Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forest Resources


Daniel Hayes

Second Committee Member

Sandra De Urioste-Stone

Third Committee Member

Aaron Weiskittel

Additional Committee Members

Ivan Fernandez

Nick Fisichelli


Rapid climate change in recent decades has impacted forest, coastal, and social systems globally. In the northeastern U.S., alterations to the seasonal timing and duration of phenology cycles are a direct result of increasing temperatures, and monitoring these changes serves as a valuable indicator to analyze the impacts of climate change. Furthermore, increasing temperatures can influence when and how visitors recreate in natural landscapes. In the past decade, outdoor spaces have seen an increase in the number of visitors, partly as a result of climate change, that has influenced how resource managers and tourism suppliers plan for and respond to the impacts of visitation changes. In Maine, increased visitation and usage of public lands and coastal tourism destinations, such as Mount Desert Island (MDI), have altered the locations and timing of when people visit and how they interact and recreate within these spaces. For resource managers and tourism operators to successfully adapt and plan for continued changes to phenology and park visitation it is necessary to understand (1) how increasing temperatures will impact forests at different scales and (2) how to effectively apply both short and long-term visitation and natural resource management plans. Here we use an interdisciplinary approach to integrate biophysical and social science methods to: (1) estimate forest phenology response to multiple climate variables at different spatial and temporal scales across Maine, (2) understand resource managers’ perceptions of the impacts of climate change and the perceived barriers to incorporating adaptation strategies into decision-making, and (3) identify climate change impacts in Maine and develop planning priorities for tourism operators. To accomplish these goals, we first analyzed three vegetation phenology metrics derived from satellite imagery. We built linear mixed effects models to identify relevant climate and environmental variables which most influence the onset of the three phenology metrics. Using two emission scenarios, RCP 4.5 and 8.5, our results indicate that by 2100 the range of the onset of Greenup will occur 19-33 days earlier, Peak 13-21 days earlier, and Dormancy 5 days earlier than their 16-year average (2001-2017). In addition, an online questionnaire of 61 management personnel within the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands revealed that the most significant barriers to adopting effective adaptation strategies include uncertainties of the effects of climate change, insufficient staffing, and lack of time. Furthermore, managers observed a dramatic increase in the number of visitors to lands managed by the PBL during 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, to understand how some tourism operators on Mount Desert Island, Maine, are preparing for observed changes in climate and visitation, we conducted a series of participatory workshops and found that community engagement and cohesive communication are key to cope with the impacts of climate change and increased visitation. The interdisciplinary approach used here further quantifies how climate change is influencing the timing and duration of key phenological events in Maine and can be used to predict how those trends will continue through the century. Our results provide insights for tourism operators and recreation managers to prepare and adapt for continued changes to Maine’s natural landscapes resulting from global stressors, like climate change.