2010 Maine Water Conference
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Augusta Civic Center, Augusta, Maine
From urban streams to pristine sites: prioritizing research, funding, conservation
Chair: Melissa Evers, Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Description: Some states have recently allocated funding traditionally used for restoring impaired sites to conserve “high quality” waters. How does funding drive actions for watershed management? And, how do we find resources to protect pristine areas? This session will describe projects ranging from preservation and conservation to restoration and management of freshwater resources. Topics of interest include stormwater runoff, low-impact development, urban stream impairment, determining pollutant reductions, invasive aquatic plants, shoreland zoning and vernal pool conservation efforts, threats (such as non-point source pollution) to seemingly pristine sites, and strategies for conservation of unimpaired sites. Talks will focus on the science supporting restoration and conservation across the spectrum from impaired to ’pristine’ sites and/or management and policy implications of prioritization of limited resources for such projects.
- Identification of streams of concern and strategies for conserving them
Mary Ellen Dennis; Melissa Evers; Jeff Varricchione: Jeff Dennis, Maine Department of Environmental Protection
Maine Department of Environmental Protection has thirty one streams listed as “urban impaired” for failure to meet water quality standards due to stormwater runoff. These streams fall under additional regulatory requirements of the Site and Stormwater laws. In these stream watersheds, considerable resources are also directed toward development of TMDLs, complicated watershed management plans and stormwater utilities. The Long Creek watershed is in the process of permitting existing development - a strategy which potentially could be applied to other impaired watersheds. While there are officially 31 streams listed as impaired, there is a much larger group which DEP considers streams of concern. The continuum of streams in this group include streams that are under development pressure and which may already be exhibiting signs of stress, as well as streams that are not yet developed; but located in areas where development, particularly commercial development is likely headed. This presentation will first focus on tools DEP has developed for identifying streams of concern - GIS watershed impervious surface mapping and identification of growth areas. The second part will focus on tools and strategies for protecting these identified streams. This will include a discussion of land use laws, including strengths and limitations; water quality monitoring by DEP and watershed groups; and local community interest, advocacy and planning. Other tools such as low impact development incentives, riparian land conservation protection, and social marketing may also be discussed.
- No such thing as pristine: mercury in Maine waters and northeast National Parks
Sarah J. Nelson; Peter Vaux, Mitchell Center University of Maine; B. Zoellick, Acadia Partners for Science & Learning
Recent research regarding ultra-trace level contaminants, such as mercury, has revealed that even seemingly pristine sites such as National Parks and remote areas are affected by elevated levels of these contaminants. Mercury, in its toxic methylated form, is a potent neurotoxin that is delivered to ecosystems via deposition from a global atmospheric pool, and ultimately bioaccumulates in aquatic and terrestrial foodwebs. Around the Gulf of Maine, research sites in ‘pristine’ areas have fish and other biota that exceed thresholds considered safe for human consumption or wildlife protection. We will report on a recent compilation of data from two National Parks (Acadia National Park and Cape Cod National Seashore) and from lakes and streams across Maine. We found patterns consistent with US EPA’s recent reports where, nationally, 48% of fish had mercury burdens greater than those considered safe for human consumption. Further, some amphibians at Acadia have mercury body burdens of concern. Ongoing research is evaluating the utility of dragonfly larvae (Odonata: Anisoptera) as indicators of mercury status in the Gulf of Maine region. The average mercury concentration in dragonfly larvae sampled across Maine was 0.097 ppm, greater than the proposed wildlife safety criterion (0.077 ppm). All Maine surface waters are under fish consumption advisory and are considered impaired with respect to mercury because of these patterns and the difficulty in predicting which systems are most affected. We will discuss regional and national efforts to monitor and reduce mercury in light of its ubiquity, even in seemingly pristine sites.
- Amphibian communities in Maine's historically fishless lakes: Facultative breeding occurence by vernal pool amphibians
Amanda F. Shearin, Dept of Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine; Cynthia Loftin, USGS Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Aram Calhoun, Dept. of Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine
Fishless lakes are an uncommon aquatic ecosystem in Maine. Previous studies documented differences in invertebrate community composition and abundance among lakes in Maine with and without fish. Historically and currently fishless lakes also may contain unique amphibian communities, particularly in landscapes with few alternative fishless breeding sites. We surveyed seven fishless and five fish-containing lakes and ten vernal pools in Hancock and Washington Counties, Maine, for amphibian community composition during 2006-2009. Ambystoma maculatum (spotted salamander) typically breeds in vernal pools; however, this species was detected breeding in all lakes. Ambystoma maculatum egg mass density per area of suitable ovipositioning habitat was greatest in vernal pools; however, A. maculatum egg mass counts exceeded the state threshold for vernal pool significance in five out of seven fishless and in all fish-containing lakes. Egg masses in both lake types were oviposited shallower than in vernal pools, and these oviposition sites were closer to shore in fish-containing lakes than in fishless lakes or vernal pools. Adults may alter breeding and ovipositing behavior in relation to location of suitable available structure as well as in response to different threats perceived at breeding sites. In egg mass enclosure experiments, A. maculatum embryo survival to hatching was greater in vernal pools than either lake type. Aquatic ecosystems along a hydroperiod gradient may offer alternative breeding sites for amphibians typically breeding in seasonal pools, particularly during dry years; however, the risk of predation risk to larvae developing in these long-hydroperiod habitats may result in reduced successful metamorphosis.