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Atlantic Canada - More Information

Background information on DU's Atlantic Canada conservation priority area
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Coastal Landscape

Length of coastline Atlantic region 31,800 km
Wetland area Atlantic region 457,100 ha salt marsh, estuarine flats, saline ponds and islands
DU managed wetlands Maritimes 1,466 ha, 5,700 eider nest shelters
Waterfowl numbers Atlantic region 130,000 breeding pairs of eiders
Molting numbers Labrador 62,000 scoters and 600 harlequins, NS 40,000 eiders, St. Lawrence: 50,000 scoter
Staging numbers Atlantic Provinces 100,000 geese, 100,000 ducks, QC 220,000 ducks and geese, 200,000 scoter
Wintering numbers Maritimes 167,000, NF and LAB 230,000, Quebec 200,000
Other species Millions of seabirds, 4.8 million shorebirds during fall migration
Waterfowl goals Could support increased breeding and non-breeding populations

The coastal landscape is a complex mix of salt marshes, estuaries, tidal mud flats, islands, saline ponds, rock and beach shoreline as well as offshore areas. Habitats depend on the varying tidal regimes and climatic conditions. Waterfowl use is mainly in the form of staging and wintering, although common eiders use coastal islands for nesting.

The vast majority of human settlement has occurred on the coasts of this region. Significant wetland loss has occurred with an estimated 65% of the salt marsh in the Bay of Fundy having been dyked with 27,300 ha remaining. In addition, 5,000 ha of salt marsh remain in the St. Lawrence estuary. Urban, recreational, and industrial developments have impacted coastal habitats to varying degrees, however, urban expansion continues to impact all coastal systems. Intensification and diversification of resource extraction (i.e. aqua-culture, inter-tidal harvest, marine traffic) is placing additional stress on the environment and increasing interactions between waterfowl and humans. Human activities result in considerable direct mortality of waterfowl and seabirds in this landscape with significant losses being attributed to oiling, gill nets, and harvest. Depredation of ducklings by great black-backed gulls is also a significant source of mortality.

The coastal landscape supports a diverse waterfowl community including dabbling, diving and sea ducks as well as geese. Waterfowl use this area throughout the year, with significant numbers of staging, breeding and wintering waterfowl. This landscape supports the majority of breeding common eiders. In addition, as a significant proportion of the continental scoter and eider population stage, molt and winter in this area. There are also millions of seabirds that use this area throughout the year. In addition, an estimated 4.8 million shorebirds migrate through the Atlantic Provinces every fall and rely on the coastal habitat during their stay.

The coastal landscape is the keystone habitat in Atlantic Canada. Sufficient coastal habitat exists to support current waterfowl populations, although habitat loss continues and threats are increasing. Complex interrelationships occur among the various coastal habitats and adjacent uplands that make some coastal regions more important to waterfowl than others. There will be an increased demand for property adjacent to the coast. Current legislation does not fully protect these habitats.

Goals

  • Develop initiatives that will conserve coastal habitats in the face of growing urban expansion.
  • Identify and protect the remaining 32,300 ha of salt marsh in the Bay of Fundy and in the St. Lawrence estuary and, where possible, restore degraded salt marsh habitat.
  • Identify and protect critical breeding islands for eiders.
  • Identify and conserve critical areas of coastal shoreline to protect molting, staging and wintering habitat.
  • Develop new initiatives that address problems of survival and recruitment of sea ducks.

Strategies

  • Focus DU's conservation programs on important coastal areas.
  • Employ public policy, free easements and extensive programs to accomplish goals.
  • Evaluate salt marsh restoration in the local context, before being attempted on a large scale.
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