Atlantic Maritime Ecozone evidence for key findings summary
Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010
Evidence for Key Findings Summary Report No. 3
Published by the Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ evidence for key findings summary.
Issued also in French under title:
Sommaire des éléments probants relativement aux constatations clés pour l’écozone+ maritime de l’Atlantique.
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Cover photos: Margaree Valley, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, © iStock.com / cworthy;
Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, © iStock.com / MorganLeFaye
This report should be cited as:
ESTR Secretariat. 2014. Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ evidence for key findings summary. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Evidence for Key Findings Summary Report No. 3. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. ix + 100 p.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2014
Aussi disponible en français
The Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers developed a Biodiversity Outcomes FrameworkFootnote1 in 2006 to focus conservation and restoration actions under the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy.Footnote2 Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010Footnote3 was the first report under this framework. It presents 22 key findings that emerged from synthesis and analysis of background technical reports prepared on the status and trends for many cross-cutting national themes (the Technical Thematic Report Series) and for individual terrestrial and marine ecozones+ of Canada (the Ecozone+ Status and Trends Assessment Report Series). More than 500 experts participated in data analysis, writing, and review of these foundation documents. Summary reports were also prepared for each terrestrial ecozone+ to present the ecozone+-specific evidence related to each of the 22 national key findings (the Evidence for Key Findings Summary Report Series). Together, the full complement of these products constitutes the 2010 Ecosystem Status and Trends Report (ESTR).
This report, Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ Evidence for Key Findings Summary, presents evidence from the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ Status and Trends AssessmentFootnote4 related to the 22 national key findings and highlights important trends specific to this ecozone+. It is not a comprehensive assessment of all ecosystem-related information. The level of detail presented on each key finding varies and important issues or datasets may have been missed. Also, because of the report’s timing or a lack of readily available ecozone+-specific information, some key findings were not addressed. Some emphasis has been placed on information from the national Technical Thematic Report Series. As in all ESTR products, the time frames over which trends are assessed vary--both because time frames that are meaningful for these diverse aspects of ecosystems vary and because the assessment is based on the best available information, which is over a range of time periods.
Ecological classification system – ecozones+
A slightly modified version of the Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada, described in the National Ecological Framework for Canada,Footnote5 provided the ecosystem-based units for all reports related to this project. Modifications from the original framework include: adjustments to terrestrial boundaries to reflect improvements from ground-truthing exercises; the combination of three Arctic ecozones into one; the use of two ecoprovinces--Western Interior Basin and Newfoundland Boreal; the addition of nine marine ecosystem-based units; and, the addition of the Great Lakes as a unit. This modified classification system is referred to as “ecozones+” throughout these reports to avoid confusion with the more familiar “ecozones” of the original framework.Footnote6 The boundary for the Atlantic Maritime is the same in both frameworks.
Map of the ecozones+ of Canada
Long Description for map of the ecozones
This map of Canada shows the ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report, named “ecozones+”. This map shows the distribution of 15 terrestrial ecozones+, two large lake ecozones+, and nine marine ecozones+.
The ESTR Secretariat acknowledges Trish Hayes, Dan Beaudette (New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources), and Greg Sheehy for the preparation of various drafts of this report. The report was overseen and edited by Trish Hayes and Patrick Lilley. Kelly Badger was the lead graphics designer. Additional support was provided by Jodi Frisk, Isabelle Turcotte, Eric Jacobsen, Ellorie McKnight, Michelle Connolly, and others. It is based on the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ Status and Trends Assessment.4 Other experts made significant contributions to that draft report and are listed below. Reviews were provided by scientists and resource managers from relevant provincial/territorial and federal government agencies. The Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution also coordinated reviews with external experts.
Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ Draft Status and Trends Assessment acknowledgements
Lead author: S. Eaton
Contributing authors: J. Barr, D. Beaudette, T. Hayes
Contributing authors, specific sections or topics: Ecosystem services: G. MacAskill
Climate change impacts in St. Lawrence: J.-P. Savard and R. Siron
Authors of ESTR Technical Thematic Reports from which material is drawn:
- Canadian climate trends, 1950-2007: X. Zhang, R. Brown, L. Vincent, W. Skinner, Y. Feng and E. Mekis
- Trends in large fires in Canada, 1959-2007: C.C. Krezek-Hanes, F. Ahern, A. Cantin and M.D. Flannigan
- Wildlife pathogens and diseases in Canada: F.A. Leighton
- Trends in breeding waterfowl in Canada: M. Fast, B. Collins and M. Gendron
- Landbird trends in Canada, 1968-2006: C. Downes, P. Blancher and B. Collins
- Trends in Canadian shorebirds: C. Gratto-Trevor, R.I.G. Morrison, B. Collins, J. Rausch and V. Johnston
- Trends in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land in Canada, 1986-2006: S.K. Javorek and M.C. Grant
- Trends in residual soil nitrogen for agricultural land in Canada, 1981-2006: C.F. Drury, J.Y. Yang and R. De Jong
- Soil erosion on cropland: introduction and trends for Canada: B.G. McConkey, D.A. Lobb, S. Li, J.M.W. Black and P.M. Krug
- Monitoring biodiversity remotely: a selection of trends measured from satellite observations of Canada: F. Ahern, J. Frisk, R. Latifovic and D. Pouliot
- Inland colonial waterbird and marsh bird trends for Canada: D.V.C. Weseloh
- Climate-driven trends in Canadian streamflow, 1961-2003: A. Cannon, T. Lai and P. Whitfield
- Biodiversity in Canadian lakes and rivers: W.A. Monk and D.J. Baird
Review conducted by scientists and renewable resource and wildlife managers from provincial and federal government agencies through a review process administered by the ESTR Steering Committee.
Additional reviews of specific sections were conducted by external experts in their field of expertise.
Direction provided by the ESTR Steering Committee composed of representatives of federal, provincial, and territorial agencies.
Editing, synthesis, technical contributions, maps and graphics, and report production by the ESTR Secretariat of Environment Canada.
Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge compiled from publicly available sources by D.D. Hurlburt.
Figure 1. Overview map of the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+.
Long Description for Figure 1
This map of the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+ shows the location of cities/towns and bodies of water which are referred to within this report. This ecozone+ is located on the southern Atlantic coastline of Canada and fully encompasses the three Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island as well as a portion of southern Quebec. The area of Quebec included in this ecozone+ encompasses the Gaspé Peninsula, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, part of the eastern shore of the St. Lawrence River, and includes the cities of Gaspé, Rimouski, and Sherbrooke but not Québec City. Its southern boundary is defined by the Canada–U.S. border.
The Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ (AME) (Figure 1) is located on the southern Atlantic coastline of Canada and fully encompasses the three Canadian Maritime provinces as well as a portion of southern Quebec (see national map on page ii).
The AME is a diverse landscape characterized by several types of forest, rocky shorelines, agricultural lands, lakes, and rivers. The ocean’s proximity has a tremendous influence on the area’s physical features and climate and plays an important role in shaping its ecosystems.
|Area||205,836 km2 (2.1% of Canada)|
|Topography||Dominated by two features: the northern extension of the Appalachian Mountains and the coastal lowlands of the Northumberland Plain|
|Climate||Cool, moist maritime climate|
|River basins||St. Lawrence, St. Mary’s, and Miramichi rivers flowing to the Atlantic Ocean
Saint John River is the largest inland river
|Geology||Landscape built by millions of years of volcanic and tectonic activity, mountain building, erosion, sedimentation, and several major glaciations
Mix of sedimentary and igneous bedrock
Surficial materials are 70% till
|Settlement||Majority of population located along low-lying coast
Major settlements include Halifax, Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Rimouski, and Sherbrooke
|Economy||Resource-based industry (forestry, agriculture, fishing, mining)
|Development||Intensive development limited to major coastal communities
Oil and gas development increasing offshore
|National/global significance||Seven Canadian national parks or national park reserves (R): Cape Breton Highlands, Prince Edward Island, Fundy, Kejimkujik, Kouchibouguac, Forillon, and Sable Island (R)
Thirteen National Wildlife Areas: Boot Island, John Lusby Marsh, Chignecto, Sand Pond, Sea Wolf Island, Wallace Bay, Cape Jourimain, Portage Island, Portobello Creek, Shepody, Tintamarre, Pointe-au-Père, and Îles de l'Estuaire
Two biosphere reserves: Fundy and Southwest Nova
Eight Ramsar sites (wetlands of international significance): Baie de I’Isle-Verte, Chignecto, Musquodoboit Harbour, Southern Bight Minas Basin, Malpeque Bay, Mary’s Point, Shepody Bay, and Tabusintac Lagoon and River Estuary
Three Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network sites: Mary’s Point, Shepody Bay, and Southern Bight–Minas Basin
One World Heritage Site: Miguasha National Park of Quebec (Devonian fossil beds)
Highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy
Figure 2. Land cover of the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 2005
Long Description for Figure 2
This figure shows a stacked bar graph and map depicting the percentage and geographic distribution of the four major land cover types in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+: forest, shrubland, agricultural land, and urban land. Forest covers 87% of the ecozone+, shrubland 2%, agricultural land 10%, and urban land 1%. Forest is the dominant land cover over the ecozone+ as a whole and in every region with the exception of Prince Edward Island where agricultural land is the dominant cover. Small pockets of shrubland are scattered throughout the ecozone+. Urban land is primarily located on coasts and inlets.
Jurisdictions: The AME includes the provinces of New Brunswick (NB), Nova Scotia (NS), and Prince Edward Island (PEI), and the Gaspé Peninsula, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, and part of the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Major Aboriginal groups in this ecozone+ include the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet (of NB), Malécite (of QC), and Abenaki.
Population: Between 1971 and 2006, the human population increased from approximately 2.27 to 2.55 million (Figure 3), but has been generally stable since 1991. The majority of the population is found in its river valleys and along its low-lying coast.Footnote9Footnote10 There has been a significant migration of people from rural to urban areas.Footnote11
Figure 3. Human population of the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1971–2006.
Long Description for Figure 3
This bar graph shows the following information:
|Year||Number of people (millions)|
Source: Environment Canada, 2009Footnote12
Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
© istockphoto.com / shaunl
Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island National Park
© Parks Canada
Peskawa Lake, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
© M. Crowley
Coastal marsh in Lord Selkirk Provincial Park,
Prince Edward Island © iStock.com / Photawa
Perce Village and Rock, Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec
© iStock.com / onepony
Key findings at a glance: national and ecozone+ level
Le tableau 2 présente les constatations clés à l’échelle nationale du rapport Biodiversité canadienne : état et tendances des écosystèmes en 20103 ainsi qu’un résumé des tendances correspondantes dans l’écozone+ des Prairies. Les numéros de sujet font référence aux constatations clés nationales du rapport Biodiversité canadienne : état et tendances des écosystèmes en 2010. Les sujets qui sont grisés ont été désignés comme des constatations clés à l’échelle nationale, mais ils n’étaient pas pertinents ou n’ont pas été évalués pour l’écozone+; ils n’apparaissent pas dans le corps du présent document. Les éléments probants des constatations qui figurent au tableau qui suit sont présentés dans le texte par constatation clé. Dans plusieurs cas, on peut trouver de l’information complémentaire dans l’Évaluation de l’état et des tendances de l’écozone+ maritime de l’Atlantique4. Voir la préface.
Tableau 2. Aperçu des constatations clés
|Thèmes et sujets||Constatations clés : Échelle Nationale||Constatations clés : écozone+ Maritime de L’Atlantique|
|Forêts||Sur le plan national, la superficie que couvrent les forêts a peu changé depuis 1990; sur le plan régional, la réduction de l’aire des forêts est considérable à certains endroits. La structure de certaines forêts du Canada, y compris la composition en espèces, les classes d’âge et la taille des étendues forestières intactes, a subi des changements sur des périodes de référence plus longues.||Les forêts couvrent environ 80 % de l’EMA. Historiquement, le déboisement pour l’agriculture et l’urbanisation en a réduit l’étendue; 70 % des forêts de l’Î-P.-É ont, entre autres, subi cette conversion. On n’a relevé aucun changement important dans l’étendue des forêts entre 1985 et 2005. Les tendances observées varient d’une région à une autre, mais on a noté un rajeunissement des peuplements. La composition des forêts s’est simplifiée, celles-ci étant devenues moins diversifiées par suite du déboisement, de la régénération, de l’exploitation forestière et des perturbations naturelles. Les étendues de forêt intactes de plus de 50 km2 ne couvrent que 5 % de l’EMA.|
|Prairies||L’étendue des prairies indigènes n’est plus qu’une fraction de ce qu’elle était à l’origine. Bien qu’à un rythme plus lent, la disparition des prairies se poursuit dans certaines régions. La santé de bon nombre de prairies existantes a également été compromise par divers facteurs de stress.||Non pertinent.|
|Milieux humides||La perte de milieux humides a été importante dans le sud du Canada; la destruction et la dégradation continuent sous l’influence d’une gamme étendue de facteurs de stress. Certains milieux humides ont été restaurés ou sont en cours de restauration.||Les milieux humides occupent plus de 3,5 % de l’EMA. Il n’est pas possible de définir les tendances de leur étendue dans toute l’EMA, mais on sait qu’on a perdu environ 16 à 18 % des milieux humides d’eau douce en Nouvelle-Écosse entre l’établissement des Européens et 1998. De nombreux milieux humides dans l’EMA demeurent menacés de disparition et de dégradation à cause des développements industriels et urbains, de l’agrandissement des ports, des nouveaux lotissements pour chalets et de l’agriculture. Par contre, chacune des quatre provinces a des plans de conservations de milieux humides (ou des politiques semblables) qui ont mitigé, jusqu’à un certain degré, les impacts de développement de projets et les décisions de l’utilisation des terres.|
|Lacs et cours d’eau||Au cours des 40 dernières années, parmi les changements influant sur la biodiversité qui ont été observés dans les lacs et les cours d’eau du Canada, on compte des changements saisonniers des débits, des augmentations de la température des cours d’eau et des lacs, la baisse des niveaux d’eau et la perte et la fragmentation d’habitats.||Entre 1961 et 1982, puis entre 1983 et 2003, les changements dans le débit des rivières incluaient un début plus hâtif des crues printanières et un affaiblissement des débits estivaux (basses eaux d’août à septembre). De 1970 à 2005, les débits minimums et maximums ont diminué dans une grande proportion de sites, et les débits minimums ont été observés plus tard dans l’année. Les barrages ont causé la disparition locale et régionale de plusieurs espèces de végétaux, de poissons et de mollusques.|
|Zones côtières||Les écosystèmes côtiers, par exemple les estuaires, les marais salés et les vasières, semblent sains dans les zones côtières moins développées, même s’il y a des exceptions. Dans les zones développées, l’étendue des écosystèmes côtiers diminue, et leur qualité se détériore en raison de la modification de l’habitat, de l’érosion et de l’élévation du niveau de la mer.||Les milieux côtiers ont connu des pertes et des dégradations importantes à la suite d’activités humaines, entre autres à cause du développement industriel, de l’aménagement urbain et de lotissements pour chalets. La destruction et la fragmentation de milieux humides côtiers sont parmi les cas les plus graves de perte de milieux humides au Canada, avec une perte de 65 % depuis l’établissement des colons européens. On a aussi documenté des pertes importantes d’écosystèmes de plages et de dunes. L’élévation du niveau de la mer et les augmentations de fréquence et d’intensité des ondes de tempête peuvent aggraver l’érosion et les inondations. Certaines espèces tributaires des habitats côtiers, par exemple les oiseaux de rivage, ont également connu un déclin.|
|Zones marines||Les changements observés sur le plan de la biodiversité marine au cours des 50 dernières années sont le résultat d’une combinaison de facteurs physiques et d’activités humaines comme la variabilité océanographique et climatique et la surexploitation. Bien que les populations de certains mammifères marins se soient rétablies à la suite d’une surexploitation par le passé, de nombreuses espèces de pêche commerciale ne se sont toujours pas rétablies.||Non pertinent. Les écozones+ marines sont évaluées dans d’autres RETE.|
|La glace dans l’ensemble des biomes||La réduction de l’étendue et de l’épaisseur des glaces marines, le réchauffement et le dégel du pergélisol, l’accélération de la perte de masse des glaciers et le raccourcissement de la durée des glaces lacustres sont observés dans tous les biomes du Canada. Les effets sont visibles à l’heure actuelle dans certaines régions et sont susceptibles de s’étendre; ils touchent à la fois les espèces et les réseaux trophiques.||On manque de registres à long terme sur la débâcle et la prise des glaces dans les lacs et les rivières. Les données disponibles ne permettent pas de dégager des tendances claires. On a pu déterminer une tendance à la baisse non significative de la couverture de glace marine et de la durée de la saison des glaces sur le fleuve Saint-Laurent de 1971 à 2005.|
|Thèmes et sujets||Constatations clés : Échelle Nationale||Constatations clés : écozone+Maritime de L’Atlantique|
|Aires protégées||La superficie et la représentativité du réseau d’aires protégées ont augmenté ces dernières années. Dans bon nombre d’endroits, la superficie des aires protégées est bien au-delà de la valeur cible de 10 % qui a été fixée par les Nations Unies. Elle se situe en deçà de la valeur cible dans les zones fortement développées et dans les zones océaniques.||En 2009, presque 11 000 km2 (5,3 %) de l’EMA étaient protégés, ce qui représentait une augmentation par rapport à un peu plus de 3 000 km2 (1,6 %) en 1992. Ces chiffres incluent une superficie de 10 963 km2 (4,9 %) qui se trouvent protégés du fait qu’ils tombent dans les catégories I à IV de l’UICN.|
