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Andrew Barton Explores the Changing Nature of the Maine Woods

November 12, 2013

The Downeast Lakes Land Trust was pleased to host University of Maine biologist Andrew Barton on Monday, Nov. 14 to discuss his book The Changing Nature of the Maine Woods. A passionate public speaker, Dr. Barton revealed Maine’s often hidden past; “People often think of Maine in reference to the coast, ‘lobsters and beaches’ with the Maine woods as a sort of homogeneous green background. I wanted to write a book that explored the often over-looked and incredible diversity present in our forests.”

Reaching back 13,000 years to the retreat of the glacier, Dr. Barton explained the vegetative colonization of Maine. From bores in bogs looking for fossilized pollen, European surveyor’s notes on witness trees and examination of untouched remnant communities, Dr. Barton has built the most complete picture of Maine’s pre-European settlement forest  in existence. “Maine is a place of incredible complexity and diversity as an ecotone between the boreal forests to the north, and temperate broadleaf forests to the south,” said Barton.

Exploring natural history with a long view, Barton traced the the profound transformations since European settlement.  Dr. Barton wrapped up his talk by theorizing on the key ecological forces currently at work in the Maine forest such as climate change, insects and disease, nonnative organisms, natural disturbance, and changing land use. “Some of these threats are already here.  Wooly Adelgid is here. If you look at ice out dates, they are steadily earlier across the state, climate change is here, and that is going to mean less moose, fewer loons, and more a forest more like Virginia than Ontario.”