LEA: Awareness of climate change is first step

 

CLIMATE CHANGE could harm the state’s recreational fishing as more fish die-offs occur, according to Lakes Environmental Agency Researcher Amanda Pratt. She gave a presentation called “Climate Change in the Lakes Region” at the Harrison Village Library on March 22. (Photo courtesy of Lakes Environmental Agency)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

HARRISON — In the next 75 years, a future generation of aging Mainers will not need to buy real estate in the south to find warmer temperatures.

The snowbirds will be able to stay.

If no changes are made to slow climate change, by 2099 Maine’s weather will be similar to the current weather in Virginia or South Carolina, according to Amanda Pratt, researcher with Lakes Environmental Association (LEA). Those southeastern states do not get much snow nor do the lakes freeze, she said.

However, if changes are made to reduce the use of carbon monoxide emitting sources like fossil fuels, then, by the year 2099, people living in Maine will experience year-round weather more similar to Maryland, she said.

“We are not going to be able to stop climate change, only slow it down, be aware of it,” Pratt said.

A group of about 20 people gathered at the Harrison Village Library on March 22 to learn more about how climate change could impact the Lake Region and what action they could take to curb climate change. According to the librarian, the presentation by LEA came about after the library conducted a survey of Harrison residents. Per the survey, climate change was listed as a topic that concerned residents most. Additionally, climate change is a subject that Harrison residents wanted to better understand.

As Pratt explained, in Maine more drought, combined with heavier rainstorms, could become the norm in the coming decades. The collection of weather data shows those trends have already occurred in the past 10 to 20 years, she said.

Also, a more commonly known result of climate change — rising sea levels — will impact Maine greatly. Coastal communities would experience more frequent flooding, causing residents to move inland. More development in the inland communities could negatively impact the water quality, Pratt said.

Away from the coast, fewer freshwater fish will survive the shifting climate, especially as the time that ice covers the lakes gets shorter and shorter.

Data collected on ice-in and ice-out dates show that ice-in dates are occurring much later while ice-out dates are happening sooner. Records of ice-out dates kept on Keoka Lake in Waterford prove that the lake’s ice is melting 10 days earlier. As a trend, the ice that once stayed on lakes until April is often gone in March, Pratt said.

“The reason we care about this is the ice keeps lakes clean, covered and cold,” Pratt said.

An LEA co-worker, who was in audience, said that an earlier ice-out means that there is a jump-start on summer and the oxygen levels in lakes gets depleted sooner.

“Coldwater fish will become stressed,” Pratt said, adding that fewer fish means that Maine’s recreational fishing and connected tourism would take a hit. More importantly, the loss of native fish would impact a lake’s ecosystem. There is a link between water quality and fish mortality rates, she said.

Some of the fish die-offs would occur from more devastating rainfall events, which would increase the amount of stormwater runoff into the lakes which, in turn, leads to more algae blooms, Pratt said. Other causes for fish die-offs could be drought: the drying up of streambeds where fish lay their eggs and the dropping lake levels.

At the core of the climate change discussion is more than 100 years of collecting and recording the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, proving that CO2 levels have been on a steady increase since the Industrial Revolution. Those CO2 levels have been measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

CO2 is naturalally occurring on the planet and is removed from the Earth through the carbon cycle. However, man-made CO2 is being released at a rate that is faster than nature can remove it, thus causing global climate change.

According to Pratt, climate change in the Lake Region does not only have environmental implications, but also has the likelihood of impacting the tourism industry that is an economic boost to the state. As the water quality is compromised, the very reason people vacation in Maine could be compromised as well.

In addition to its pristine lakes, ponds and rivers, another reason Maine is beloved by vacationers is for the opportunities to view wildlife. The wildlife native to the Pine Tree State could be threatened as their ecosystems are altered by climate change. Many native animals will move north toward cooler climates when Maine temperatures warm up.

“There will be a shift of plants and animals from south to more north,” she said. “There will be a die-off of native species as invasive species take over.”

Another problem stemming from climate change is heavier rain events that could tax Maine’s aging infrastructure — costing the state money. The 100-year flood is happening more frequently; and culverts and bridges designed for the 100-year flood will not withstand recurring flooding. If people are not worried about the environmental impacts, then maybe impacts to their wallet will be a reason for being concerned about climate change, Pratt said.

  • How can individuals take action to slow down climate change and/or draw attention to the issue?
  • Get involved in your town’s planning board meetings, keeping track of what development is taking place
  • Join an environmental agency
  • Get on e-mail lists for national and local environmental agencies
  • Talk about it
  • Visit the website, toolkit.climate.gov/
  • Check out the website cci-reanalyzer.org/
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