|Intendance||Les activités d’intendance au Canada, qu’il s’agisse du nombre et du type d’initiatives ou des taux de participation, sont à la hausse. L’efficacité d’ensemble de ces activités en ce qui a trait à la préservation et à l’amélioration de la biodiversité et de la santé des écosystèmes n’a pas été entièrement évaluée.||Comme on n’a pas évalué les tendances des activités d’intendance dans l’EMA dans le cadre de cette évaluation, le présent sommaire ne comprend pas de constatation clé à ce sujet.|
|Espèces non indigènes envahissantes||Les espèces exotiques envahissantes sont un facteur de stress important en ce qui concerne le fonctionnement, les processus et la structure des écosystèmes des milieux terrestres et des milieux d’eau douce et d’eau marine. Leurs effets se font sentir de plus en plus à mesure que leur nombre augmente et que leur répartition géographique progresse.||Parce qu’elle comprend de nombreux ports océaniques, l’EMA a constitué un point d’entrée pour de nombreuses espèces non indigènes envahissantes, qui représentent une menace pour la biodiversité indigène. Les espèces envahissantes introduites ont altéré les terres humides et les écosystèmes côtiers, tandis que les insectes et maladies envahissantes non-indigènes ont eu des impacts sur les écosystèmes de fôrets. On ne dispose d’aucune donnée sur les tendances relatives à de nombreuses espèces.|
|Contaminants||Dans l’ensemble, les concentrations d’anciens contaminants dans les écosystèmes terrestres et dans les écosystèmes d’eau douce et d’eau marine ont diminué au cours des 10 à 40 dernières années. Les concentrations de beaucoup de nouveaux contaminants sont en progression dans la faune; les teneurs en mercure sont en train d’augmenter chez certaines espèces sauvages de certaines régions.||Bien qu’elles soient pertinentes, on n’a pas évalué les tendances concernant les contaminants, de sorte que le présent sommaire ne comprend pas de constatation clé à ce sujet.|
|Charge en éléments nutritifs et efflorescences algales||Les apports d’éléments nutritifs aux systèmes d’eau douce et marins, et plus particulièrement dans les paysages urbains ou dominés par l’agriculture, ont entraîné la prolifération d’algues qui peuvent être nuisibles ou nocives. Les apports d’éléments nutritifs sont en hausse dans certaines régions et en baisse dans d’autres.||Les terres cultivées de l’EMA ont de hautes teneurs en azote résiduel dans le sol, et ces teneurs ont augmenté de 1981 à 2006. Il en résulte un risque élevé de lessivage du nitrate du sol vers les eaux. On a ainsi noté une augmentation des concentrations de nitrates dans les eaux souterraines et les eaux de surface à l’Î-P.-É. De 2002 à 2008, 18 estuaires ont connu des épisodes d’anoxie. Le risque que les eaux de surface soient contaminées par le phosphore provenant du sol est graduellement passé de faible à élevé depuis 1991, les valeurs limites étant excédées dans une plus grande proportion de terres cultivées. Dans une portion québécoise de l’EMA, le nombre de plans d’eau ayant subi une prolifération d’algues est passé de 3 à 16 lacs entre 2004 et 2008.|
|Dépôts acides||Les seuils d’incidence écologique des dépôts acides, notamment ceux des pluies acides, sont dépassés dans certaines régions; les émissions acidifiantes sont en hausse dans diverses parties du pays et la récupération sur le plan biologique ne se déroule pas au même rythme que la réduction des émissions dans d’autres régions.||Certaines parties de l’EMA sont très vulnérables aux dépôts acides. Les niveaux des dépôts de sulfates et de nitrates ont connu une diminution importante entre 1990 et 2004. Néanmoins, de 1999 à 2003, les dépôts de soufre et d’azote atmosphériques dépassaient la charge critique dans plusieurs secteurs. L’EMA est la région nord-américaine la plus lourdement touchée en termes de pourcentage d’habitat du poisson perdu à cause des pluies acides; de nombreuses rivières de la Nouvelle-Écosse n’abritent plus de saumon.|
|Changements climatiques||L’élévation des températures partout au Canada ainsi que la modification d’autres variables climatiques au cours des 50 dernières années ont eu une incidence directe et indirecte sur la biodiversité dans les écosystèmes terrestres et dans les écosystèmes d’eau douce et d’eau marine.||Entre 1950 et 2007, les températures estivales ont augmenté de 1,1 °C et les précipitations automnales, de 18,6 %. Le nombre de jours avec précipitations a augmenté au printemps, en été et en automne. Les prévisions du climat futur incluent une augmentation des températures de l’air et de l’eau, une plus longue saison de croissance, et une diminution de la couverture de glace marine dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent, ainsi que des changements dans l’intensité et la fréquence des tempêtes et la composition de la forêt.|
|Services écosystémiques||Le Canada est bien pourvu en milieux naturels qui fournissent des services écosystémiques dont dépend notre qualité de vie. Dans certaines régions où les facteurs de stress ont altéré le fonctionnement des écosystèmes, le coût pour maintenir les écoservices est élevé, et la détérioration de la quantité et de la qualité des services écosystémiques ainsi que de leur accès est évidente.||Les biens et services écosystémiques importants de l’EMA incluent les produits forestiers, l’eau, la production d’aliments, la pêche, la chasse, l’assimilation des eaux usées et le tourisme. La valeur estimée de ces biens et services pour les provinces atlantiques (à l’exclusion de la portion québécoise de l’EMA) est de plus de 4,7 milliards de dollars.|
|Thèmes et sujets||Constatations clés : Échelle Nationale||Constatations clés : écozone+Maritime de L’Atlantique|
|Paysages agricoles servant d’habitat||Le potentiel des paysages agricoles à soutenir la faune au Canada a diminué au cours des 20 dernières années, principalement en raison de l’intensification des activités agricoles et de la perte de couverture terrestre naturelle et semi-naturelle.||Le potentiel des paysages agricoles à soutenir la faune est resté élevé, mais a décliné significativement entre 1986 et 2006 à cause de l’expansion des terres cultivées sur des types de couverture moins favorables à la faune. Les terres cultivées dans l’EMA sont parmi les terres agricoles présentant le risque d’érosion le plus élevé au Canada à cause du travail du sol intensif et d’un climat qui donne lieu à un risque élevé d’érosion hydrique dans certaines zones. Le risque d’érosion du sol a toutefois décliné entre 1981 et 2006.|
|Espèces présentant un intérêt économique, culturel ou écologique particulier||De nombreuses espèces d’amphibiens, de poissons, d’oiseaux et de grands mammifères présentent un intérêt économique, culturel ou écologique particulier pour les Canadiens. La population de certaines espèces diminue sur le plan du nombre et de la répartition, tandis que chez d’autres, elle est soit stable ou en pleine santé ou encore en plein redressement.||Après réévaluation de son statut en 2002, la population de caribous des bois de la Gaspésie-Atlantique est passée de « menacée » à « en voie de disparition ». Les populations d’orignaux ont décliné, tandis que les populations de cerfs de Virginie ont augmenté. Les populations de saumon atlantique de la baie de Fundy font face à une disparition imminente. Les tendances chez les autres populations de saumon atlantique sont variées, mais nombre de populations ont connu une baisse. Tous les oiseaux terrestres, sauf les oiseaux forestiers, ont connu des baisses d’effectifs entre les années 1970 et 2000, les baisses les plus prononcées ayant été observées chez les assemblages d’oiseaux de prairie et d’autres habitats ouverts.|
|Productivité primaire||La productivité primaire a augmenté dans plus de 20 % du territoire végétalisé au Canada au cours des 20 dernières années et elle a également augmenté dans certains écosystèmes d’eau douce. L’ampleur et la période de productivité primaire changent dans tout l’écosystème marin.||De 1985 à 2006, la productivité primaire, telle que mesurée par l’indice de végétation par différence normalisée, a augmenté pour 33 408 km2 (16,5 %) de l’EMA et diminué pour 720 km2 (0,4 %). Les zones ayant connu une augmentation étaient concentrées dans les forêts mixtes de Gaspésie et de l’île du Cap-Breton, et cette augmentation était probablement le résultat de l’exploitation forestière commerciale.|
|Perturbations naturelles||La dynamique des régimes de perturbations naturelles, notamment les incendies et les vagues d’insectes indigènes, est en train de modifier et de refaçonner le paysage. La nature et le degré du changement varient d’un endroit à l’autre.||Les régimes de perturbation naturelle sont grandement altérés. Malgré sa grande importance historique, le feu est aujourd’hui moins important parce qu’il est détecté rapidement et combattu activement. Les phénomènes météorologiques extrêmes et les infestations d’insectes sont les principaux agents de perturbation. La fréquence et la gravité des tempêtes tropicales et des ouragans ont augmenté de 1900 à 2000. De plus, les données sur les tendances de Charlottetown (Î-P.-É.) indiquent une augmentation de la gravité et de la fréquence des ondes de tempête. La tordeuse des bourgeons de l’épinette est l’insecte dont l’influence est la plus grande. Bien qu’il n’y ait pas de consensus sur la question de savoir si les infestations de tordeuse des bourgeons de l’épinette connaissent une croissance de fréquence ou de gravité, les activités humaines influent sans contredit sur ces infestations.|
|Réseaux trophiques||Des changements profonds dans les relations entre les espèces ont été observés dans des milieux terrestres et dans des milieux d’eau douce et d’eau marine. La diminution ou la disparition d’éléments importants des réseaux trophiques a considérablement altéré certains écosystèmes.||Les grands mammifères prédateurs ont subi une pression continue dans l’EMA du fait de diverses activités humaines. Des prédateurs de niveau trophique supérieur, notamment le loup, ont disparu et d’autres prédateurs, comme la martre d’Amérique, l’ours noir et le lynx, ont disparu dans certaines régions. Le coyote a étendu son aire de répartition dans l’EMA.|
|Thèmes et sujets||Constatations clés : Échelle Nationale||Constatations clés : écozone+Maritime de L’Atlantique|
||Les renseignements de surveillance recueillis sur une longue période, normalisés, complets sur le plan spatial et facilement accessibles, complétés par la recherche sur les écosystèmes, fournissent les constatations les plus utiles pour les évaluations de l’état et des tendances par rapport aux politiques. L’absence de ce type d’information dans de nombreux secteurs a gêné l’élaboration de la présente évaluation.||On ne dispose d’aucune donnée sur l’état et les tendances à long terme de nombreuses composantes des écosystèmes, en particulier les milieux humides, les altérations de la structure trophique, les végétaux non vasculaires et les invertébrés. Les données détaillées couvrant l’ensemble de l’EMA sont également rares; des études de cas ont fourni certains résultats.|
||La compréhension grandissante des changements rapides et inattendus, des interactions et des seuils, en particulier en lien avec les changements climatiques, indique le besoin d’une politique qui permet de répondre et de s’adapter rapidement aux indices de changements environnementaux afin de prévenir des pertes de biodiversité majeures et irréversibles.||Comme une grande partie de l’EMA présente un faible pouvoir tampon contre l’acidité, les limites liées aux dépôts acides ont été dépassées et les populations de saumon atlantique ont décliné. Malgré la réduction des dépôts acides, les rivières ne se sont pas rétablies. À cause des effets des pratiques de gestion forestière et de la fragmentation, la capacité de soutien des forêts envers les espèces indigènes, comme les grands mammifères, a diminué. Les changements climatiques ont interagi et continueront d’interagir avec d’autres agents stresseurs, comme l’érosion côtière, les espèces non indigènes envahissantes et les infestations d’insectes, avec pour effet une accélération des dommages causés aux écosystèmes.|
Key finding 1
National key finding
At a national level, the extent of forests has changed little since 1990; at a regional level, loss of forest extent is significant in some places. The structure of some Canadian forests, including species composition, age classes, and size of intact patches of forest, has changed over longer time frames.
Forest is the predominant land cover in the AME, although total estimates have varied depending on the methods used. Using a mix of remote and ground-based sampling, the Canadian National Forest Inventory found that forests comprised approximately 77% of the area of the AME in 2001, consisting of 44% coniferous, 33% mixed, and 21% broadleaf forest.Footnote10 Based on 2005 remote sensing data, Ahern et al.Footnote7 estimated forest cover at over 85%. Differences between the two estimates reflect different methodologies and definitions of forest rather than a change in the area of forest in the AMEFootnoteiii.
Land clearing for agriculture and urban areas reduced the extent of post-settlement forests in certain areas, yet the AME remains well forested overall. By the beginning of the 20th century, 70% of the forest had been cleared for agriculture in PEI.Footnote14 Agricultural land also replaced forest in much of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis and New Brunswick’s Saint John river valleys. However, Ahern et al.7 found no significant change in the extent of forest cover between 1985 and 2005 based on remote sensing data. An analysis of forest density found that, other than in the Annapolis River Valley, the Saint John River Valley, and on most of Prince Edward Island, forest density was high for most of the AME. Over 30% of the 1 km2 cells within the AME were more than 90% forested and another 20% were more than 80% forested.Footnote7
Age class distribution and composition of forests have changed through time, however, drawing general conclusions for the AME as a whole was difficult because there were no long-term data sets that covered the entire ecozone+. In general, the successional stage and age distribution of the forest shifted from old-growth to younger age classes.Footnote15 Over the past several decades, forests have also become simplified in species and ecosystem diversity as a result of forest clearing and regrowth and natural disturbances.Footnote16
For more than 300 years the economy of the region has been dependent on forests to supply a diversity of products and services.Footnote17
- The Acadian Forest Region, which extends into the northeastern United States, includes all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and all but the northwestern corner of New Brunswick. It occupies an area of 122,000 km2, is entirely within the AME in Canada, and represents 44% of the area of the AME.Footnote19, Footnote20 The region is transitional between the mostly deciduous forests of the south and west and the boreal coniferous forests of the north, and includes components of both.Footnote16
- The Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Forest Region is predominantly a closed, mixed coniferous-deciduous forest. It is strongly influenced by the warm summers of the maritime climate that allow hardwoods to thrive. The forest region extends inland from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to southeastern Manitoba, excluding the area north of Lake Superior. In the AME, this region occupies the northeast corner of New Brunswick, part of the Gaspé Peninsula, and the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River.
- The Boreal Forest Region extends in a continuous belt from Newfoundland and Labrador west to the Rocky Mountains and north to Alaska. In the AME, it stretches from the northwestern tip of New Brunswick into the Gaspé Peninsula. This forest region is mostly coniferous, with black spruce (Picea mariana) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) as principal species, but also includes some deciduous trees, such as white birch (Betula papyrifera) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides).
Quebec uses major bioclimate domains and subdomains to classify its forests and four of these include parts of the AME: sugar maple–basswood (east), sugar maple–yellow birch (east), balsam fir–yellow birch (east), and balsam fir–white birch (east) (Figure 5). These subdomains also include parts of the Boreal Shield and Mixedwood Plains ecozones+. Because the sugar maple--basswood (east) mostly includes land outside the AME, it is not included here. The Quebec forest subdomains in the AME overlap with the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence and Boreal forest regions defined above.
Figure 4. Forest regions and the principal tree species within each region.
Long Description for Figure 4
This map depicts the locations and boundaries of the three forest regions in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ and lists the principal tree species within each region. The Acadian forest region covers Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and most of New Brunswick with the exception of an area near the Quebec–New Brunswick border. Principal tree species of the Acadian forest region are: red spruce, balsam fir, maple, and yellow birch. The Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forest region covers the east coast of the Gaspé Peninsula, most of the east coast of the St. Lawrence River, and runs along the Canada–U.S. border. Principal tree species of the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forest region are: red pine, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, yellow birch, maple, and oak. Within the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, the Boreal forest region covers the northern Gaspé Peninsula with the exception of a strip along Chaleur Bay and a large patch inland of the St. Lawrence encompassing Edmondston, New Brunswick. Larger areas of this forest region are found west of the St. Lawrence River outside of the ecozone+. Principal tree species of the Boreal forest region are: white spruce, black spruce, balsam fir, jack pine, white birch, and trembling aspen.
Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2007Footnote21
Figure 5. Quebec forest domains.
Long Description for Figure 5
This map shows the distribution of major bioclimate domains and subdomains that the Province of Quebec uses to classify its forests. Four domains are included in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+: sugar maple–basswood (east), sugar maple–yellow birch (east), balsam fir–yellow birch (east), and balsam fir–white birch (east). The balsam fir–white birch (east) domain covers the inland area of the Gaspé Peninsula, and balsam fir–yellow birch (east) surrounds the coast of Gaspé and continues down the St. Lawrence River until just north of Québec City. South of the balsam fir–yellow birch (east) domain is the sugar maple–yellow birch (east) domain which covers the remaining area of southern Quebec in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, with the exception of a pocket of sugar maple–basswood (east) in the southwest corner of the ecozone+.
Source: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et Faune, 2005Footnote22
Forest age structure
It has been estimated that as much as 50% of the forest in the AME may have been dominated by late-successional, old-growth forest types before European settlement.Footnote15 In 2003, only about 1–5% of forests were estimated to be older than 100 years, and ground surveys suggest that far less than this had true old-growth forest characteristics.15 A high proportion of the forests fell within the young age classes in 1999 (Figure 6), reflecting re-growth after forest harvesting.10
Figure 6. Age-class distribution by forest type on stocked forest land as a percentage of the total stocked forest area in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1999.
