Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 29 : Summer 2016 - Page 69

Deboullie Climate Change Study By The University Of Maine At Fort Kent UMFK Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies Dr. Peter Nelson, began a climate-monitoring lichen “treasure hunt” at Deboullie Mountain to assess climate change’s impact on “rare and threatened” vegetation communities in rock glaciers. much higher elevation, so we have these mini mountaintops growing on boulder fields and we’re wondering why are they there.” The scientists will use data logging equipment to monitor the environmental conditions of the rock glaciers. The data loggers are small devices, about Dr. Nelson, along with Drs. Judith Roe and Larry the size of a nickel, and plug into a computer to Feinstein from the University of Maine at Presque display data. Isle, coordinated the study, which has scientists examining plant life beneath and surrounding five “We’re going to measure the humidity and rock glaciers at Deboullie. Dr. Roe wrote the grant temperature through time, up and down these rock proposal for the study. glaciers and between rock glaciers, to see whether those environmental variables are different between According to the proposal, the study has the and within rock glaciers. If there is a variation in potential to yield useful results: “In order to better a single rock glacier, does the vegetation change in inform land management and understand the a way related to that cold/wet or hot/dry gradient? impact of climate change on the rare and threatened The reasons that lichens and mosses are good at rock glacier plant and lichen communities, we measuring these things is they don’t have roots. propose to conduct a comprehensive survey They are like sponges. They hydrate, and when of the plant and lichen species and the abiotic it gets dry they dry out, so they’re just subject to environmental conditions found on the five the whimsy of the local environment,” Dr. Nelson Debouille rock glaciers.” said. “We’re not studying the rocks or the geomorphology, per se. That’s been done,” Nelson said. “These places are much more similar to arctic and alpine environments.” “I like lichens because they are diverse. There are many species - over 12,000 in the world... There are thousands of chemical compounds (that comprise lichens) found nowhere else in nature. We really don’t understand the full capacity of He explained that plant life near the Deboullie those compounds,” he added. rock glaciers is uncommon to most low lying environments in Maine. “So there are these unique little islands of arctic and boreal plants, and there aren’t other places like this except the few mountaintops in Maine - Katahdin and Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Those are SUMMER 2016 67