The Atlantic Region of Canada (Region 6*) includes 5 provinces (Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland – Labrador) with a total area of 2.3 million km2. It also includes 824,000 km2 of the Ontario sections of the Eastern Boreal Forest and Arctic, Taiga and James/Hudson Bay Lowland landscapes. The region contains a wide diversity of habitats, waterfowl and wildlife communities. Major river systems, such as the St. Lawrence and St. John Rivers, along with coastal habitats play a crucial role for waterfowl populations in the Atlantic Flyway.
Human populations have been established mainly on the coast and along major river systems. There are currently 9.6 million people in the region with relatively high population densities in the Maritimes (PEI 24/km2, NS 16.8/km2, and NB 10/km2). In Quebec, about 97% of the population live within the St. Lawrence River's watershed, with 69.5% of the population within 10 km of the river.
Loss of wetlands or wetland functions began in the 1600s and has continued because of land use activities such as agricultural and urban expansion. Wetland losses have contributed to declines in waterfowl numbers. This prompted the development of landscape visions to provide a clear picture of the habitat base as well as the waterfowl and wildlife benefits accruing from this habitat. A total of seven landscapes make up the Atlantic region, including 6 terrestrial ecozones and one coastal landscape. The coastal and agricultural landscapes are intimately linked with waterfowl moving freely between landscapes often on a daily basis.
The region supports a diverse waterfowl community of more than 30 species. There are important breeding, staging (spring and fall), molting and wintering habitats. The area supports significant waterfowl numbers (1.33 million breeding pairs, 2.12 million staging, 152,600 molting and 647,000 wintering birds). The region produces birds important to the Atlantic flyway such as American black ducks (black duck), green-winged teal, ringed-necked ducks, mergansers, goldeneyes, Canada and greater snow geese, scoters and eiders. The annual fall flight is estimated at 7.8 million birds.
Declines from historic levels have occurred for some species (black ducks, goldeneyes, eiders, scoters and the North Atlantic population of Canada geese) over the past decades. However, over the past 10 years, waterfowl populations are generally stable or increasing with the exception of goldeneye, mergansers and sea ducks. Most of the endangered eastern harlequin ducks are in this region. Some species such as mallards and wood ducks are increasing. There has also been a spectacular increase in greater snow goose numbers with spring estimates of 800,000 birds.
Strategic Planning for this diverse region of Canada has departed somewhat from the delineation of Bird Conservation Regions recognized for NABCI. DU staff in Canada felt it was more germane to their planning needs to recognize five distinct landscapes: Coastal, Forested, Agricultural Lowland, Maritime Appalachian Forest, Boreal Forest and Arctic, Taiga and James Bay Lowland. These generally apply to Bird Conservation Regions: 7 (Taiga Shield and Hudson Plains in Quebec and Labrador), 8 (Boreal Softwood Shield in Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland), 12 (Boreal Hardwood Transition in Quebec), 13 (Lower Great Lakes/St Lawrence Plain in Quebec) and 14 (Atlantic Northern Forest in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).
*Region 6 - NABCI Bird Conservation Regions 7, 8, 12, 13 and 14 (in Canada ).