New book defines Maine’s unique nature

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AUGUSTA — Two state ecologists have published a book to prove that Maine people live in a unique region of the nation.

Susan C. Gawler, regional vegetation ecologist with NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation science organization, and Andrew Cutko, a Maine Natural Areas Program ecologist with the Maine Department of Conservation, are co-authors of  “Natural Landscapes of Maine: A Guide to Natural Communities and Ecosystems.”

The guidebook outlines and defines the 104 distinct, natural communities of which the state is comprised, proving just how special Maine really is, Department of Conservation spokeswoman Jeanne Curran said in a Thursday report.

“From the rare-to-Maine alpine bogs found in the Mahoosucs to the globally rare riverside seeps on the St. John River, Maine has some truly unusual landscapes, and Cutko and Gawler are helping everyone from conservationists to teachers to backyard naturalists discover that fact,” Curran said.

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Part of the book’s message is to give readers “a real sense of place about where they live,” Cutko says. “We recognize that Maine is a special place that many people take for granted.”

Gawler, a former Maine Natural Areas Program ecologist, did the bulk of the initial information analysis and crunched the technical data, undertaking the process of determining landscape types.

Cutko used his field knowledge to refine the definitions of the various communities, while many people did the actual field work of collecting data in various habitats, notating the plants and animals that live in them.

Initial responses — mostly from the environmental community — have been positive, Curran said. One enthusiastic reader called it “one wicked nice book,” he said.

“What I am hopeful about,” Cutko said, “are the high school kids or the amateur naturalist who want to know more about the woods and wetlands they’ve been walking through. Those are the Maine folks we also hope we reach.”

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

For more information about “Natural Landscapes of Maine,” visit http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/publications/community_classification.htm.

The Maine Department of Conservation is touting a new book by two state ecologists that outlines and defines 104 distinct, natural communities that make Maine unique to the nation.

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