June 21, 2013

Mission: Examine climate change effects on Maine lakes

Blooms of algae, depletion of fish and reduced ice cover are among the threats posed in Maine.

By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel

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click image to enlarge

Roy Bouchard, a retired lake biologist, in Belgrade on the banks of Long Pond where Great Pond flow into it. Central Maine lakes are particularly susceptible to the threats associated with climate change because they are more heavily populated, and warmer, than the mountainous regions that make up much of the rest of the state, he said.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seaman

On the surface, algae thrive in the warm water, forming colonies of pond scum.

While such blooms in the Belgrade Lakes region haven't been serious enough to threaten human health, Bouchard said, they will increase in frequency and intensity unless something is done.

He said warming regional temperatures also lead to more severe rainstorms, flushing more pollutants, such as phosphorus-laden fertilizer, into the lakes, further fueling growth of algae.

In addition, when the ice and snow melt earlier, their meltwater flows through the freshwater system earlier in the year, making it more difficult for trout to spawn.

Bouchard said that, as regional temperatures rise, warm water species will migrate to Maine from the south, while some current Maine species will disappear from the area in favor of more northern climes.

"Landlocked salmon and brook trout, those fish are going to be pushed harder and their habitat is going to be moved north," he said. "It's quite clear that Maine is going to see their fish stocks edged out."

It's difficult to craft a local solution to a global problem, Bouchard said.

However, he said, state representatives need to be aware of the issues and how to best cope with them.

On June 12, the state Legislature approved a bill, L.D. 825, that would compel the Department of Environmental Protection to resume the study of long-term effects of climate change on the state.

In early 2011, the administration of Gov. Paul LePage halted the department's work on a climate action plan for the state, saying such work is not a good use of state resources. Legislators said the bill will require the department to submit the plan in February 2015.

Bouchard said individuals and local communities can develop their own action plans that will have an impact.

"We need to manage our land use better," he said.

 

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

 

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