Science at the Summit

a researcher stands at a table with science equipment surrounding them at the summit of a mountain
Chris Nadeau, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Northeastern University, checks a research plot at the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Photo by Ashley L. Conti/Friends of Acadia.
Despite their hardened granite, Acadia's mountain summit ecosystems are incredibly fragile. Human-caused climate change is causing longer growing seasons, more rain, less snow, and fewer species that we know and love. Extreme weather events are damaging landscapes, cultural resources, and infrastructure. Invasive plants species are trying to out-compete native summit plants. Trampling by humans has damaged the plant communities at the top of mountains. Together with its partners-in-science, Acadia scientists are studying the summit plant communities and in some cases actively working to restore them.

Partners-in-Science at the Summit

Acadia National Park, Friends of Acadia and the Schoodic Institute are working together to evaluate new vegetation plantings and soil replacement on Cadillac Mountain summit. This provides managers with critical information on how to direct change toward desired future conditions. . Friends of Acadia and partners are beginning to explore what it would take to expand this restoration to other park summits.

This work wouldn’t be happening/successful without the support and involvement of our partners. Schoodic Institute provides science support and Friends of Acadia provide key financial support and capacity including communication, fundraising, boots on the ground.

A New Approach

As part of this partnership, the park and its partners are currently exploring a new approach framework for managing park ecosystems. We call it R.AD for short. R.A.D. guides us to choose when and where to
  • Resist environmental change— preserve habitats at all costs as they currently exist;
  • Accept environment change— allow species to vanish as the environment changes rapidly; or
  • Direct it— adapt habitats and species through anticipated radical change

How You Can Help

You can help protect Acadia's fragile summits by practicing Leave No Trace principles including staying on designated trails and walking only on hardened surfaces. You can also help the park, yourself, and the people and pets you care about by knowing your limits when hiking and paying attention to weather and trail conditions. Hiking safety often comes down to simple, smart choices and being prepared. Learn more about how Friends of Acadia and the Schoodic Institute help support science at Acadia.

More About Science on Acadia's Summits

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    Last updated: April 5, 2023

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