Effort underway to restore mountain vegetation on top of Cadillac

When French explorer, Samuel Champlain made his way along the coast of Maine in 1604, he was struck by large barren spots of granite on many of the coastal mountains on a particular island. These outcrops influenced Champlain to coin the name of this island, known today as Mount Desert Island. The distinguishable rock outcrops are marks made from the Laurentide Ice sheet 18,000 years ago. The glacier ripped up the native flora and eroded most of the soil on Cadillac and Dorr. That loss of soil is part of the reason why the tops of these mountains are now such harsh habitats for vegetation to take root and grow in.   

Director of Forest Ecology, Dr. Nick Fisichelli and Principal Investigator of the project, Bill Brumback plant native seedlings on an outcrop on top of Cadillac. Brumback is the Director of Conservation at NEWS and grew these seedlings over winter in a greenhouse in western Massachusetts. Noah Rosenberg photos.

Vegetation on Cadillac has declined further since Champlain’s voyage, this has been in large part, due to soil erosion from heavy visitor use and increased precipitation. To help preserve and restore native vegetation on top of Cadillac, researchers have begun working on a multi-year Cadillac Mountain restoration project that aims to revegetate some of the areas where vegetation has been lost. In partnership with Schoodic Institute, Acadia National Park, and the New England Wildflower Society, the project hopes to develop effective and feasible methods of conserving and restoring the native vegetation and soil on rocky summits.

A few native seedlings coming out of coir, a cotton netting used to prevent erosion. The researchers believe the coir may also be acting as a net, catching nearby wild seeds. With fertile soil underneath, the seeds will have a much better chance at taking root.

Today, researchers are planting juvenile native species in four sites on Cadillac. The researchers are experimenting with different restoration techniques  to see how each condition promotes and sustains growth. If the plants can survive and keep the soil intact, then the method may be used in other areas to restore mountain vegetation.

Local botanist, Jill Weber inspects a resilient native species of shrub on top of Cadillac. Although conditions are not ideal, this species will tolerate the shallow soil and little water.

Furthermore, as the effects of climate change raise the temperature on top of Cadillac, researchers are hoping to find out which species are more resilient to the heat. Schoodic Institute’s Director of Forest Ecology, Dr. Nicholas Fisichelli, who is working on the project, recognizes that conditions are changing and research is needed to understand which species will be successful in the restoration areas.

Jill Weber, the research botanist on the project is filling in research tags that identify the plot, project, and the treatment; here the treatment is soil, coir (netting), and seed.