort to learn about the effects of climate change on America’s national parks.
There are 27 members of the coalition, all of them Democrats. It isn’t known how many of them will visit Acadia Sept. 8-10. The visiting group will be led by Maine 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree and Illinois 5th District Rep. Mike Quigley.
“It’s an opportunity for members to be on the ground, to talk to National Park Service scientists and to see the immediate impacts of climate change and what this will mean for our national parks moving forward,” said Victoria Oms, Quigley’s communications director. “And this hopefully helps with the push toward climate action so our national parks will be around for the next generation.”
According to climate scientists, the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than any other part of the world’s oceans, and land temperatures are rising, as well. This warming is expected to continue and even accelerate unless the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is significantly reduced.
“Climate change is already altering Acadia’s ecosystems and the experience of visiting the park,” according to a page on the park’s website.
“Acadia’s plant communities have already changed dramatically, with one in five of the species documented a century ago by the Champlain Society no longer found in the park. While our forests are likely to adapt over time with a new mix of species, the transitions can be disruptive. Trees under stress may be killed more easily by pests and pathogens, including invasive species. A recent example is the widespread and unexpected death of many of Acadia’s red pines.”
The park’s website page on climate change also describes the impact on marine animals.
“Native species in the Gulf of Maine have adapted over long periods of time to thrive within a certain temperature range. When the temperature increases, the environmental conditions to which they are adapted are suddenly gone and, for many species, warmer waters are completely inhospitable.
“Significant lobster migration due to climate change is already occurring in the Gulf of Maine. As the Gulf continues to warm, there is a possibility that the lobsters could eventually migrate beyond the reach of Maine’s lobstermen and women.”
National Park Service scientists also say rising sea level caused by climate change threatens the existence of Acadia’s marshes, such as Bass Harbor Marsh and Pretty Marsh. They explain that marshes serve as water filters and provide habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife.
“They are nursery grounds for fish species, and they serve as buffers between the ocean and the upland area, mitigating wave and wind impact during storms. Most importantly, marshes absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, something they do better than any other type of habitat.”
Even Acadia’s iconic Thunder Hole could fall victim to sea level rise if the warming of the water continues, the scientists warn.
“The combination of waves hitting the rocks and the release of air from the cavern cause a thunderous boom. Often, visitors say a trip to Acadia is not complete without a visit to Thunder Hole. If global warming and sea level rise continue unabated, it is very likely Thunder Hole will be covered and other portions of Maine’s coastline will be forever changed.”