Long Description for Figure 6
This figure is a bar graph showing the age-class distribution by forest type (softwood, mixedwood, and hardwood) on stocked forest land as a percentage of the total stocked forest area in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ in 1999. The graph shows that the forest distribution was skewed toward the younger forest classes in 1999 (<81 years old). For the three types of forest, over 40% of the forest falls in the 41–80 year-old age class. The second highest percentage age class was the youngest forest in the 0–40 year-old age class which comprised over 20% of the total stocked forest area in all forest types. Uneven-aged and the 81 – 120 year-old age class both comprised just over 10% of stocked forest land, while the 121–160 year old age class comprised less than 2.5%. The oldest age class, the 161+ age class, made up less than 1% of stocked forest.
Source: adapted from Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, 200510
Younger forests increased and older forests declined between 1958 and 2003 in Nova Scotia (Figure 7).Footnote23 The youngest age class (less than 20 years) increased as a proportion of total forest cover, from 3.8% in the early 1970s to 23.9% in the 1997–2003 inventory. Forests greater than 101 years of age decreased from 8.7% in 1958 to 0.3% in the 1997–2003 inventory and forests between 81 and 100 years decreased from 16.4 to 1.2%.
Figure 7. Percent of total forest area in each age class in Nova Scotia, 1958–2003.
Long Description for Figure 7
This figure is a bar graph showing the following information:
Time periods are ranges and vary as Pannozza and Coleman (2008) compiled data from several sources: Forest Resources of Nova Scotia (1958); Nova Scotia Forest Inventory provincial summary (1965–1971, 1970–1978, 1975–1982, 1976–1985, 1979–1989); Department of Natural Resources GIS 1995 inventory data (1999); and Department of Natural Resources GIS unpublished inventory data (1997–2003).
Source: adapted from Pannozza and Coleman, 2008Footnote23
Forest subdomains in Quebec portion of AME
Trends from the 1970s to the 1990s showed a gain in balsam fir domain forest stands in a mature developmental stage (Figure 8). Within this 30-year period, 19% of the balsam fir–yellow birch forest sub-domain became mature, while 23% was lost from the young category.Footnote24 In the balsam fir–white birch sub-domain, mature forest stands and regenerated stands remained stable (2% increase and 1% decrease respectively) over the same time period, while young forest stands decreased by 5% and regenerating forest stands increased by 3%. For the sugar maple–yellow birch subdomain, young forest stands decreased by 3% and regenerated stands increased by 6%.24 Over the 30-year period, the proportion of mature stands did not change. These data included areas outside the AME.
Figure 8. Proportion of forest at each major developmental stage in Quebec’s subdomains that occur in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Long Description for Figure 8
This figure has three bar graphs that show the following information:
Data for figure 8
|Type||Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Type||Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
Development stages are based on stand height and growth in volume: regenerating = disturbed stands <2 m in height; regenerated = disturbed stands 2–7 m in height; young = stands >7 m with increasing mean annual growth (volume); mature = stands >7 m with decreasing mean annual growth (volume).
Data included area outside the AME.
Source: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et Faune, 2009, Statistiques forestières, unpublished data; updated from Ministère des Ressources naturelles, 2002Footnote25
In many parts of the AME, the forest has been simplified both in species and ecosystem diversity over the past several decades. This was primarily a result of forest clearing for agriculture and subsequent abandonment, timber removal of selected species, and clear-cutting as well as natural disturbance.16
As older forests were replaced by relatively young, often even-aged, early successional forest types, the abundance and age of late-successional species such as sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red spruce (Picea rubens), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), red oak (Quercus rubra), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) declined.16, Footnote26 Younger forests have higher frequencies of balsam fir, red maple (Acer rubrum), white spruce (Picea glauca), white birch, and trembling aspen.16, Footnote27 Similar changes are occurring in other eastern forests where species composition was altered by logging and land clearing throughout the twentieth century.Footnote28
A case study in Kings County, NB, compared forest species composition in 1800 and 1993. Species distribution in 1800 was more even than in 1993 (Figure 9).16 The study showed that cedar was likely as common as balsam fir in the early 1800s, but by the 1990s, balsam fir was four times as common as cedar. The spruce genus increased in frequency, as did poplar, and white pine remained stable, but the rest of the other tree genera were more common 200 years ago than today. Cedar, hemlock, ash, beech, and larch declined over the time period. Balsam fir and the spruces comprised about 50% of the forest in 1993, while 200 years ago, they accounted for only 25%.16
Figure 9. Estimated frequency of major forest tree genera in Kings County, NB, 1800 and 1993.
Long Description for Figure 9
This graph shows the estimated frequency of major forest tree genera in Kings County, New Brunswick, in the years 1800 and 1993. In general, species distribution in 1800 was more even than in 1993. The graph shows that, in 1800, spruce, maple and birch make up more than 50%, while the rest is relatively even. In 1993, the amount of spruce, fir and poplar increased substantially. Cedar was likely as common as balsam fir in 1800 but, by 1993, balsam fir was four times as common as cedar. The spruce genus increased in frequency, as did poplar, and white pine remained stable, but the rest of the other tree genera were more common 200 years ago than today. Cedar, hemlock, ash, beech, and larch declined over the time period. Balsam fir and the spruces comprised about 50% of the forest in 1993, while in 1800, they accounted for only 25%.
Source: Loo and Ives, 200316
Forest subdomains in Quebec portion of AME
From the 1970s to 1990s, conifers, particularly balsam fir, in the balsam fir subdomains declined,25 while mixedwood stands increased. In the balsam fir–yellow birch and balsam fir–white birch subdomains, conifer proportions decreased by 8 and 16%, respectively. Conifers in the sugar maple–yellow birch subdomain declined, while mixedwood stands increased (Figure 10). These data include public and private forests, and include all the area of the subdomains, including some area outside the AME.
Figure 10. Proportion of total area covered by different forest cover types in the Quebec subdomains that occur in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Long Description for Figure 10
This figure has three bar graphs that show the following information:
Data for figure 10.
|Type||Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest|
|Type||Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Type||Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
|Percent of total forest
Forest cover types are based on stand height and composition; regenerating = <2 m in height; deciduous = >75% deciduous; mixed = 25–75% deciduous; coniferous = >75% coniferous. Data included area outside the AME.
Source: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et Faune, 2009, Statistiques forestières, unpublished data; updated from Ministère des Ressources naturelles, 200225
Differences in land cover types were also measured between 1993 and 2001 for the Appalachian Ecoregion which overlaps with parts of the area above. Jobin et al.Footnote29 reported that the abundance of mixedwood forest declined by over 12% while coniferous stands increased by 7% over this time period (Figure 11).
Figure 11. Change in forest types for the Appalachian Ecoregion in southern Quebec between 1993 and 2001.
Long Description for Figure 11
This figure is a bar graph depicting the following information:
|Type||Percent of forest
|Percent of forest
Source: Jobin et al., 200729
Fragmentation reduces habitat connectivity, increases edge density, and increases the isolation of remnant habitat patches. In contrast to more remote, less populated ecozones+, remaining natural ecosystems of the AME are highly fragmented. Only 5% of the AME is covered by intact fragments of natural ecosystems (primarily forests) larger than 50 km2 (Figure 12).19
Figure 12. Intact landscape fragments larger than 50 km2 in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 2003.
Long Description for Figure 12
This map shows the remaining intact landscape fragments in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ larger than 50 km2 in 2003. In 2003, the landscape was highly fragmented and only 5% was covered by intact fragments of natural ecosystems (primarily forests) larger than 50 km2. The largest areas of intact forest occurred on the northern tip of Cape Breton, in interior areas of the southern tip of Nova Scotia, and in interior areas of the Gaspé Peninsula.
A landscape fragment is a contiguous mosaic of various ecosystems, naturally occurring and essentially undisturbed by significant human influence.
Source: adapted from Lees et al., 200619
Changes in the age structure of the forest, with increasing early-successional stands and decreasing contiguous mature stands, and the replacement of some hardwood stands with softwood plantations and agricultural land have resulted in changes in the bird community.Footnote30Footnote31 Overall, forest bird populations have been generally stable but with a tendancy to decline, especially since 2000 (Figure 13). There have been large declines for several species, while others have stable or increasing populations. For example, the Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis), a species recently assessed as Threatened by the Committee on the Endangered Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), has declined by 80% in the AME since the 1970s. Although the primary cause of its decline is unclear, research has shown this species is sensitive to forest fragmentation and human disturbance. Populations may have been affected on both the breeding and wintering grounds by habitat loss and degradation. The decline in spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) abundance may also have reduced an important food source for Canada warbler.Footnote32Footnote33 The boreal chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus) has also declined markedly in this region and throughout its range.Footnote34Footnote35
The AME region in Canada and similar neighbouring areas in the United States support over 90% of the world’s breeding population of Bicknell’s thrush (Catharus bicknelli), one of the rarest songbirds in North America and listed as Threatened in Canada.Footnote36 This bird lives in the high-elevation coniferous forests and is particularly susceptible to climate change, which may result in shifts in high-elevation breeding zones. Other threats incude habitat loss and degradation on both the breeding and wintering grounds, squirrel predation at nests, and environmental contaminants.Footnote37Footnote38Footnote39 Surveys over the last several years indicate this species has undergone considerable annual decline.35Footnote40Footnote41
Figure 13. Annual indices of population change for birds of forest habitat (left) and shrub-early successional habitat (right), 1968–2006.
Long Description for Figure 13
This figure has two line graphs showing the following information:
- Abundance Index
|Shrub-early successional habitat -
Shrub/early successional assemblage includes shrubland, old field, and mid-successional stage habitat from grassland to forest.
A large portion of forested land in the ecozone+ is in early successional stages. The overall slightly negative trends in the indices of population change for birds inhabiting forest and shrub-early successional habitat types (Figure 13) were influenced by the strong declines in abundant species such as the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and song sparrow (Melospiza melodia). However, declines in these species have been largely balanced by increases in several generalist species, such as Nashville warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla), yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia), and chestnut-sided warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica), which utilize and have benefited from increases in shrub-early successional forest habitat.Footnote44
Cumulative human impact
The organization Two Countries One Forest quantified the human footprint on terrestrial ecosystems of the Appalachian/Acadian Ecoregion (which includes the AME) by integrating four categories of human influence: settlement, access, land use, and electrical power infrastructure (Figure 14).Footnote45 In 2008, the greatest human impacts were primarily on coastlines, valleys, and other low-lying areas, reflecting the historical pattern of settlement. Only 0.2% of the ecoregion has a human footprint score of 0, indicating no human transformation of the landscape. More than 90% of the ecoregion has a low human footprint (score of less than 50). Large areas are classified as having low impact; however, they tend to be separated by areas with high levels of human activity, thus fragmenting the region.45 Only 5% of the total landscape is in intact natural fragments of larger than 50 km2.19
Figure 14. The human footprint of the Northern Appalachian/Acadian Ecoregion, 2008.
Long Description for Figure 14
This figure is a temperature map showing the degree of human impact over the Northern Appalachian/Acadian Ecoregion (which includes the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+). The greatest human impacts have been primarily on coastlines, valleys, and other low-lying areas, reflecting the historical pattern of settlement. Only 0.2% of the ecoregion has a human footprint score of 0, indicating no human transformation of the landscape. More than 90% of the ecoregion has a low human footprint (score of less than 50). Large areas are classified as having low impact; however, they tend to be separated by areas with high levels of human activity indicating fragmentation of the region.
Source: Trombulak et al., 200845
Key finding 3
National key finding
High loss of wetlands has occurred in southern Canada; loss and degradation continue due to a wide range of stressors. Some wetlands have been or are being restored.
There has been extensive wetland loss in the AME, particularly in coastal areas, where shoreline development is a continuing threat (see Coastal wetlands section on page 29). Although three of the four provinces in the AME have had wetland inventories completed since the 1980s, wetland mapping and assessment methodologies have changed, making it difficult to determine the amount of change over time.10, Footnote46 According to data from Canada’s Forest Inventory (CanFI),Footnote13 in 2001, wetlands covered approximately 3.5% of the land area of the ecozone+ and approximately 35% of those were treed.10 Although estimates of freshwater wetland losses are not available for the AME as a whole, approximately 16 to 18% of freshwater wetlands in Nova Scotia had been developed or converted to other ecosystem types between European settlement and 1998.Footnote47 Coastal wetland loss in Nova Scotia has been estimated at 65%.Footnote48
Many wetlands in the AME remain under continued threat of loss and degradation due to industrial and urban development, port expansion, cottage subdivisions, and agriculture. However, each of the four provinces have wetland conservation or similar policies that have mitigated the impacts of development projects and land-use decisions to some degree.Footnote49 Bogs are being impacted by commercial peat moss extraction and cranberry production.
Trends for selected breeding waterfowl species show either stable or increasing populations since 1993 (Table 3).Footnote50 The American black duck (Anas rubripes), the most abundant duck in the AME, has been the focus of special conservation effort because the wintering population in the United States decreased by almost 50% between 1955 and 1985.Footnote51Footnote52 In the AME, from 1993 to 2006, black duck populations were stable (Table 3).50 Logging, hydroelectric development, transmission line construction, agriculture, urbanization, and industrial development threaten breeding and staging habitats.51 In addition, it is likely that the species has had to compete for habitat with a growing mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) population.Footnote53 Some evidence shows that habitat availability and quality may not be limiting, however,53 and recent increases and stabilization of the black duck may reflect increased hunting restrictions in Canada and the United States.52 Black ducks are also closely related to mallards and the two species interbreed regularly, which may represent an additional conservation concern for the species.Footnote54Footnote55Footnote56
|P||Annual Index (in thousands)
|Annual Index (in thousands)
|Annual Index (in thousands)
|American black duck
Table 3 - Notes
- Table note 1
In this table: P is the statistical significance: * indicates P<0.05; n indicates 0.05<P<0.1; no value indicates not significant
For a description of how species were selected and data methodology, see Fast et al., 2011.
Source: Fast et al., 201150
Key finding 4
Lakes and rivers
National key finding
Trends over the past 40 years influencing biodiversity in lakes and rivers include seasonal changes in magnitude of stream flows, increases in river and lake temperatures, decreases in lake levels, and habitat loss and fragmentation.
Of the 1,792 lakes in the Atlantic Provinces, 98% are less than 99 km2 in size.Footnote57 The largest lake in the AME is Grand Lake, NB. The Saint John River in New Brunswick is the largest river system in the AME.Footnote58 Seven rivers/river systems within the AME are classified as Canadian Heritage Rivers: the Saint John, St. Croix, and Upper Restigouche rivers in New Brunswick; the Shelburne River and Margaree-Lake Ainslie river system in Nova Scotia; and the Hillsborough River and Three Rivers (Cardigan, Brudenell, and Montague/Valleyfield) river system on Prince Edward Island. 58, Footnote59 Runoff increases significantly from west to east, varying from 60 cm annually in the western part of the AME to 200 cm along the Atlantic coast.5859Footnote60Footnote61
Lakes and rivers in the AME support diverse aquatic communities including species at risk such as the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), Atlantic whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), yellow lampmussel (Lampsilis cariosa), skillet clubtail (Gomphus ventricosus), cobblestone tiger beetle (Cicindela marginipennis), and several coastal plain flora.
Streamflow in natural rivers
Two analyses of streamflow in rivers with minimal flow control or impact upstream over the past 40 years were conducted for ESTR. Cannon et al.Footnote62 looked at seasonal trends in streamflow at sites across Canada between two periods, 1961–1982 and 1983–2003. To facilitate the analysis of trends nationally, sites were organized into six groups with similar intra-seasonal patterns of flow (hydrology groups). Across sites in the AME, changes in flows between 1961–1982 and 1983–2003 included earlier onsets of spring freshet and decreased summer flows (summer flow period from August to October).62 Monk and BairdFootnote63 found that minimum and maximum flow variables decreased at a high proportion of sites from 1970 to 2005 and the annual 1-day minimum flow occurred later in the year. Although the rise rate decreased significantly at 32% of the sites and the fall rate increased at 29%, no overall trend was found in the variability of annual runoff.63 Figure 15 summarizes the number and direction of significant trends in streamflow variables for the 34 stations analyzed by Monk and Baird63 and Figure 16 shows the results of the Cannon et al.62 analysis of seasonal trends at representative sites.
Figure 15. Summary of the total number of sites displaying increasing and decreasing trends in various streamflow variables in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1970–2005.
Long Description for Figure 15
This figure is a bar graph showing the number and direction of significant trends in streamflow variables for 34 hydrometric gauging stations in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+. The graph shows that both maximum and, to a lesser extent, minimum flow variables decreased at a high proportion of sites from 1970 to 2005. The rise rate decreased significantly at 32% of the sites and the fall rate increased at 29% of sites. While this graphs shows a high degree of variability was observed, no overall trend was found in the analysis of annual runoff.
Based on 34 gauging sites. Only sites with significant trends (p<0.1) are shown.
