Planning for Change
Acadia is a complex set of natural features, ecosystems, and natural processes, standing strong in the face of environmental threats such as climate change.
Leading the Way
Together with our partners in science at the Friends of Acadia and Schoodic Institute, Acadia National Park staff are leading the way in managing for environmental change by using science-based management approaches and integrating indigenous science and ways of knowing into management approaches.
A New (RAD) Approach
Park managers traditionally sought to preserve parks based on historic conditions. To restore things to the way they were. Now, managers must consider both the changes that have already occurred and future changes expected in the coming years and decades. The focus has shifted from “restoration” to a previous state to actively managing for future health.
This new flexible framework allows us to be forward thinking and fiscally responsible, proactive instead of reactive, and provides us with the best chance to save what we love and value about Acadia. Three key pilot projects exemplify the RAD approach:
Leading the Way
Together with our partners in science at the Friends of Acadia and Schoodic Institute, Acadia National Park is leading the way by studying and applying this framework in three key pilot projects:
Through these and other scientific studies we're discovering the ways that Acadia's summit can provide refuge to threatened species during climate change and Acadia science can help other land managers manage for changes and impacts in the future.
For more information about research in the park, visit Research Guidelines.
Acadia National Park is situated near the boundary of two major biogeographic regions and contains a unique mixture of northern and southern plant species. The park's vegetation management program focuses on documenting and understanding the park's flora, protecting rare species, monitoring and controlling invasive non-native plants, and restoring disturbed habitats and landscapes. Some examples of ongoing vegetation activities at Acadia National Park include:
A new vegetation map of the park was created in 2003 through a joint effort of the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, Maine Natural Areas Program, and The Nature Conservancy. The mapping project identified 53 vegetation communities within the park, based on 1997 color infrared aerial photography.
Numerous plant species of international, national, and state significance occur in Acadia National Park. A long-term monitoring program has been developed to track the status and health of these species.
Nearly a third of the park’s flora is non-native, and some of these species are extremely invasive and threaten the integrity of natural communities. Purple loosestrife is one species that has been actively managed at the park since 1988 using an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy. Staff monitor wetlands annually for the presence of this species and treat observed individuals with a glyphosate herbicide application. Based on 15 years of intensive management, purple loosestrife populations at Acadia National Park are at very low levels.
Park staff are working to restore natural areas in the park that have been degraded by visitor impacts or construction activities. Sites are first stabilized, then planted with native plants. Acadia National Park maintains a nursery of plant materials propagated from native park vegetation. Staff monitor restored sites annually to assess additional maintenance needs, identify continued visitor impacts, and evaluate the overall success of the work.
The park is actively restoring selected vistas along the carriage roads and Park Loop Road that have become obscured by vegetation. Many of these vistas are considered important cultural landscapes and are integral to the historic character of these roads.
Water resources are among the most dominant features of the landscape at Acadia National Park. They are integral to ecosystem health and function and are fundamental to a variety of recreational pursuits including fishing, sightseeing, canoeing, sailing, and swimming. Protection of the scientific and scenic attributes associated with park lakes, streams, and wetlands, and their use as a source of public drinking water, were significant factors in the park's establishment and form the core of the park's water resources program.
Water resources within or adjacent to the park include 14 Great Ponds (lakes greater than 4 hectares/10 acres), 10 smaller ponds, more than two dozen named streams, and 10 named wetland areas. Lakes and ponds cover about 1,052 ha, and wetlands cover about 1,670 ha (equivalent to approximately 7.4% and 10.1%, respectively, of the park's area).
Objectives of the water resource program are to:
In recent years the park has started to develop a core long-term monitoring program for freshwater resources. Two sets of selected lakes have been identified for monitoring the effects of atmospheric deposition/acidification and cultural eutrophication, the two greatest threats to freshwater ecosystems identified in a workshop of water resource professionals. The park also conducts monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrates and periodic bacterial monitoring at park swim beaches.
Recently completed water related research at Acadia includes:
Acadia's water program is conducted in collaboration with the NPS Water Resources Division, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Water Research Institute at the University of Maine, and the United States Geological Survey.
The air resources management program at Acadia is a comprehensive program designed to assess air pollution impacts and protect air quality-related resources. The park is downwind from large urban and industrial areas to the south and west and periodically experiences high concentrations of air pollutants, primarily as a result of long-range transport. As a Class I area under the Clean Air Act, Acadia is afforded the highest level of protection under the act.
The air program at Acadia began in the early 1980s and includes monitoring, research, and regulatory interaction with state and federal agencies. The core program includes long-term monitoring for ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), fine particulates, visibility, mercury deposition and acid precipitation. Research has been conducted to determine the biological effects of selected air pollutants on park resources.
The air resources program is a collaborative effort involving the National Park Services' Air Resources Division and Northeast Regional Office, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and Acadia natural resource staff.
Land And Boundary Management
Acadia National Park is one of the few national parks created virtually entirely of land donated to the federal government. In addition, Congress gave the National Park Service the responsibility to hold conservation easements on private property within the Acadian archipelago. The park's lands program is charged with keeping records of these properties, marking and monitoring park boundaries, and working together with interested landowners to protect the ecological, cultural, and scenic values of their holdings. Specific components of the lands program include:
Conservation EasementsThe National Park Service at Acadia National Park currently holds conservation easements on 184 properties in 18 towns. All easements but one are on islands. These conservation easements protect more than 12,000 acres of land. Ongoing activities include:
Acadia National Park has approximately 120 miles of boundary, not all of which are marked or surveyed. Ongoing activities include:
The Environmental Compliance Program at Acadia National Park strives to ensure that all park construction, rehabilitation, and other projects or actions comply with all applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations.
Applicable laws protect wetlands, air quality, water quality, endangered species, and the cultural/human environment. For all major park activities, the public will have an opportunity to provide comments to the National Park Service in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Plans and projects that are open for public review are listed on the Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.
Last updated: April 5, 2023