Smith Fellows
Smith Fellow


The mountain habitats of Northern New England are threatened by climate change. Alpine and subalpine plant species at the southern edge of their ranges are isolated by topography, ecology, and management in Maine; islands of habitat above treeline are scattered across mountains that are owned and managed by several federal and state agencies and non-government organizations with varying conservation mandates and resources. Many of New England’s alpine species are recognized as tundra relicts dating back to the last ice age, though paleoecological records above treeline are sparse and analyzed at temporal resolutions too coarse to capture responses to rapid warming events since deglaciation. Understanding the history of alpine and subalpine vegetation above treeline — at scales from geologic to human — is deeply relevant as conservation practitioners work to protect these vulnerable communities in the face of anthropogenic climate change. This project takes an interdisciplinary approach to conservation, leveraging archives captured in both paleoecological records and herbaria to reconstruct the prehistoric and historic distribution of alpine and subalpine vegetation on two landmark mountains in Maine. This research will directly support conservation efforts by integrating across management scales and bridging stakeholder groups at federal, state, and local levels.