Source: Monk and Baird, 201463
Figure 16. Changes in streamflow between 1961–1982 and 1983–2003 for representative sites of each hydrology group in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+.
a) location of sites
b) Group 4a: Kennebecasis River
c) Group 4d: St. Mary’s River
d) Group 3a: Saint John River
e) Group 6a: Northwest Miramichi River
Long Description for Figure 16
This figure is comprised of one small map showing the location of monitoring sites and four line graphs depicting annual changes in streamflow at representative sites for each hydrology group over two time periods: 1961–1982 and 1983–2003. The four monitoring sites shown are: Kennebecasis River representing Group 4a, St. Mary’s River representing Group 4d, Saint John River representing Group 3a, and Northwest Miramichi River representing Group 6a. General trends between the two time periods observed across all of the sites shown were earlier onsets of spring freshet and decreased summer flows from August to October.
Hydrology groups represent clusters of rivers showing similar hydrologic responses to variations in climate. For information on the specific hydrology groups mentioned above, see Cannon et al. 2011.62
Source: Cannon et al., 201162
Water control structures
Although water control structures are less common in the AME than in some ecozones+, their impacts are often greater because of the coastal nature of the ecozone+ and large number of watersheds with limited numbers of natural lakes. Ecological impacts include local and regional species extirpations and habitat loss and alteration. Impacts of these structures on lakes and rivers include altering natural water level fluctuations, peak flows, seasonal flooding, and natural disturbance regimes, as well as decreasing water quality.Footnote64 A total of 74 large dams (greater than 10 m in height) have been constructed in the AME, although few since the 1970s.
Figure 17. Spatial distribution of dams greater than 10 m in height within the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, grouped by year of completion between 1830 and 2005.
Long Description for Figure 17
This map shows the location and age class of dams greater than 10 m in height in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+. A total of 74 large dams have been constructed in the ecozone+, although few since the 1970s.
Source: Canadian Dam Association, 2003Footnote65
Examples of the impacts of dams on biodiversity in the AME include:
- extirpation of three plants, Canadian honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis), prairie goldenrod [Oligoneuron album (syn. Solidago ptarmicoides)], and American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) from the Saint John River, NB, due to flooding from hydroelectric dams;Footnote66
- local extirpation of two species at risk, Plymouth gentian (Sabatia kennedyana) and pink coreopsis (Coreopsis rosea), from at least two lakes in the Tusket River system in extreme southwestern Nova Scotia;Footnote67, Footnote68
- extirpation of one of only two populations of the endangered Atlantic whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) in Nova Scotia as a result of the damming the Tusket River in 1929Footnote69 ; and
- extirpation of the dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), a species that was restricted to the AME in Canada, likely as a result of the loss of its fish host due to construction of a causeway over the tidal portion of the Petitcodiac River, NB, in 1967–1968.Footnote70Footnote71
Key finding 5
National key finding
Coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries, salt marshes, and mud flats, are believed to be healthy in less-developed coastal areas, although there are exceptions. In developed areas, extent and quality of coastal ecosystems are declining as a result of habitat modification, erosion, and sea-level rise.
The coast is a defining feature of the AME. Coastal features include bays, coves, harbours, inlets, passages, channels, basins, points, heads, promontories, islands, capes, beaches, barrens, estuaries, and salt marshes.Footnote72 There is some information on the status of coastal features in the AME, however, trends in this biome are not well known. Where data exist, they are not comprehensive and not necessarily representative of the entire AME. Given these caveats, available data suggest that coastal wetlands, beaches, and dunes declined and that stressors, such as development (industrial, urban, and cottage development),Footnote73 recreation, sea-level rise, and storm surges increased. Climate change will increase impacts to these coastal habitats.73 Some coastal dependent species, such as certain shorebirds, also declined.
Although coastal wetlands and shores cover less than 1% of the AME, they are one of the most important habitat types for maintaining native biodiversity. Loss and fragmentation of this ecosystem type in the AME is one of the most severe cases of wetland loss in Canada.27 As already mentioned in the Wetlands section (page 24), an estimated 65% of the area covered by coastal marshes has been lost since European settlement.48 Wetland loss began over 300 years ago when Acadians began draining salt marshes for agriculture. Since 1900, many coastal wetlands have been drained, flooded, and/or filled in for urban, industrial, or agricultural purposes and coastal developments, particularly cottage subdivisions.Footnote74
Hanson et al.Footnote75 quantified change in the extent of salt marshes in two undeveloped (Cape Jourimain and Shemogue) and three developed (Aboiteau, Shediac, and Cocagne) sites along the Northumberland Strait in southeastern New Brunswick between 1944 and 2001. Salt marshes declined at all five sites over the study period from a combination of development and climatic variables (Figure 18).
Figure 18. Decline in area of vegetated salt marsh in five locations in southeastern New Brunswick between 1944 and 2001.
Long Description for Figure 18
This map and bar graph depict the following information:
|Cape Jourimain (1)||Shemogue (2)||Aboiteau (3)||Shediac (4)||Cocagne (5)|
Study sites Cape Jourimain (1) and Shemogue (2) are undeveloped areas. The other three sites (3–5) are largely residential.
Source: adapted from Hanson et al., 200675
Coastal wetlands continue to be degraded as a result of terrestrial runoff and sedimentation, the restriction of tidal water movement due to barriers and culverts,73 and the rise in sea levels due to climate change. Industrial and commercial development, as well as some agricultural practices, are among the principal threats to estuarine ecosystems.Footnote76 Continued sea-level rise will result in additional negative impacts on the coast73 (see Sea-level rise and coastal erosion section on page 36).
Eelgrass meadows are among the most productive ecosystems in the world,Footnote77 and also among the most threatened.Footnote78 Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is an important food for migrating and wintering waterfowl, and provides foraging areas for other birds.Footnote79, Footnote80, Footnote81 Comprehensive trend data do not exist for eelgrass but compiling results from a number of mainly short-term studies (Table 4) suggests a general decline in eelgrass and some abrupt die-offs, along with some areas with stable to increasing trends.Footnote7780 Loss of eelgrass beds worldwide have been attributed to a range of natural and human-induced disturbances, including coastal erosion, hurricanes, sediment and nutrient loading (see Nutrient loading and algal blooms section on page 52), and various forms of mechanical disturbance.Footnote82 Another factor in declines on the Atlantic coast is the spread of the invasive green crab (Carcinus maenas), which can uproot eelgrass plants.Footnote83
|Lobster Bay, NS||1978–2000||Estimated losses of 30 and 44% in two areasFootnote84|
|Antigonish Harbour, NS||2000–2001||Biomass decline of 95% followed by 50% decline in geese and ducks that feed on the eelgrassFootnote85|
|4 Nova Scotia inlets||1992–2002||Loss of 80% of total intertidal area occupied by eelgrassFootnote86|
|13 southern Gulf of St. Lawrence estuaries||2001–2002||Biomass decline of 40%Footnote87|
|Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec||various||Manicouagan Peninsula distribution expanded (1986 to 2004); generally also expanding or stable in other areasFootnote88|
Although the AME supports a number of breeding shorebird species, it is most important for migrant shorebirds. Coastal habitats, particularly those around the upper Bay of Fundy, are of critical importance as stopover and refueling areas, particularly for the smaller sandpipers.Footnote89, Footnote90, Footnote91 The number of shorebirds passing through the Canadian Atlantic provinces declined since surveys were started in 1974 (Table 5),.Footnote929.Footnote3, Footnote94, Footnote95, Footnote96 with declines particularly pronounced in the 1990s.Footnote97 The reasons for the declines are not fully understood. Although coastal habitats have changed in ways that can negatively affect shorebirds,Footnote98 trends in at least some species likely reflect factors in other parts of the birds’ migration ranges.98
Table 5 - Notes
- Table note 1
In this table: P is the statistical significance: ** indicates P<0.01, * indicates P<0.05, no value indicates not significant “Change” is the percent change in the average abundance index over the entire period calculated from the overall trend (%/yr).
Source: Gratto-Trevor et al., 201197
Relatively few species of shorebirds breed in the AME, and only a small number in coastal areas. Of the four coastal breeding species in the AME for which trends can be determined from Breeding Bird Survey data (Table 6), only the trend for Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicata) was significant, declining at 2.6%/yr (P<0.01).97
Table 6 - Notes
- Table note 1
In this table: P is the statistical significance: ** indicates P<0.01, no value indicates not significant Change indicates the percent change in the average abundance index over the survey period (1968–2006) calculated from the overall trend (%/yr).
Source: Gratto-Trevor et al., 201197 using data from the Breeding Bird Survey43
The AME has many coastal areas where large numbers of waterfowl traditionally congregate during the spring and fall migrations.Footnote99 Many waterfowl also winter in this region, for example, Barrow’s goldeneye (Bucephala islandica).Footnote100 Recent milder winters with longer ice-free periods have resulted in larger wintering populations and potential increases in the residency times of waterfowl during migration.Footnote101 Trends in breeding waterfowl are summarized in the Wetlands section on page 24.
Sandy shores and sand dunes
Sandy shores and sand dunes are primarily located along the New Brunswick coast of Northumberland Strait, the Minas Basin, the north shore of PEI, and Îles de la Madeleine. Beaches and dunes are important habitat for many species of wildlife, providing food and habitat to shorebirds and other fauna, flora, and microorganisms.76 They are threatened by development, sand mining, recreation, sea-level rise, and increased storm severity related to climate change (see Sea-level rise and coastal erosion section on page 36).
Data on trends in erosion and deposition rates for beach and dune habitat is limited. O’Carroll et al.Footnote102 conducted a retrospective analysis of aerial photos to assess temporal changes in beach and dune habitat at five locations in southeastern New Brunswick between 1944 and 2001. They found that the amount of beach and dune habitat had declined in all sites, with a greater decline in beach than in dune in all five locations (Figure 19). Sand removal for aggregate production and the expansion of shoreline protection have also contributed to changes in these areas. The variety of changes observed illustrates that local accretion and erosion processes, storm events, and human activity have all been important factors in shaping coastal sand ecosystems.102
Figure 19. Decline in area of beach and dune habitat in five locations in southeastern New Brunswick between 1944 and 2001.
Long Description for Figure 19
This map and bar graph depicts the following information:
|Cape Jourimain (1)
Study sites Cape Jourimain (1) and Shemogue (2) are undeveloped areas. The other three sites (3–5) are largely residential. For Shediac, the 32% decline was between 1944 and 1971 with little additional loss between 1971 and 2001.
Source: adapted from O’Carroll et al., 2006102
The Atlantic population of piping plovers (Charadrius melodus melodus), listed as Endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, prefers early-successional habitat, such as barrier islands converted from sand spits by storm activity (Figure 20).73 In 2002, the global piping plover breeding population was estimated at only 5,945 adults.Footnote103 In the AME, 442 adults in 2001 and 435 adults in 2006 were detected at breeding sites. Despite active conservation programs there was been a 13% decline in the number of adults from 1991 to 2006 (Figure 20). There are several threats to piping plovers, with predation being one of the most important factors limiting populations across the North American breeding range. Current estimates in eastern Canada suggest that hatching success is less than 55%.Footnote104 In addition, habitat loss and degradation are significant problems. Increased use of beaches and coastal development, including construction of cottages or homes, wharves, jetties, and erosion control structures can impact nesting beaches as well as brood-rearing and foraging habitat.Footnote105 Impacts from climate change are another factor, including storm surges, which are becoming more frequent, and sea-level rise.Footnote106, Footnote107
Figure 20. Distribution of 2006 piping plover nesting sites (left, map) and the number of piping plover adults counted during surveys (right, bar chart) in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006.
Long Description for Figure 20
This figure is comprised of a map that shows the distribution of piping plover nesting sites and a bar graph that shows the number of adults counted during International Piping Plover Censuses between 1991 and 2006 at survey sites in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+. Nesting sites in the ecozone+ are concentrated along the southwest coast of Nova Scotia as well as the north coast of Prince Edward Island. The graph shows the following information:
Count data from International Piping Plover Censuses 1991–2006. Numbers reported reflect “high counts” and include all adults counted during all surveys at all sites (some sites surveyed multiple times).
Source: map from Environment Canada, 2006;106 data from Ferland and Haig, 2002103 and Elliot-Smith et al., 2009Footnote108
Since 1990, coastal areas of the AME have become more heavily populated. In New Brunswick, for example, the proportion of coastal subdivisions as a percentage of all subdivisions in the province increased 35% from 1990 to 1999.Footnote109 In Nova Scotia, increased urbanization led to population declines in many rural areas of the province, while populations increased along the coast. There was a dramatic increase in the rates of subdivision and lot registrations on coastal land through the 20th century (Figure 21).76
Figure 21. Trends in lot registration within two km of the Nova Scotia coastline by decade.
Long Description for Figure 21
This graph shows following information:
Source: adapted from Nova Scotia Property Online Database by CBCL Limited, 200976
Sea-level rise and coastal erosion
Rates of sea-level rise depend on several factors, including the rate of glacier and ice cap melting, the warming of ocean waters, and isostatic rebound, which is the vertical movement of the Earth’s crust.Footnote110 A national overview of coastal sensitivity to sea-level rise and associated storm impacts demonstrated that the Atlantic region has some of Canada’s most severely threatened coastal areas.Footnote111 Approximately 80% of the coastline is considered highly sensitive. Its most sensitive coastlines are generally low-lying areas with salt marshes, barrier beaches, and lagoons.
Over the past century, sea level in the Atlantic region has been rising; several harbours have experienced average rise rates of between 22 and 32 cm/century (Figure 22). Average sea level along the coastline of eastern Quebec rose by 17 cm over the last century.107Footnote112 A portion of sea-level rise is likely due to land subsidence after glacier retreat, but much is due to sea-level rise from changing climate. For example, from 1911 to 2005, the annual mean sea level at Charlottetown rose at an average rate of 32 cm/century.107 Of this, approximately 20 cm/century was likely due to land subsidence after glacier retreat and the remaining 12 cm/century was due to sea-level rise.107Footnote113
Figure 22. Trend in annual mean water level in six harbours in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+.
Long Description for Figure 22
This figure is composed of six line graphs with trend lines showing the rate of sea level rise for harbours in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+. Sea levels increased at similar rates in all six harbours. The graphs show the following information:
|North Sydney, NS||170-2008||30|
|Saint John, NB||1906-2008||22|
Source: CBCL Limited, 200976using data from Marine Environmental Data Service, Ottawa, 2008Footnote114
One of the primary impacts of rising sea levels is an increase in coastal retreat or coastal erosion. Although coastal erosion is a natural phenomenon, rising sea levels as well as other climate change-related impacts to physical and climatic processes will accelerate erosion rates in parts of the AME, such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence.Footnote115Footnote116 Accelerated coastal erosion is correlated with changes in climatic variables such as increased storm frequency,115Footnote117 shorter ice season, more freeze/thaw cycles and winter rain events,Footnote118 and higher sea levels.116 The most sensitive areas to coastal erosion within the AME are on the Gaspé Peninsula, at the entrance of the Baie des Chaleurs, and around PEI and Îles de la Madeleine.
In some areas of PEI, there is already evidence of a significant increase in coastal erosion rates. For example, erosion rates at Pigots Point, Savage Harbour were 1.4 m/yr from 1968 to 1981 and 3.2 m/yr from 1981 to 1990. This is not necessarily the case throughout the AME, however. In 2006, Environment Canada quantified sea-level rise, storm surge, and coastal erosion on the region’s Gulf of St. Lawrence coastal zone and found that coastal retreat rates for southeastern New Brunswick did not increase significantly during the second half of the 20th century.107
In addition to erosion, other impacts on ecosystems from sea-level rise include higher and more frequent flooding of wetlands and adjacent shores, expanded flooding during severe storms and high tides, accelerated coastal (dune and cliff) retreat or erosion, breaching of coastal barriers and destabilization of inlets, saline intrusion into coastal freshwater aquifers, and damage to coastal infrastructure. Increased storm surge activity also has implications for coastal erosion and flooding (see Natural disturbance section on page 73).
Key finding 7
Ice across biomes
National key finding
Declining extent and thickness of sea ice, warming and thawing of permafrost, accelerating loss of glacier mass, and shortening of lake-ice seasons are detected across Canada’s biomes. Impacts, apparent now in some areas and likely to spread, include effects on species and food webs.
Although ice is not a defining feature of the AME, it can provide important habitat for species adapted to living in, under, and on top of ice, and provide crossing points for land animals, and help to regulate water circulation. The timing and duration of ice cover on rivers, lakes, and the ocean are important factors in the types of plants and animals that water bodies can support.
River and lake ice
Information on overall trends in river and lake ice break-up and freeze-up in the AME was limited and inconclusive,63, Footnote119 Footnote120Footnote121 and trends were limited to individual rivers or lakes (Table 7.1 and table 7.2).Footnote122 Of the ten sites covered by a recent analysis of data from the volunteer IceWatch program, only one trend, toward a later ice thaw date, was detected from 1950 to 2005.122
|Freeze up||Dates||Change over time period||Trend per year||Significance|
|Grand Lake, NB120||1952–1980||17.4 days earlier||0.6 days/year||<0.1|
|Lake Utopia, NB120||1971–2000||37.5 days later||1.25 days/year||<0.001|
|Break up||Dates||Change over time period||Trend per year||Significance|
|Lake Utopia, NB120||1961–1990||15.6 days earlier||0.5 days/year||<0.01|
|Miramichi River, NB121||1829–1955||7.3 days earlier/100 years||<0.01|
|Saint John River, NBFootnote123||1950s–1980s||15 days earlier||?|
Sources are indicated as reference numbers after the name of the lake/river.
