Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees, Lakes, Maples … And The Climate!
By Kirsti Blow
Recent research has pointed to cause for worry about the long-term health of Lake Champlain. According to Vermont researchers, the lake is more susceptible to damage from climate change than was previously thought. Because of its sensitivity, they maintain that current EPA regulations may not be sufficient in preventing algal blooms and water quality issues.
The shortcomings of these regulations hold particular weight when considered with the expected changing weather patterns. Johnson State College researchers found that Vermont’s storm events and precipitation amounts have steadily increased from 2000 to 2014, and are projected to continue to rise. Hotter and wetter weather will affect the lake’s ecosystem in unpredictable ways.
The Research on Adaptation to Climate Change project also released a report on the Lake Champlain Basin’s water quality. The report urged the area to be viewed as a social ecological system, one that is in the process of adapting to a changing climate. Because of the inescapable human activity nearby that directly acts on the lake’s ecosystem, the group believes this perspective will best address the decline in water quality.
In addition to contamination concerns, the lake’s water level has also dropped from 98 feet to 94 feet since mid-April, producing small islands that proved to be problematic for boaters in the warmer season. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the lowest level ever recorded is 92 feet.
Concerns about levels of pollution are not limited to the state’s bodies of water. Chemical accumulation linked to climate change has been detrimental for Vermont’s sugar maples, which rely on high intakes of calcium, as reported in Vermont’s ecoNEWS study. Acid deposition leaches calcium from the roots and stunts their growth, weakening the tree and limiting regeneration. Though the effects are more widespread in the Adirondacks, where poorer soils without a strong buffer to acidity are common, Vermont’s $330 billion maple syrup industry should take measures to ensure favorable growing conditions.
The state’s future forest losses to economic endeavors and population growth have been predicted through 2060 by the Northern Forest Futures Project. In the most optimistic scenario, with Vermont making significant gains in income and only slightly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, the state’s forests will see a six percent reduction. The population is projected to increase by 48.8 percent, a huge disparity from the national growth of 25.6 percent.
In spite of the widespread effects of climate change on nature, some of Vermont’s wildlife has experienced something of a comeback in recent months. Over the summer, UVM researcher Leif Richardson uncovered one of the last known rusty patched bumble bees in the state, helping protect the species under the Endangered Species Act.
Bald eagles, once on the precipice of extinction, are also making a resurgence. The Vermont Department of Wildlife and Fisheries documented 34 young birds raised this year, shattering the previous record high of 26 in 2014. Although the species was removed from the federal endangered list in 2007, they remain on that of the state for the moment.
Kirsti Blow is a sophomore Public Communication major at University of Vermont. Kirsti writes the briefs for UVM’s Vermont research newsletter published by the Center for Research on Vermont. Learn more at http://www.uvm.edu/~crvt/. Kirsti is also a local musician in the Burlington area.