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Title: Seasonal Climate Trends across the Wild Blueberry Barrens of Maine, USA
Wild blueberries in Maine, USA are facing threats from our changing climate. While summer climate variations have been affecting this important commercial crop directly, significant climate variations in other seasons also can be potentially detrimental to blueberry production. Therefore, we analyzed annual and seasonal climate trends (temperature, rainfall, snow cover) over the past 41 years (1980–2020) for seven Maine counties (Piscataquis, Washington, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Kennebec, York) with large wild blueberry areas. We found that, across all blueberry production fields (or “barrens”), historical temperatures increased significantly (p < 0.05) in the fall and winter followed by summer, but not in the spring. Additionally, precipitation increased slightly (0.5–1.2 mm/year) in the winter and fall, whereas no changes were found in the spring and summer. Furthermore, we found that historical temperatures were lower in Piscataquis (north-central) and Washington (north-east) counties, whereas in south-western counties (Hancock to York) experienced a relatively warmer climate. The rate of increasing temperature was comparatively slower in the warmer barrens located towards the south-west (Hancock to York). Moreover, the growing season lengthened towards the fall season consistently in all locations, whereas lengthening towards the spring was inconsistent. These findings inform the wild blueberry growers in different locations of Maine about the seasonal shifts occurring for their crop. This knowledge may assist with land management planning in order for the growers to prepare for future impacts.  more » « less
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National Science Foundation
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