Prowse and CulpFootnote124 provided a review of the effects of ice on instream ecological communities. In general, the life cycles of many aquatic organisms are both directly and indirectly influenced by ice through factors such as ice cover duration, instream temperatures, and hydrological variability. For example, Cunjak et al.Footnote125 demonstrated that the interannual variability in the juvenile survival of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Catamaran Brook, NB, generally improved with increasing average winter flow but the lowest measured survival was associated with an atypical winter breakup and ice jam triggered by rain-on-snow snowmelt events.
Sea ice is important in the AME as it is believed to have a dampening effect on wave action that causes coastal erosion and flooding.107 In parts of the AME that have sea ice annually, ice cover varies from year-to-year; cycles are apparent and have some correlation with the North Atlantic Oscillation, a phenomenon of fluctuations in the difference in atmospheric pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High, which in turn influences wind strength and direction. In the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, sea ice has shown a tendency toward decreasing ice cover and length of the ice season but these trends were not significant (Figure 23).107 Saucier and SennevilleFootnote126 suggest that winter sea ice will be gone from the Gulf of St. Lawrence before the end of the 21st century, which could result in significant coastal erosion, including loss of coastal marshes (see Coastal section on page 29).
Figure 23. Trend in total accumulated ice coverage (top) and length of season (cover >10%) (bottom) for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 1971–2005.
Long Description for Figure 23
Figure 23 shows two line graphs depicting the trend in accumulated ice coverage and the length of season where ice coverage is above 10% on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Both graphs show levels at yearly increments between 1971 and 2005 as well as a trend line. The graphs show that sea ice cover area and duration has shown a tendency toward decreasing ice cover and length of the ice season but these trends were not significant
Source: Forbes et al., 2006.107
Theme: Human/ecosystem interactions
Key finding 8
Theme Human/ecosystem interactions
National key finding
Both the extent and representativeness of the protected areas network have increased in recent years. In many places, the area protected is well above the United Nations 10% target. It is below the target in highly developed areas and the oceans.
In 2009, the protected areas in the AME consisted of 617 protected areas that covered 5.3% of the landbase (Figure 24). This total was comprised of 438 protected areas in IUCN categories I–IV (10,963 km2; 4.9% of the AME), 172 protected areas in IUCN categories V–VI (796 km2; 0.4% of the AME), and 7 protected areas (<0.01% of the AME) not classified by IUCN category (Figure 25). IUCN categories I–IV include nature reserves, wilderness areas, and other parks and reserves managed for conservation of ecosystems and natural and cultural features, as well as those managed mainly for habitat and wildlife conservation.Footnote127 IUCN categories V–VI focus on sustainable use by established cultural tradition within the protected area.127 In 1992 (the signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity), 1.6% of the AME was protected.Footnoteiv
Figure 24. Distribution of protected areas in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, May 2009.
Long Description for Figure 24
This map shows the protected areas in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ as of 2009. In 2009, there were 617 protected areas that covered 5.3% of the land base. The two largest protected areas are Cape Breton Highlands National Park, located at the northern point of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, and Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, in the interior of southern Nova Scotia.
Prior to 1936, there was only 4 km2 in category IV consisting of a single site, Amherst Point Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Nova Scotia, established in 1927. The total amount of protected area increased from under 1,000 km2 in 1936, to just over 3,000 km2 in 1992, and to over 11,000 km2 in 2009 (Figure 25). The creation of seven national parks in the AME was responsible for most of the increases from 1936 to the 1980s. Cape Breton Highlands National Park in northern Nova Scotia, the first and largest national park in the AME (949 km2), was established in 1936. Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site in southern Nova Scotia, the second largest protected area in the region (404 km2), was opened in 1974. Recent additions since 1992 have been predominantly provincial parks and protected areas, mainly in Quebec and Nova Scotia.
Figure 25. Growth of protected areas in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1936–2009.
Long Description for Figure 25
This bar graph shows the cumulative area of legally protected land in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ between 1936 and 2009.
|Cumulative area protected
(km2) IUCN Categories I-IV
|Cumulative area protected (km2)
IUCN Categories V-VI
The graph makes note of the creation of national parks which are responsible for most of the increases from 1936 to the 1980s. Fundy National Park of Canada was established in 1948, Forillon National Park of Canada and Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada in 1974, Mont-Orford National Park (Quebec) and Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada in 1979, Gaspésie National Park (Quebec) in 1981, several parks in Nova Scotia including Tobeatic Wilderness Area and Tidney River Wilderness Area in 1998, Grande-Rivière Ecological Reserve in 2001 and several parks in Quebec and Nova Scotia including White-tailed Deer Yard, Eigg Mountain-James River Wilderness Area in 2005.
Data provided by federal and provincial jurisdictions, updated to May 2009. Only legally protected areas are included. IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) categories of protected areas are based on primary management objectives (see text for more information).The last bar marked 'TOTAL' includes protected areas for which the year established was not provided.
Source: Environment Canada, 2009;128 using Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS) data (v.2009.05)129 provided by federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions
Key finding 10
Invasive non-native species
Theme Human/ecosystem interactions
National key finding
Invasive non-native species are a significant stressor on ecosystem functions, processes, and structure in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments. This impact is increasing as numbers of invasive non-native species continue to rise and their distributions continue to expand.
Non-native species are plants, animals, or other organisms introduced by human activity into areas outside of their natural ranges. Non-native species are considered invasive when their introduction or spread threatens native species or ecosystems, or has the potential to cause considerable harm to the economy or society (e.g., due to their impacts on agricultural crops or forestry). Invasive non-native species are recognized as one of most significant threats to native biodiversity.Footnote130 Since the AME borders the ocean and has many ports, it has often been a point of entry for invasive non-native species. Comprehensive trend data do not exist for the AME, so this section presents a few examples where data exist.
The floras of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI are composed of 37,34 and 35% non-native species, respectively (Figure 26). However, there are currently only a few non-native plant species in the AME that appear to be having widespread negative impacts on native biological diversity.Footnote131 Only 36% of reported non-native species in the AME (not including Quebec) are known to be widely established (Figure 27).Footnote132 In general, the AME was less affected by invasive non-natives than the Great Lakes region or the heavily settled parts of the northeast United States.66131
Figure 26. Total number of native and non-native plant species in the Maritime provinces, 2001.
Long Description for Figure 26
This stacked bar graph shows the following information:
Number of species
Number of species
Data from Quebec is not included.
Source: adapted from Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, unpublished dataFootnote133
Figure 27. Abundance of non-native plant species in the Maritime Provinces, 2001.
Long Description for Figure 27
This figure is a pie chart that shows the percent of non-native species that were classed as rare, uncommon, locally common, fairly common, and widespread in 2001. The graphs shows that, of the non-native species, 64% (489 species) were rare, 9.4% (72 species) were uncommon, 5.6% (43 species) were locally common, 5.9 (45 species) were fairly common, and 15% (115 species) were widespread.
Data from Quebec was not included.
Source: adapted from Blaney, unpublished data132
Two non-native species in particular represent serious and broad threats: European common reed (Phragmites australis ssp. australis) and glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus, also known by the synonym Rhamnus frangula). Other species of concern are Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Another serious issue in the AME is the invasion of reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) in streambeds and river shores.
Invasive non-native insects and diseases
Non-native insects and diseases have had significant ecological impacts,Footnote134 especially on forest ecosystems.10 Trend data do not exist but important diseases include white pine blister rust, beech bark disease, and Dutch elm disease. There are 12 major introduced insect pest species in Nova Scotia with introduction dates ranging from the 1890s to 2000 (Table 8). Most of them arrived along the Eastern Seaboard in shipments from Europe over the last century. Many of these affect the entire AME.134 Two examples are highlighted below.
|Insect/disease||Year||Location of first introduction to North America||Preferred host|
|Beech bark disease||1890s||Halifax, NS||American beech
|Balsam woolly adelgid
|1910s||Western Nova Scotia||Balsam fir
|European spruce sawfly
|1926||New York||Mountain ash
|White pine blister rust
|1929||Chester, NS||Eastern white pine
|European winter moth
|Dutch elm disease||1969||Liverpool, NS||American elm
|Spruce longhorn beetle
|2000||Halifax, NS||Red spruce
Source: adapted from Neily et al., 2007134
Beech bark disease
Beech bark canker disease and its associated insect pathogen, beech scale (Cryptoccoccus fagisuga), have effectively eliminated large American beech trees from tolerant hardwood forests of PEI, Nova Scotia, and southern New Brunswick.Footnote135 Beech was once a major component of these forests. Both the insect and the disease it carried were introduced from Europe through the Port of Halifax and were established in New Brunswick by 1927.Footnote136 Beech trees that are genetically resistant to infection survive in infected areas.136 Considering that beech was one of the most common species in the region, the disease has altered Acadian forest composition and has affected the availability of mast (or beechnuts) which is harvested as a food source.16
Brown spruce longhorn beetle
In contrast to the spruce budworm (described in the Natural disturbance section on page 76), the brown spruce longhorn beetle (Tetropium fuscum) is a new non-native invasive forest pest. It has been present since 1990 in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax,10Footnote137 .Footnote138Footnote139 and remains localized to that area.138 139 The potential impact of the species on the forests of the AME and the rest of Canada is uncertain. Though the beetle has infested mainly red spruce in Point Pleasant Park, it is capable of attacking all spruce species native to Canada, other softwood species such as firs, pines, and larches, and occasionally hardwood species.10
Invasive non-native freshwater species
Invasive non-native freshwater species can affect biodiversity and the health of aquatic ecosystems through competition with native aquatic species.
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) was originally found in lakes and rivers of eastern and central North America. As a result of widespread introductions, it is now found in south and central New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and east from southern Manitoba to Quebec.Footnote140 It moved into New Brunswick in the 1870sFootnote141 and, between 1905 and 1948, was stocked in six lakes in the south. As of 2009, it was found in over 70 lakes and 31 rivers in New Brunswick due to unauthorized stocking and natural spread.Footnote142 In 2008, it was first recorded in the Miramichi River drainage, a world-class Atlantic salmon river.142 In Nova Scotia, smallmouth bass was introduced into 11 lakes between 1942 and 1953 through stockingFootnote143 and again between 1967 and 1984 (Figure 28).Footnote144 The distribution today includes most of the south and central portion of the province.144
Figure 28. Number of lakes with first known occurrences of smallmouth bass in Nova Scotia, 1942–2008.
Long Description for Figure 28
This bar graph shows the following information:
Source: adapted from LeBlanc, 2009144
In the AME, smallmouth bass are an effective predator and competitor of other fish, including native Atlantic salmon.Footnote145 The establishment of smallmouth bass in new systems has been shown to alter food webs and resulted in changes in species composition, relative abundance, and habitat use of fish assemblages, particularly for small-bodied fish species.143Footnote146
Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) is a single-celled, microscopic freshwater alga endemic to rivers and lakes in boreal and mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere. When the algae produces profuse amounts of stalks, nuisance blooms can develop.Footnote147 Since its first observation in the Matapedia River in the summer of 2006, it was observed in several rivers in Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspé Peninsula, and northern New Brunswick.Footnote148 Didymo increased benthic macroinvertebrate densities thus affecting the aquatic food web of the Matapedia River from 2006 to 2007.Footnote149 When a bloom occurs, the mat can grow to cover extensive areas of stream bed and exposed substrate, causing significant harm to ecosystems.Footnote150 The full extent of impacts on the ecosystem, including salmon, is still uncertain.147 148
Invasive non-native marine species
European green crab
Native to Europe and Northern Africa, the European green crab (Carcinus maenus) is one of the world’s most successful invaders and has established on temperate coastlines on all continents.Footnote151 The main mechanism of spread has been through unintentional transport by the fishing vessel traffic and shipping, especially ships containing ballast water.Footnote152 Green crabs are omnivores and feed voraciously on aquatic plants, bivalves, and particularly on molluscs,Footnote153 and are competitors for food with native predators and omnivores.Footnote154 In some parts of their introduced range, they have caused declines in other crab and bivalve species and are a threat to shellfish and fishing industries.154 In the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, green crabs also threaten valuable eelgrass habitat; they can cut off eelgrass plants right at their shoots and are capable of affecting entire eelgrass meadows.Footnote155
Other potentially important invasive non-native marine species include several tunicates, which are not discussed here.
Key finding 12
Nutrient loading and algal blooms
Theme Human/ecosystem interactions
National key finding
Inputs of nutrients to both freshwater and marine systems, particularly in urban and agriculture-dominated landscapes, have led to algal blooms that may be a nuisance and/or may be harmful. Nutrient inputs have been increasing in some places and decreasing in others.
Although the input of nutrients into groundwater and surface water occurs from many sources including urban, industrial, agricultural, and air-borne, this section focuses on risk of nitrogen and phosphorous loading from agricultural land. This section uses PEI as a case study of the trends in nitrates in groundwater and surface water and Quebec as a case study of trends in phosphorus in rivers.
Agricultural landFootnotev in the AME have high levels of residual (or excess) soil nitrogen remaining on the land after inputs and outputs have been considered. Residual soil nitrogen levels increased on most cultivated land from 1981 to 2006 (Figure 29). In 2006, the AME had the second highest residual soil nitrogen values of all agricultural ecozones+, next to the Pacific Maritime Ecozone+.Footnote156 As a result, the potential for leaching of nitrate out of soils and into water is high. In PEI, high nitrate concentrations in groundwater and surface water have become a serious issue for drinking water and ecosystem health.Footnote157
Figure 29. Change in Residual Soil Nitrogen (RSN) risk class from 1981 to 2006 (left) and risk classes in 2006 (right) for agricultural land in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+.
Long Description for Figure 29
This figure has two heat maps. One map indicates areas where residual soil nitrogen increased, decreased, or did not change between 1981 and 2006 and the other quantifies the residual soil nitrogen level by class in 2006 in kg of nitrogen per hectare. Residual soil nitrogen levels increased on most cultivated land from 1981 to 2006. In 2006, approximately half of the ecozone+ was in the highest class of residual soil nitrogen, greater than or equal to 40 kg per hectare.
Agricultural land shown in this figure includes the Cropland, Improved Pasture, and Summerfallow categories from Canadian Census of Agriculture.
0.0-9.9 represents a very low risk class and >= 40 represents a very high risk class.
Source: Drury et al., 2011156
Nitrate levels in groundwater and surface water in PEI
Natural background nitrate levels are typically less than 2 mg/L. Aquatic biodiversity in rivers, streams, and estuaries is more sensitive to nitrate levels greater than 2-3 mg/L, which can inhibit growth, impair the immune system, and stress some species.157 Since the 1980s, PEI has experienced a steady increase in nitrate levels in groundwater. Average nitrate concentrations in groundwater from tested wells in PEI consistently exceeded 2 mg/L and remained above 3 mg/L between 1984 and 2007 (Figure 30). Nitrate concentrations in PEI’s well water vary by watershed and patterns of contamination have remained consistent when compared between 2000–2005 and 2005–2008 (Figure 31). Generally, nitrate concentrations appear strongly associated with agricultural management practices in individual watersheds; watersheds with the highest nitrate levels are in areas where the highest portion of the land is in potato production.
Figure 30. Mean nitrate levels and the percentage of private wells exceeding recommended nitrate concentrations, PEI, 1984–2007.
Long Description for Figure 30
This graph shows the following information:
exceeding 10 mg/l
There were no data from 1985–1994 and 1996–1999.
Source: PEI Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry, unpublished dataFootnote158
Figure 31. Change in average groundwater nitrate concentrations between 2000–2005 (top) and 2004–2008 (bottom) in watersheds in PEI.
Long Description for Figure 31
This figure is comprised of two maps showing average groundwater nitrate concentrations in well water by watershed on Prince Edward Island, one for the period 2000 to 2005 and one for the period 2004 to 2008. While the maps use differing scales to assess nitrate levels, they show that nitrate concentrations in PEI’s well water vary by watershed and patterns of contamination and have remained consistent across the two time periods. Levels were highest in the south-central part of the island around Summerside.
Source: Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater, 2008 (2000–2005 data)157; and Jiang, unpublished data (2004–2008 data)Footnote159
Groundwater contributes as much as 65% of annual streamflow in a typical stream in PEI.Footnote160 Nitrate enriched groundwater discharges to the local streams, leading to surface water contamination and aquatic ecosystem deterioration.Footnote161 Monitoring data for all of PEI indicate nitrate concentrations of stream water have increased over time, and in some cases, have increased several-fold since the 1960s.161 Excessive nutrient inputs can result in eutrophication, where macro algal overgrowth and dinoflagellate (phytoplankton) blooms deplete oxygen and/or release toxic substances, killing or choking out other wildlife. Algal overgrowth and dinoflagellate blooms can result from even relatively low levels of nitrate contamination (<2 mg/L), which lead to large-scale hypoxic or “dead zones”.161Footnote162 Between 2002 and 2008, 18 estuaries in PEI, the majority of which are on the north shore, were subject to recurring anoxic events (Figure 32).Footnote163 Elevated nitrate in surface water has been suggested as one of the factors associated with the anoxia events.161
Figure 32. Number of anoxic events reported on Prince Edward Island between 2002 and 2008.
Long Description for Figure 32
This map shows the location and number of anoxic events reported at different Prince Edward Island estuaries from 2002 to 2008. Between 2002 and 2008, 18 estuaries in PEI, the majority of which are on the north shore of the island, were subject to recurring anoxic events. There were also sites of repeated anoxic events on the east coast. The number of events per location ranged from 1 to 7 events.
