The Effects of Climate Change on Forest Ecosystem Phenology and its Impacts on Tourism in Maine

Sponsor: National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) Program

Sandra De Urioste, Daniel Hayes, and Valeria Briones - University of Maine

Median Mid Greenup-Up occurrence in Maine as shown in Day of Year. Data from the image is derived from the MODIS MCD12Q2 Land Cover Dynamics Collection from years 2001-2017. Source: USGS, USA National Phenology Network

Over the past 25 years, the average annual temperature in Maine increased by nearly 2 °C and is predicted to continue rising if global carbon emissions are not reduced. Climate warming is affecting the social and ecological systems of the northeastern U.S., including changes in the seasonal timing and duration of biophysical processes. Phenology is the repeated occurrence of seasonal cycles, which are influenced by climate, thus it is important to understand the degree to which climate change is impacting the phenological processes throughout Maine’s forests. Additionally, abiotic drivers such as forest management practices can influence the forest phenology trends throughout the state. In Maine, it is particularly important to understand the impacts of climate change on forest phenology because of how it could affect Maine’s $6.2 billion dollar tourism and recreation industry. To explore the impacts of climate change on Maine’s forests, we will compile satellite imagery from MODIS/Terra and Aqua Land Cover Dynamics Yearly Collection, which contains 13 phenological metrics. In addition, we will compile climate data from the DAYMET database and coupled with the phenology imagery, determine the extent to which climate influences phenology in Maine. To examine visitation use and trends throughout the state, we will gather visitation records from the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. This research will help improve the understanding of impacts of climate change on the timing and duration of phenology within Maine’s forests and provide insight as to how these changes influence the way and time of year in which visitors recreate outdoors.

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