Source: PEI Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry, unpublished data
According to monitoring data collected by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, from 1981–2006, risk of surface water contamination from soil phosphorus has increased in Canada, with an increasing percentage of agricultural watersheds at high and very high risk for contamination by phosphorus.Footnote164 In Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, in particular, risk has gradually shifted from lower to higher risk classes since 1991 (Figure 33).164 In terms of the amount of phosphorus in soils, the amount of farmland in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces exceeding the threshold value of 4 mg of phosphorus/kg of soil has increased from less than 2% in 1981 to over 33% in 2006.Footnote165
Phosphorus concentrations in rivers in Quebec
In contrast to the results for agricultural lands above, phosphorus concentrations decreased by more than 50% at one station, between 0 and 50% at a second station, and were stable at three stations between 1988 and 1998 in rivers within the Quebec portion of the AME.Footnote166 However, phosphorus levels also decreased at a series of control sites (witness stations) on rivers in the Appalachian Mountain lowlands when comparing 1979–2002 to 2000–2002.166 These sites have watersheds with little to no human settlement. This suggests the factors influencing phosphorus concentrations in rivers may be declining naturally, regardless of human activities.
Figure 33. Risk of water contamination by phosphorous in agricultural watersheds under 2006 management practices in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+ (map) and trend in the proportion of farmland in each risk class, 1981–2006, by province (bar graphs)
Long Description for Figure 33
This figure is composed of a heat map of the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ showing the risk of water contamination by phosphorus across the landscape as classified into five risk classes (Very Low, Low, Moderate, High, and Very High) in 2006 and bar graphs for each of the four provinces in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+. The map shows the areas at highest risk are in the southern portion of the ecozone+ in QuebecThe bar graphs show the following information:
Data for figure 33.
The Indicator of Risk of Water Contamination by Phosphorus (IROWC-P) was developed to assess the trends over time for the risk of surface water contamination by P from Canadian agricultural land at the watershed scale.
Quebec bar graph includes some area outside of the ecozone+.
Source: adapted from van Bochove et al., 2010164
Algal blooms in Quebec
Blooms in blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria) have been linked to high phosphorus levels in surface water.Footnote167 The number of lakes and rivers affected by blue-green algae in the Quebec portion of the AME has increased from three to 16 lakes between 2004 and 2008 (Figure 34).
Figure 34. Number of lakes and rivers where blue-green algae was detected for Quebec administrative units that overlap with the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 2004–2008.
Long Description for Figure 34
This stacked bar graph shows the following information:
|Administrative regions||Number of bodies
of water - 2004
|Number of bodies
of water - 2005
|Number of bodies
of water - 2006
|Number of bodies
of water- 2007
|Number of bodies
of water -2008
The Quebec administrative units that have the majority of their area in the AME are bas-Saint-Laurent and Chaudière-Appalaches.
Source: adapted from Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs, 2009Footnote168
Key finding 13
Theme Human/ecosystem interactions
National key finding
Thresholds related to ecological impact of acid deposition, including acid rain, are exceeded in some areas, acidifying emissions are increasing in some areas, and biological recovery has not kept pace with emission reductions in other areas.
As a result of emission reductions, levels of sulphate and nitrate deposition in the AME decreased substantially between 1990 and 2004 (Figure 35).Footnote169 Nonetheless, due to the poor buffering ability of its geology and soils, much of the AME is highly sensitive to acidFootnote170 and atmospheric sulphur and nitrogen deposition exceeded critical loads in several areas from 1999 to 2003 (Figure 36).Footnote171 Of particular concern is the potential long-term impact on forest health, for example, reduced growth rates, reduced productivity, increased mortality, and eventual changes in the composition of forest species.169171Footnote172 Footnote173
Figure 35. Trend in wet sulphate and wet nitrate deposition in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1990–1994 and 2000–2004.
Long Description for Figure 35
This figure is composed of two sets of heat maps comparing the mean sulfate wet deposition and mean nitrate wet deposition for the time periods 1990–1994 and 2000–2004. The maps show that deposition of both substances was more pronounced in the time period 1990–1994 and, in both cases, was centered primarily around the St. Lawrence River. The maps show that levels of sulfate and nitrate deposition in the ecozone+ decreased substantially between 1990 and 2004.
Source: adapted from Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 2008169
Figure 36. Map of forest areas in the New England states and eastern Canadian provinces where critical load has been exceeded due to acid deposition, ca. 1999–2003.
Long Description for Figure 36
This heat map shows the level of acid deposition relative to critical load in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ as well as the New England states. The map shows that atmospheric sulfur and nitrogen deposition exceeded critical loads in several areas from 1999 to 2003. Within the ecozone+, this phenomenon was most pronounced in the southern half of Nova Scotia. .
Data for atmospheric deposition rates from 1999–2003 in New England states and 1999–2002 in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Yellow, orange, and red areas are where sulphur and nitrogen have exceeded their critical loads. Green areas are where critical loads have not been exceeded.
Source: modified from New England Governors/Eastern Canadian Premiers Forest Mapping Group, 2007171
Another concern is the impact on fish and freshwater systems. The AME includes North America’s most heavily affected region in terms of the percentage of fish habitat lost due to acid rain.170, Footnote174 Atlantic salmon are highly sensitive to acidity, and by 1996, 14 runs in coastal Nova Scotia were extinct because of water acidity, 20 were severely impacted, and a further 15 were lightly impacted.Footnote175 There has been no measurable change in pH despite declines in sulphur dioxide emissions and recovery of water chemistry and ecology is expected to take several more decades in Nova Scotia than in other parts of Canada.170175Footnote176 Recent research also suggests that the main driver of fish impacts is aluminum, which has been activated by acid deposition and reached levels that are toxic to fish.Footnote177
Key finding 14
Theme Human/ecosystem interactions
National key finding
Rising temperatures across Canada, along with changes in other climatic variables over the past 50 years, have had both direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems.
Trends in climatic variables
Table 9 summarizes significant trends in climatic variables in the AME from 1950 to 2007. The ecozone+ is characterized by large variability at interannual and decadal to multi-decadal scales. Across the ecozone+ as a whole, summer temperatures increased by only 1.1°C (Table 9, Figure 37). Relative to the rest of Canada, temperatures in the AME, Newfoundland Boreal, and Mixedwood Plains ecozones+ rose the least over the 1950 to 2007 period.Footnote178 In the AME, this was related to a widespread cooling trend over the northeast Atlantic ocean from approximately 1950 to 1980.Footnote179
|Climate variable||Overall ecozone+ trend (1950–2007)||Comments and regional variation|
|Drought Severity Index||
Only significant trends (p<0.05) are shown.
Source: Zhang et al., 2011178 and supplementary data provided by the authors
Fall precipitation increased as did the number of days with precipitation in spring, summer, and fall (Table 9), although there was some variation across stations (Figure 38). No overall trends in snow cover duration and annual maximum snow depth were found, however, trends were significant at a few individual stations where they consistently showed a shorter duration of snow cover (Figure 39) and lower maximum snow depths. Changes in precipitation have an impact on hydrology as discussed in the Lakes and rivers section on page 29.
Climate stations were well distributed across the AME and trends at individual stations were generally well reflected in the overall trends. There were some exceptions where individual stations showed significant changes that were different from the overall trends (see Table 9, Figure 37, Figure 38, and Figure 39).
Figure 37. Change in mean temperatures in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1950–2007, for: a) spring (March–May), b) summer (June–August, c) fall (September–November), and d) winter (December–February).
Long Description for Figure 37
This figure shows a map for each season with icons representing individual monitoring stations that indicate an increase or decrease in seasonal temperature relative to the 1961–1990 mean, the degree of change, and whether observed trends were significant. Summer temperatures increased significantly at a higher proportion of sites, while there were few sites with significant trends in other seasons. Across the ecozone+ as a whole, summer temperatures increased by 1.1°C.
Figure 38. Change in the amounts of precipitation in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1950–2007, for: a) spring (March–May), b) summer (June–August, c) fall (September–November), and d) winter (December–February).
Long Description for Figure 38
This figure shows a map for each season with icons representing individual monitoring stations that indicate an increase or decrease in seasonal precipitation relative to the 1961–1990 mean, the degree of change, and whether observed trends were significant. Spring precipitation increased significantly at many of the sites in eastern New Brunswick and southern Nova Scotia. In fall, precipitation increased especially in the northern areas. Across the ecozone+ as a whole, fall precipitation increased by 18.6%.
Expressed as a percentage of the 1961–1990 mean.
Source: Zhang et al., 2011178 and supplementary data provided by the authors
Figure 39. Change in snow durations (the number of days with ≥2 cm of snow on the ground) in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1950–2007, in: a) the first half of the snow season (August–January), which indicates change in the start date of snow cover, and b) the second half of the snow season (February–July), which indicates changes in the end date of snow cover.
Long Description for Figure 39
This figure shows two maps, one for each half of the snow season, with icons representing individual monitoring stations that indicate the increase or decrease in snow duration from 1950 to 2007, the degree of change, and whether observed trends were significant. For both parts of the snow season, trends were mixed with decreases in maximum snow depth of greater than 40 cm at some stations.
Source: Zhang et al., 2011178 and supplementary data provided by the authors.
Future climate predictions
Climate change is expected to have a range of effects of the AME. These include:
- Increased average annual air temperatures, although likely less than other parts of Canada;Footnote180
- Increased river water temperatures;Footnote181
- A longer, warmer growing season;181
- Decreased sea ice cover in the Gulf of St. Lawrence;126
- Changes in storm intensity and frequency;Footnote182 andChanges in forest composition (e.g., a reduction in the proportion of yellow birch and an expansion by white birch and poplar).26
Some fish species, such as Atlantic salmon, are cold-water species, and warmer waters could have a negative impact their growth.181 Warmer waters can increase salmon’s susceptibility to disease and infection, increase mortality rates, and decrease the availability of suitable habitat. Modeling suggests that climate change could increase river water temperatures in the region by 2–5° C and produce more extreme low flow conditions.181 Research in the Miramichi River examined the relationship between climate, hydrological parameters, and the length of juvenile salmon (parr) and detected a significant decline in length. Fish length is an indicator of growth that also affects competition, predation, smoltification, and marine survival. This relationship was associated with the warming observed and the results suggest that future climate change will adversely affect juvenile salmon in the Miramichi River.181
Key finding 15
Theme Human/ecosystem interactions
National key finding
Canada is well endowed with a natural environment that provides ecosystem services upon which our quality of life depends. In some areas where stressors have impaired ecosystem function, the cost of maintaining ecosystem services is high and deterioration in quantity, quality, and access to ecosystem services is evident.
Ecosystem services are the direct goods and indirect services from a healthy, natural environment that ensure human well-being. These include four different types of services: provisioning services, regulating services, supporting services, and cultural services. Provisioning services in the AME include forest products, water, food, and commercial freshwater fishing. Regulating services such as wastewater assimilation are important, as are the supporting services provided by wetlands. Ecosystems also contribute important cultural services, such as recreational fishing, hunting, outdoor recreation, and tourism.
Valuation of ecosystem goods and services accounts for ecosystem stocks and flows using biophysical or monetary measures. Basic economic analysis typically accounts for flows of goods from ecosystems including, for example, forest products, fish, food, and energy and mineral resources. These are traded in economic markets and their value over time may serve as indicators of ecosystem status and trends. Other ecosystem goods and services, however, such as climate regulation, water purification, and waste assimilation are not traded in markets and are referred to as non-market goods and services.
The combined estimated value of ecosystem goods and services for the Atlantic provinces (excluding the Quebec portion of the AME, because it could not be easy separated out from other parts of Quebec) is over $4.7 billion (Table 10).
|Forests||2006||$466||GDP + farm value|
|Fishing (commercial)||2006||$406||Landed value|
Table 10 - Notes
Theme: Habitat, wildlife, and ecosystem processes
Key finding 16
Agricultural landscapes as habitat
Theme Habitat, wildlife, and ecosystem processes
National key finding
The potential capacity of agricultural landscapes to support wildlife in Canada has declined over the past 20 years, largely due to the intensification of agriculture and the loss of natural and semi-natural land cover.
Although some biodiversity is lost when land is converted to agriculture, agricultural lands still contribute significant biodiversity values as the varied habitats on agricultural landscapes provide some or all of the requirements for many wildlife species.Footnote183
Agricultural landsFootnotevi comprised close to 10% of the AME in 2006 and were characterized generally by small-scale farming. With the exception of a few areas of higher production (e.g., PEI, Annapolis–Minas Lowlands, Saint John River Valley), agricultural land made up a relatively small component of the broader landscape (Figure 40).Footnote184 Most agricultural areas were made up of a diversity of cover types that included a considerable amount of natural and semi-natural land. The relatively light agricultural footprint along with the presence of abundant, high-value habitat on agricultural land means that the influence of agriculture on habitat is much less here than in the major Canadian agricultural ecozones+.
Figure 40. Percentage of land defined as agricultural in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 2006. Soil Landscapes of Canada polygons were the base unit used for this analysis.
Long Description for Figure 40
This heat map shows the percentage of land defined as agricultural in the Atlantic Maritme Ecozone+ for the year 2006. Overall, agricultural land made up a relatively small component of the broader landscape in 2006, comprising 10 percent or less in most areas. Higher percentages of agricultural land were found in the southern Quebec portion of the ecozone+ as well as on Prince Edward Island.
Soil Landscapes of Canada polygons were the base unit used for this analysis.
Source: Javorek and Grant, 2011184
From 1986 to 2006, the total agricultural land shrank by about 6% (from 22,000 to 20,800 km2). The share of “All Other Land” declined from approximately 49 to 47% of the total agricultural landscape. Tame Hay, the second most abundant cover type, expanded its share from 21 to 26%, while both Improved Pasture (9 to 5%) and Unimproved Pasture (9 to 6%) declined. The share of Other Crops expanded from 2 to 3%, mainly due to increased potato production on Prince Edward Island and in the Saint John River Valley (Figure 41).184
Figure 41. Total agriculture area, the amount of land per cover type (bar chart), and the relative percentage of each cover type (table) for the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+ in 1986, 1996, and 2006.
Long Description for Figure 41
This figure is a stacked bar graph showing the following information:
(hectares) - 1986
(hectares) - 1996
(hectares) - 2006
|All Other Land||1,072,079||1,063,783||979,019|
Source: Javorek and Grant, 2011184
Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land
A total of 292 species (215 birds, 52 mammals, 9 reptiles, and 16 amphibians) potentially use this agricultural landscape, with 88% associated with wetland, riparian, shelterbelts, woodland, old field, and idle land (All Other Land category). The All Other Land category was the dominant land cover type making up close to half of the total agricultural land base. The capacity of agricultural landscapes to provide habitat for wildlife was calculated for the years 1986, 2001, and 2006 using a model that ranked land cover types based on potential uses (e.g., breeding and reproduction, migration, wintering) and value (primary, secondary, or tertiary) for different species into ten categories (see legend in Figure 42).184 In 2006, average wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land was rated as high despite a significant decline since 1986 (Figure 42). Between 1986 and 2006, habitat capacity decreased on 43% of agricultural land, increased on 28%, and was constant on 29% (Figure 43). Declining habitat capacity trends were associated with a number of areas reporting more intense agricultural activity. The significant decline resulted from a general expansion of the comparatively low habitat Cropland (32 to 36%) and a decline of cover types with higher value to wildlife.184 Despite this decline, average wildlife habitat capacity in the AME remained high.
Figure 42. The share of agricultural land in each habitat capacity category (left axis, stacked bars) and the average habitat capacity (right axis, points and line) for the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+ in 1986, 1996, and 2006.
Long Description for Figure 42
This stacked percentage bar graph shows the following information:
Habitat capacity Categories
Very high 90->100
Very low <20-30
The average habitat capacity for the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ was 94.17 in 1986, 93.17 in 1996 and 88.75 in 2006.
Years with different letters indicate a statistically significant difference.
Source: Javorek and Grant, 2011184
Figure 43. Change in wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural lands in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1986–2006.
Long Description for Figure 43
This map shows the change in the wildlife capacity of agricultural lands in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ between 1986 and 2006. Agricultural land in the ecozone+ is mapped and coloured by area to depict habitat capacity change that is either: constant, decreasing, increasing or not reported in the time frame. Between 1986 and 2006, habitat capacity decreased on 43% of agricultural land, increased on 28%, and was constant on 29%.
All Soil Landscapes of Canada (SLC) polygons with >5% agricultural land were included in the analysis.
Source: Javorek and Grant, 2011184
Soil erosion on cropland
Occupying only 4% of the total land area, croplandFootnotevii in the AME has some of the highest erosion risk on agricultural land in Canada due to intensive tillage and a climate that poses a high threat of water erosion of unprotected soils in some areas.Footnote185 However, the risk of soil erosion declined in the AME from 1981 to 2006. McConkey et al. 185 found that 36% of the cropland was classified as having unsustainable erosion risk in 2006 (Figure 44), down from 41% in 1981. In 2006, 18% of agricultural land was at moderate to very high erosion risk compared to 20% in 1981.
Figure 44. Soil erosion risk classes for cropland in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 2006.
Long Description for Figure 44
This map shows the classification of erosion risk for cropland in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ for the year 2006. The categories are: Very Low (<6 t/ha/yr), Low 6-11 t/ha/yr), Moderate (11-22 t/ha/yr), High (22-33 t/ha/yr), and Very High ( >33 t/ha/yr). The map shows that 36% of cropland in the ecozone+ has an unsustainable soil erosion risk. The largest area of moderate erosion risk is on the east shore of the St. Lawrence River and the area of highest erosion risk, in the Very High risk class, is on the central-west coast of Nova Scotia.
All Soil Landscape of Canada polygons containing >5% cropland were included in the analysis and entire polygons are shown on the map.
Source: McConkey et al., 2011185
Birds of grassland and other open habitats
Grassland birds, which include birds of some agricultural habitats such as hayfield, pastures and rangeland, and birds of other open habitats, which include agricultural lands not included in the grassland category and abandoned fields, have declined significantly (Figure 45). Vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), and eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) populations declined by over 75% since the 1970s. Many aerial-foraging insectivores, included in the other open habitat category, declined as a group.42
Figure 45. Annual indices of population change in bird assemblages for grassland habitat (left) and other open habitats (right) in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1968–2006.
Long Description for Figure 45
This figure has two line graphs depicting the following information:
- Abundance index
- Abundance index
Grassland habitats include native grasslands and some agricultural habitat such as hayfield, pastures and rangeland. Other open habitats include open country, including species of agricultural landscapes not considered in grassland. The index is an estimate of the average number of individual birds that would be counted on a randomly selected route by an average observer in a given year.
Source: Downes et al., 201142using data from the Breeding Bird Survey43
Key finding 17
Species of special economic, cultural, or ecological interest
Theme Habitat, wildlife, and ecosystem processes
National key finding
Many species of amphibians, fish, birds, and large mammals are of special economic, cultural, or ecological interest to Canadians. Some of these are declining in number and distribution, some are stable, and others are healthy or recovering.
Species of particular interest within the AME include the Atlantic (Gaspésie) population of woodland caribou and Atlantic salmon. Some landbirds that use the AME have declined , in some cases due to pressures elsewhere in their migratory ranges.
In the past 150 to 200 years, some of the largest mammals were extirpated from the AME. including wolf (Canis lupus), cougar (Felis concolor), and wolverine (Gulo gulo).135 Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) has been reduced to a single endangered population. The wolf’s ecological niche has largely been filled by the coyote (Canis latrans), and that of the caribou has been filled to some degree by the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Beaver (Castor canadensis) were nearly extirpated 200 years ago due to overharvest, but have since recovered.
The Atlantic-Gaspésie population of the woodland caribou is an isolated relict population that formerly ranged more broadly in the AME. Prior to European settlement, woodland caribou were commonly found throughout much of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and were present on PEI.Footnote186 Extirpation from these three provinces was well underway by the 1830s. Caribou were extirpated from Nova Scotia by 1912,Footnote187 New Brunswick by the 1930s,16 and from PEI much earlier. Efforts to re-establish caribou on their historic ranges in Nova Scotia failed because of fatal infections with Parelaphostrongylus tenuis, a brain worm carried by the more recently established white-tailed deer.Footnote188
The current population is found only in and adjacent to Gaspésie National Park of Quebec.Footnote189 It is at risk from predation and habitat loss, and its low numbers and restricted range make it susceptible to chance catastrophic events.186 Trend data from 1983 to 2006 show an overall decline over this period, with a low population size of less than 100 individuals in 1999 (Figure 46).189 In 2002, COSEWIC re-assessed the population and elevated its status from Threatened to Endangered; it is also listed on Schedule 1 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
Figure 46. Trend in the estimated numbers of the Gaspésie woodland caribou population, 1983–2006.
Long Description for Figure 46
This bar graph shows following information:
The trend line of the graph indicates that the overall population declined from 273 in 1983 to 200 in 2006, although there was year-to-year variability around this trend. The smallest population size was 96 individuals in 1999.
Source: Gaspésie Woodland Caribou Recovery Team, 2007189Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
Other large herbivores in the AME include moose (Alces alces) and white-tailed deer. Nova Scotia mainland moose have declined by 20% to about 1,000 individuals since 1970 due to human intrusion into its habitat, hunting, climate change, and disease.Footnote190 White-tailed deer are a recent arrival to the Maritimes and have been expanding. They have benefited from human modifications of the forested landscape, as well as extirpations or reductions of many of their predators.136
Atlantic salmon are broadly distributed in rivers throughout the AME. Populations are sensitive to a number of environmental factors including predation, fishing, and the availability of breeding habitat.Footnote191 As was mentioned in the section (page 52), Atlantic salmon are also highly sensitive to acidity, and a high percentage of fish habitat has been lost in the region due to acid rain, with many runs in coastal Nova Scotia either extinct or heavily impacted.175 Construction of dams has had an impact on salmon populations, and industrial and municipal effluents, as well as run-off from intensive agriculture, degrade water quality and reduce suitable breeding habitat for salmon. Invasive predators such as muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), smallmouth bass, and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) reduce juvenile salmon survival.
There is considerable variation in the status and trends in Atlantic salmon from one part of the AME to another.Footnote192 The Inner and Outer Bay of Fundy populations of Atlantic salmon were designated as Endangered by COSEWIC in 2001 and 2010, respectively.Footnote193 All survey data from the inner Bay of Fundy indicate that river-specific populations have suffered extreme declines since the 1970s and this population faces extinction. Estimates of declines are as high as 99% over 11 years (three generations) and greater than 99.6 % over 30 years.193 In 2003, fewer than 100 adults were estimated to have returned to the 32 rivers known to have contained salmon.193 Historically, as many as 40,000 salmon likely returned to these rivers.193 Although there is some uncertainty , it appears that offshore mortality of adult salmon is the primary threat to the Inner Bay of Fundy population.193
Of 37 salmon rivers in the AME (18 in the Maritime provinces and 19 in Quebec) the five-year average population size increased in only three rivers, all on Cape Breton Island, from 1987 to 2005 (Figure 47).192. Abundance declined in all other rivers, with declines of over 95% in four rivers in the inner Bay of Fundy and a 99.8% decline in the St. Croix River in the outer Bay of Fundy. Trends in abundance vary throughout rivers in Quebec, though populations generally increased and declined in only two rivers.
The Miramichi River produces at least 20% of North American Atlantic salmon and more wild Atlantic salmon than any other North American river. The salmon in the Miramichi and Restigouche rivers are extremely important to overall Atlantic salmon populations because these two rivers contribute a disproportionate number of spawning fish to populations of maiden salmon that return to spawn in the rivers after spending two years at sea. Atlantic salmon abundance has declined in both rivers from 1987 to 2005 (Figure 47), although populations have shown some recovery since 2000.192
Figure 47. Changes in abundance of salmon populations for the Maritime provinces (top) and Quebec (bottom), 1987–2005.
Long Description for Figure 47
This figure shows two graphs which depict the change in abundance of salmon populations in rivers in the Maritime Provinces and Quebec.
Of the 18 salmon rivers in the Maritime provinces, the five-year average population size increased in only three rivers (Margaree, Baddeck and Middle) , all on Cape Breton Island, from 1987 to 2005. Atlantic salmon abundance has declined in the Restigouche, Miramichi, Philip, East Pictou, West Antigonish, North, LaHave and Saint John rivers from 1987 to 2005. Atlantic salmon abundance has declined by more than 95% in the East Sheet Harbour (-97.5), Stewiake (-97.4), Big Salmon (-97.4), Magaguadavic (-98.9) and St.Croix (-99.8) rivers. No data is given for the Nashwaak River.
Of the 19 salmon rivers in Quebec, the five-year average population size increased in twelve rivers (Mitis, Cap Chat (279%), Dartmouth, York, Saint Jean, Malbaie (284%), Du Petit Pabos (1107%), Du Grand Pabos (1099%), Du Grand Pabos Ouest, Port Daniel Nord (371%), Bonaventure and Matapedia). Atlantic salmon abundance has declined in the Sainte Anne and Grand Rivière rivers. The five-year average population size remained relatively stable in the Mantane and Madeleine rivers. No data is given for the Petite Cascapedia, Cascapedia and Nouvelle rivers.
Scale on x axis is Log(Npresent/Npast). Each point is the change in five-year average population size. Points outside the graph’s range are labelled with their value.
Source: modified from Gibson et al., 2006192
Numbers of Atlantic salmon in rivers in PEI also declined. The fish were thought to occur in about 70 rivers in PEI prior to European settlement. By 1960, this had declined to approximately 55 rivers, and a comprehensive study in 2000–2002 found salmon in just 33 rivers. In 2008, 11 more rivers no longer had salmon and populations in 7 others were very low.Footnote194
The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) is an example of a once abundant species that is now listed as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Since the 1970s, populations have declined by 99% in the upper St. Lawrence,Footnote195 and less extreme declines have been observed in both the lower St. Lawrence and Gulf of St. Lawrence.Footnote196, Footnote197 The long life span of American eels, combined with their vast distances of up to 4,500 km, make them vulnerable to a wide range of stressors, such as mortality in hydroelectric turbines, physical barriers such as dams, overharvesting, and habitat alteration. Climate change, resulting in changes to ocean currents that carry eel larvae from the spawning grounds, may also contribute to population declines. American eels once provided both subsistence and commercial fisheries in Canada.197
In the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, trends in American eel populations have been mixed. Electrofishing surveys have been conducted regularly in six major rivers with available time series of data ranging from 15 to 45 years. While four rivers in New Brunswick (Miramichi, Restigouche, Nashwaak, and Big Salmon rivers) saw above average abundance in the 2000s, abundance in two rivers in Nova Scotia has strongly declined, by about 75% in the St. Marys River from 1998 to 2009 and by 86% in the LaHave River from 2000 to 2009.196
Between 1979 and 2008, the number of freshwater and diadromous fish taxa classified as imperilled in the AME by the American Fisheries Society tripled from three to nine species (Figure 48), Table 11). Rainbow smelt was added as a result of improved status information while populations of striped bass and Atlantic salmon were added due to the inclusion of discrete regional populations as of 2008.Footnote198
Figure 48. Trend in numbers of imperilled freshwater and diadromous fish taxa in each status category for North American ecoregions in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1979, 1989, and 2008.
Long Description for Figure 48
This bar graph shows the following information:
|Status||Number of taxa
|Number of taxa
|Number of taxa
‘Taxa’ is used instead of ‘species’ because the list was updated to include discrete regional populations and infraspecific taxa. Previous lists may have underestimated the imperiled taxa because they did not include all designable units, only taxonomically recognized species.
Definitions of status categories differ slightly from COSEWIC and are described in Jelks et al.198
|English common name||Genus||Species||1979||1989||2008|
|Atlantic sturgeon||Acipenser||oxyrinchus oxyrinchus||V||V||V|
|Striped bass (Bay of Fundy population)||Morone||saxatilis||T|
|Striped bass (Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population)||Morone||saxatilis||T|
|Striped bass (St. Lawrence Estuary population)||Morone||saxatilis||Xp|
|Rainbow smelt (Lake Utopia, New Brunswick dwarf population)||Osmerus||mordax||V||T|
|Atlantic salmon (Bay of Fundy population)||Salmo||salar||E|
|Atlantic salmon (Gulf of Maine population)||Salmo||salar||E|
Table 11 - Notes
- Table note 1
In this table: Xp = ‘possibly extinct’, E = ‘endangered’, T = ‘threatened’, V = ‘vulnerable’ as defined in Jelks et al.198
Source: adapted from Jelks et al., 2008198
All landbird species assemblages, except forest birds, declined from the 1970s to the 2000s, with the greatest declines in birds of grassland (includes species of agricultural habitats such as hayfields, pastures, and rangelands) and other open habitats (Table 12, see also Figure 45 in Agricultural landscapes as habitat section on page 60).
|P||BBS Abundance Index
|BBS Abundance Index
|BBS Abundance Index
|BBS Abundance Index
|BBS Abundance Index
|Urban / Suburban||-0.6%||*||179.7||162.0||157.3||154.9||-14%|
Table 12 - Notes
- Table note 1
In this table: P is the Statistical significance: * indicates P <0.05; n indicates 0.05<P<0.1; no value indicates not significant
Change” is the percent change in the average index of abundance between the first decade for which there are results (1970s) and the 2000s (2000-2006).
Source: Downes et al., 201142 using data from the Breeding Bird Survey43
Key finding 18
Theme Habitat, wildlife, and ecosystem processes
National key finding
Primary productivity has increased on more than 20% of the vegetated land area of Canada over the past 20 years, as well as in some freshwater systems. The magnitude and timing of primary productivity are changing throughout the marine system.
The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), calculated from remote sensing data, is an indicator of the amount and vigour of green vegetation present on a landscape. Changes in NDVI are a proxy for changes in primary productivity. From 1985 to 2006, NDVI values increased for 33,408 km2 (16.5%) and decreased for 720 km2 (0.4%) of the AME.7 The largest areas with increasing NDVI values were mixed forest along the Gaspé Peninsula and on Cape Breton Island (Figure 49).
Figure 49. Change in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index for the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1985–2006.
Long Description for Figure 49
This map shows areas of increase and decrease in the annual peak Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ between 1985 and 2006. Of areas showing change over this period, the vast majority had increasing trends. Areas with decreasing trends were small and scattered. The map shows that, from 1985 to 2006, NDVI values increased for 33,408 km2 (16.5%) and decreased for 720 km2 (0.4%) of the ecozone+. The largest areas with increasing values were mixed forest along the Gaspé Peninsula and on Cape Breton Island.
Trends are in annual peak NDVI, measured as the average of the three highest values from 10-day composite images taken during July and August of each year. Spatial resolution is 1 km, averaged to 3 km for analysis. Only points with statistically significant changes (p<0.05) are shown.
Source: adapted from Pouliot et al, 2009199 by Ahern et al., 20117
Changes in NDVI can be attributed to climate change, land cover change, and land use or other management changes.7 Increasing trends in parts of the AME may be associated with commercial logging that has increased the proportion of broadleaf trees, but more detailed studies would be needed to confirm this hypothesis. Because of the high proportion of deciduous and mixed deciduous forests in this ecozone+, NDVI values were in a higher range, close to the saturation point, making subtle changes difficult to detect.Footnote199Footnote200 Footnote201 In addition, the result of NDVI analyses in southeastern Canada (including the AME) are sensitive to the period being analyzed. Earlier time periods (such as 1982 to 1999) are more likely to show extensive increasing trendsFootnote202Footnote203Footnote204Footnote205 while analyses of more recent periods (such as 1985 to 2006, as analyzed here) show less extensive positive trends or even some areas of negative trends.199Footnote206Footnote207 More detailed land cover and vegetation productivity studies would be necessary to fully understand these trends.
Key finding 19
Theme Habitat, wildlife, and ecosystem processes
National key finding
The dynamics of natural disturbance regimes, such as fire and native insect outbreaks, are changing and this is reshaping the landscape. The direction and degree of change vary.
Natural disturbances include extreme weather events, fire, and insect outbreaks. Although fire was important within the AME historically, severe weather events and insect outbreaks are the dominant disturbance types today due, in part, to effective fire suppression. Spruce budworm is the most influential forest insect.
Extreme weather events
Since the AME borders the Atlantic Ocean, it is especially vulnerable to hurricanes and other tropical storms tracking up North America’s Eastern Seaboard. The winds and tidal events associated with these storms can also lead to storm surges and flooding.
Tropical storms and hurricanes
The frequency and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes has increased over the past three decades.Footnote208, Footnote209Footnote210Footnote211 The average number of tropical cyclones--that is, hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depresssions--per year was 8.7 from 1900 to 1999, 9.9 from 1950 to 1999, and rose to 11.8 from 1991 to 2000, the highest 10-year average on record (Figure 50).211 Other recent studies showed that the duration of tropical-storm events in the Atlantic region has increased by about 60% since 1949 and the annual peak-wind speed increased by about 50%.103 Since 1975, the total dissipation of power (an index of a hurricane’s potential destructiveness) has doubled.Footnote212
Figure 50. Trends in the average number of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin, 1900–1999, 1950–1999, and 1991–2000
Long Description for Figure 50
This figure is a line graph showing the frequency and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin for the time periods 1900–1999, 1950–1999, and 1991–2000. The graphs show that the frequency and severity of tropical storms and hurricanes has increased over the past three decades. The average number of tropical cyclones per year was 8.7 from 1900 to 1999, 9.9 from 1950 to 1999, and rose to 11.8 from 1991 to 2000, the highest 10-year average on record.
Source: Environment Canada, 200211
Storm surges and flooding
Storm surges and flooding are often associated with hurricanes and tropical storms and result from increased marine-wave action and heavy rainfall. They can have significant impacts on coastal ecosystems, including soil erosion and vegetation loss (see also Coastal section on page 29). Susceptibility to storm surges varies widely in the AME: some areas are likely to be more severely affected than others, depending on the nature of the coastline and degree of exposure (Figure 51).
Figure 51. Storm surge maxima return level on the Atlantic coast of Canada based on the 40-year hindcast.
Long Description for Figure 51
This heat map shows the susceptibility of coastal areas in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ to storm surges. The map shows that susceptibility to storm surges varied widely in the ecozone+: some areas are likely to be more severely affected than others, depending on the nature of the coastline and degree of exposure. Areas predicted to be most susceptible were the northeast coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the south coast of Prince Edward Island, as well as the shores of the St. Lawrence River.
Hindcasting is a method of developing a model by testing it to see whether it accurately predicts past observations. The coloured bar indicates the 40-year positive surge return levels in metres. The most extreme surge events are expected to occur in the coastal regions highlighted by the warmest colours.
Source: Bernier et al., 2006Footnote213
There were no comprehensive trend data on storm surges for the whole AME, however, a case study of storm surges in Charlottetown, PEI, indicate an increased severity and frequency in storm surge events between the 1940s and 1980s with surges over 90 cm becoming increasingly frequent (Figure 52). Since ice appears to have a damping effect on storm surge severity, storm surges and wave erosion may become more severe in a warmer climate, with reduced ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (see Ice across biomes section on page 37).107
Figure 52. Average number of storm surges per year above the threshold, by decade, at Charlottetown, PEI, 1940s–1990s.
Long Description for Figure 52
This bar graph shows the following information:
Source: adapted from Environment Canada in Forbes et al., 2006107
Wildfires historically played an important role in forest dynamics in the AME, although at a much smaller scale than many other parts of Canada.214Footnote215 Records from the 17th and 18th centuries suggest that lightning strikes regularly burned large areas of forest.Footnote216 Today, fires are more numerous but smaller. The increased number of fires is due to the prevalence of human-caused fires. On average, between the 1960s and 2000s, 86% of fires were human-ignited.215 However, the extent of area burned has been reduced through early detection and active fire suppression.
Since the 1950s, large forest fires (those greater than 2 km2) have not been a common or significant natural disturbance. From 1959 to 2007, an average of only 34 km2 (0.02% of the AME) burned annually (Figure 53). Years with no large fires were common. Area burned was low due to fire prevention, early detection, and rapid suppression. Overall, total area burned was lower in the 1960s and 1970s, higher in the 1980s and 1990s, and lower again in the 2000s.215
Figure 53. Total annual area burned by large fires (>2 km2 in size) from 1959 to 2007 (left) and distribution of large fires from the 1980s to present in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+.
Long Description for Figure 53
This figure has a bar graph of the annual area in square kilometres burned in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ by forest fires and a map of the location of forest fires from 1959 to 2007. The graph shows the following information:
|Year||Area burned (km2)|
On map, red is 1980s, purple is 1990s. Fires from 2000s (up to 2007 included) are too small to show.
Source: Krezek-Hanes et al., 2010;215 data from 1959–1994 from the large fire database (Stocks et al., 2003)Footnote217 and data from 1995–2007 from remote sensing.
For some forests in the AME, fire has historically played an important role in the stand dynamics of forests, impacting tree species composition, age-class distribution, and patterns of succession.Footnote214Footnote218 For example, in Nova Scotia, fire maintained forest diversity in pure Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) stands in Cumberland County and black spruce/white pine stands in the St. Mary’s River area. Over time, fire suppression is expected to reduce forest diversity in these areas.Footnote219
In some ecosystems, repeated fire disturbance is important because it limits tree growth. Loss of soil fertility and hardpan formation in the soil profile caused by fires, combined with the allelopathic effect of heath-like vegetation on coniferous species, can create open woodland ecosystems with stunted trees, as in the barrens of southwest Nova Scotia. Natural fires have helped to maintain the Annapolis Valley heathlands.134
Large-scale native insect outbreaks
Insect outbreaks are among the most frequent natural disturbances in the AME and the most common natural pathway for forest regeneration. Like fires, insect outbreaks also strongly influence a forest’s successional dynamics (growth, in-growth, and mortality).Footnote220 However, unlike fires, insect outbreaks usually result in individual tree or small-patch replacement, rather than the loss of large stands.16
Spruce budworm, which is native to North American boreal and mixedwood forests, is the most influential forest insect in the AME.16Footnote221 Outbreaks occur somewhat synchronously over extensive areas,Footnote222 but the duration of outbreaks varies regionally. Typically, periods of high defoliation last 5 to 25 years221Footnote223 Recurring spruce budworm outbreaks play an important role in shaping forest ecosystems. They influence the residual forest stand’s species composition, age-class distribution, successional dynamics, and forest condition.20223Footnote,224Footnote225 In addition, because spruce budworm and other insect outbreaks occur frequently and cover large areas, they affect the forest’s carbon flux.224
There is no consensus on whether frequency and severity of outbreaks is changing. Some studies have found that the frequency of budworm outbreaks has increased,221, 222, Footnote226 while others have not found trends, especially when longer time scales were considered. For example, Boulanger and Arseneault223 found that the outbreak frequency in eastern Quebec was stable from 1500 to 2000, with a return-interval of between 30 and 48 years (Figure 54).
Figure 54. Intervals of spruce budworm outbreaks in eastern Quebec identified during previous reconstructions based on tree-ring chronologies, 1500–2000.
Long Description for Figure 54
This timeline graphic shows the length of and intervals between spruce budworm outbreaks in eastern Quebec between the year 1500 and 2000. The time line depicts an outbreak frequency in eastern Quebec that was stable from 1500 to 2000, with a return-interval of between 30 and 48 years.
Source: adapted from Boulanger and Arseneault, 2004223
Some studies suggest that the severity of attacks increased during the 20th century.Footnote227Footnote228 In contrast, severity of attacks decreased in New Brunswick from 1949 to 2007 (Figure 55).137 This decline could have resulted from insecticide applications to combat spruce budworm outbreaks. Between 1972 and 1993, aerial insecticide was applied in New Brunswick on close to 50% of the moderately and severely infested areas, which reduced defoliation significantly.221
Figure 55. Trend in (A) spruce budworm defoliation in New Brunswick, 1949–2007, and (B) the area treated with pesticides, 1952–2007.
Long Description for Figure 55
This figure is comprised of two line graphs showing the area of extent of moderate to severe defoliation from spruce budworm in New Brunswick annually from 1949 to 2007 and the total area treated with pesticides annually from 1952 to 2007.The graphs show that the severity of attacks decreased in New Brunswick from 1949 to 2007 and particularly in the areas treated with pesticide.
Source: modified from Carter et al., 2008137
Detectable changes to the severity and frequency of insect outbreaks across the range of the eastern spruce budworm were attributed to changes in forest harvest practices, reduced frequency of fire due largely to fire suppression, increased insecticide spraying, and less reliability in outbreak records reconstructed from historic periods.16134223
Key finding 20
Theme Habitat, wildlife, and ecosystem processes
National key finding
Fundamental changes in relationships among species have been observed in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments. The loss or reduction of important components of food webs has greatly altered some ecosystems.
There was limited information on changes in trophic dynamics and population cycles in the AME. The loss or reduction of top mammalian predators can result in substantial changes to food webs. Historically, wolves were the largest mammalian predator but they were extirpated from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia sometime between 1870 and 1921.Footnote229 American martens (Martes americana) were extirpated from southern Quebec and PEI, and black bear (Ursus americanus) and lynx (Lynx canadensis) were also extirpated from PEI.
At the same time, coyotes expanded their ranges into the AME (Figure 56) and replaced wolves as the top predator. Across eastern North America, including the AME, coyotes have exerted a strong “top-down effect” on forest ecosystems;Footnote230 they directly reduced the abundance of prey which indirectly reduced the abundance of smaller carnivores such as red foxes (Vulpes vulpes).Footnote231 By reducing the abundance of smaller carnivores, coyotes also indirectly increased the number of birds, creating a positive relationship between coyotes and scrub-bird populations.
Figure 56. Chronology of colonization of a portion of the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+ by the eastern coyote from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Long Description for Figure 56
This map shows the movement of the eastern coyote into the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ between the 1960s and the 1980s. The colonization of this species moved from east to west starting with the colonization of the Quebec and eastern New Brunswick portion of the Ecozone+ in the 1960s followed by a movement westward through New Brunswick and into northern Nova Scotia by the mid- to late 1970s. By 1980, the eastern coyote had colonized the entirety of Nova Scotia including Cape Breton Island and, by 1983, was also on Prince Edward Island.
Source: Moore and Parker, 1992Footnote232
Theme: Science/policy interface
Key finding 21
Biodiversity monitoring, research, information management, and reporting
Theme Science/policy interface
National key finding
Long-term, standardized, spatially complete, and readily accessible monitoring information, complemented by ecosystem research, provides the most useful findings for policy-relevant assessments of status and trends. The lack of this type of information in many areas has hindered development of this assessment.
Although localized ecological studies and a few long-term data sets exist, information gaps made it difficult to determine ecological trends in the AME. Coordinated monitoring of biodiversity in the AME was generally lacking. More data were available for economically valuable species and biomes such as Atlantic salmon and forests, as well as certain species at risk such as woodland caribou. Information was lacking for protection and stewardship of private land.
- Population trends for migratory birds.
- Occurrence and population trends for Atlantic salmon.
- Some populations of invasive non-native species.
Critical gaps identified
- Wetland trend data.
- Information on status and trends for non-vascular plants and invertebrates.
- Trend data on the coastal biome for the AME.
- Changes in trophic structures are poorly documented, particularly lacking for lakes.
- Ecological impacts of many invasive non-native species.
Key finding 22
Rapid change and thresholds
Theme Science/policy interface
National key finding
Growing understanding of rapid and unexpected changes, interactions, and thresholds, especially in relation to climate change, points to a need for policy that responds and adapts quickly to signals of environmental change in order to avert major and irreversible biodiversity losses.
Due to the underlying geology of the AME, aquatic ecosystems have less capacity to buffer acid and, consequently, a lower threshold for ecosystem damage from atmospheric acid deposition than is found in other parts of Canada. As levels of acid deposition exceeded buffering capacity in lakes and rivers, Atlantic salmon populations and the number of salmon-bearing rivers in Nova Scotia rapidly declined. Moreover, impacts may persist longer than previously thought; rivers have not recovered with reductions in acid deposition, suggesting that these rivers are now in an alternative stable state (see Lakes and Rivers key finding on page 7).
Remaining forests in the AME are simpler, less diverse, and younger as a result of forest management practices (see Forests key finding on page 6). The landscape has also been highly fragmented by resource and road development, reducing the area of intact ecosystems. It is unclear to what extent these changes have contributed to the loss of native species, such as large mammals. However, in many parts of the AME, it is likely that a threshold of development and fragmentation has been reached where some species (e.g., caribou, black bear) could not survive if re-introduced.
One possible reason for rapid changes is that damage to ecosystems may accelerate because of the interaction of stressors. This is especially relevant for climate change. For example, coastal erosion in the AME is increasing, threatening wetlands, beach, and dune ecosystems. Development and hardening of the foreshore have made coastal ecosystems more susceptible to erosion. Rise in sea level, reduced sea ice, and more tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean, all related to climate change (see Coastal key finding on page 7), accelerate the rate of erosion. Climate change may also make ecosystems more vulnerable to invasion from non-native species (e.g., warm-water fish species) and insect outbreaks, and increase the susceptibility of native species to diseases and infections.
Conclusion: Human Well-Being and Biodiversity
Over the last 400 years, the AME has had primarily a resource-based economy based on forestry, fishing, agriculture, mining, and, more recently, tourism. Although many of these industries are dependent on healthy, functioning ecosystems, industrial development has also had a large influence on the status and trends of AME ecosystems. In some cases, forestry, development, climate change, and acid deposition have impaired the ability of these ecosystems to continue to provide important goods and services.
Although forests still cover 80% of the landscape, forestry, fire suppression, and insect outbreaks have reduced species diversity, altered species composition, and shifted the age structure of forests towards younger stands. Remaining forests have also been highly fragmented by roads affecting forest-dwelling species. Caribou in the AME consist of a single, remnant endangered population and the moose population has declined. Many of the top mammalian predators, such as wolves, American marten, black bears, and lynx, were extirpated from all or most of the AME as a result of combined pressure from habitat changes and historic hunting.
Coastal ecosystems have also been impacted by industrial, urban, and cottage development. Some of the highest rates of wetland loss have been in coastal wetlands. The loss of beaches, dunes, and eelgrass meadows has reduced the suitability of coastlines as habitats for some species, such as shorebirds. Coastal ecosystem loss has also increased the vulnerability of the coastline to erosion from sea-level rise and storm surges, with associated hazards to human life and property. Port activities have introduced invasive non-native species, leading to declines particular tree species and economic impacts, for example, to timber production.
Freshwater lakes and rivers have been altered by climate-driven changes (e.g., changes in flow regimes, changes to ice freeze and thaw dates), the presence of dams, and excess nutrient runoff from agriculture. The AME has some of the most acid sensitive terrain in Canada and, as a result of historic acid deposition, many Atlantic salmon runs have been lost. Introduced fish species have altered food webs and aquatic community composition, as have didymo blooms. The impacts of climate change, although projected to be lower in the AME than other Canadian ecozones+, will exacerbate these changes.
Food production in the AME is mostly confined to PEI, Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, and New Brunswick’s Saint John River Valley. Due to the expansion of cropland, agricultural land has become less capable of supporting wildlife. The AME has some of the highest residual soil nitrogen values and, due to its climate, some of highest soil erosion risks in Canada. However, soil erosion risk on agricultural lands in the AME has declined.
Changes to natural disturbance regimes include the suppression of fire, increased disturbance by extreme weather events, and insect outbreaks. As in many of the ecozones+ in Canada, it is difficult to gauge the impacts to biodiversity, natural disturbances, and ecological processes due to a lack of comprehensive long-term monitoring.
- Footnote 1
Environment Canada. 2006. Biodiversity outcomes framework for Canada. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. 8 p.
- Footnote 2
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Biodiversity Working Group. 1995. Canadian biodiversity strategy: Canada's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Environment Canada, Biodiversity Convention Office. Hull, QC. 86 p.
- Footnote 3
Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments of Canada. 2010. Canadian biodiversity: ecosystem status and trends 2010. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. vi + 142 p.
- Footnote 4
Eaton, S. 2013. Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+ status and trends assessment. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Ecozone+ Report. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. Draft report.
- Footnote 5
Ecological Stratification Working Group. 1995. A national ecological framework for Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch, Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research and Environment Canada, State of the Environment Directorate, Ecozone Analysis Branch. Ottawa, ON/Hull, QC. vii + 125 p.
- Footnote 6
Rankin, R., Austin, M. and Rice, J. 2011. Ecological classification system for the ecosystem status and trends report. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 1. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. ii + 14 p.
- Footnote 7
Ahern, F., Frisk, J., Latifovic, R. and Pouliot, D. 2011. Monitoring ecosystems remotely: a selection of trends measured from satellite observations of Canada. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 17. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON.
- Footnote 8
Latifovic, R. and Pouliot, D. 2005. Multitemporal land cover mapping for Canada: methodology and products. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 31:347-363.
- Footnote 9
Environment Canada. 2005. Ecozones of Canada. Environment Canada, State of the Environment Infobase.
- Footnote 10
Council of Forest Ministers. 2006. Criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management in Canada: national status 2005. Canada Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada. Ottawa, ON. 154 p. + appendices.
- Footnote 11
Rothwell, N., Bollman, R.D., Tremblay, J. and Marshall, J. 2002. Recent migration patterns in rural and small town Canada. Agriculture and Rural Working Paper Series No. 55. Statistics Canada, Agricultural Division. Ottawa, ON. 71 p.
- Footnote 12
Environment Canada. 2009. Unpublished analysis of population data by Ecozone+ from: Statistics Canada Human Activity and the Environment Series, 1971-2006. Community profile data was used to make adjustments due to differences in the ecozone/Ecozone+ boundary.
- Footnote 13
Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. 2001. Canada's National Forest Inventory (CanFI) [online].
- Footnote 14
Glen, W.M. 1997. Prince Edward Island 1935/1936 forest cover type mapping. Silviculture Development, Forestry Division, PEI Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Charlottetown, PEI. 9 p.
- Footnote 15
Mosseler, A., Lynds, J.A. and Major, J.E. 2003. Old-growth forests of the Acadian forest region. Environmental Reviews 11:S47-S77.
- Footnote 16
Loo, J. and Ives, N. 2003. The Acadian forest: historical condition and human impacts. The Forestry Chronicle 79:462-474.
- Footnote 17
Forest Stewardship Council Canada Working Group. 2007. Certification standards for best forestry practices in the Maritimes region. Forest Stewardship Council Canada. 91 p.
- Footnote 18
Rowe, J.S. 1972. Forest regions of Canada. Canadian Forestry Service Publication No. 1300. Publishing Division, Information Canada. Ottawa, ON. x + 172 p.
- Footnote 19
Lee, P., Gysbers, J.D. and Stanojevic, Z. 2006. Canada's forest landscape fragments: a first approximation (a Global Forest Watch Canada report). Global Forest Watch Canada. Edmonton, AB. 97 p.
- Footnote 20
Canadian Forest Service. 2012. Canada's forest regions. Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada. Map.
- Footnote 21
Natural Resources Canada. 2007. Forest ecosystems of Canada: forest regions classification [online]. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service.(accessed 16 August, 2007).
- Footnote 22
Ministère des Ressources naturelles. 2005. Système hiérarchique de classification écologique du territoire. Direction des inventaires forestiers, Ministère des ressources naturelles, Gouvernement du Québec. Québec, QC.
- Footnote 23
Pannozza, L. and Colman, R. 2008. Genuine Progess Index (GPI) forest headline indicators for Nova Scotia. GPIAtlantic. Glen Haven, NS. vi + 54 p.
- Footnote 24
Ministère des Ressources naturelles et Faune. 2009. Statistiques forestières 2009. Updated from Ministère des Ressources naturelles, 2002. Unpublished data.
- Footnote 25
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