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Atlantic Maritime Ecozone evidence for key findings summary

Theme: Human/ecosystem interactions

Key finding 8
Protected areas

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.

map

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. 

Source: Environment Canada, 2009;Footnote128 using Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS) data (v.2009.05)Footnote129 provided by federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions

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.

graph

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. 

Data for figure 25. - Part 1
Year protection
established
Cumulative area protected
(km2) IUCN Categories I-IV
1936944.05
1937948.75
1938948.75
1939948.75
1940948.75
1941957.65
1942957.65
1943957.65
1945957.65
1946957.65
1947957.65
19481,163.49
19491,163.49
19501,163.49
19511,163.49
19521,163.49
19531,163.49
19541,163.49
19551,163.49
19561,163.49
19571,163.49
19581,163.49
19591,163.49
19601,163.49
19611,163.49
19621,163.49
19631,163.49
19641,163.49
19651,163.49
19661,164.00
19671,164.00
19681,164.00
19691,164.00
19701,164.00
19711,166.94
19721,166.94
19731,207.30
19741,816.75
19751,816.75
19761,816.75
19771,827.32
19781,853.11
19792,090.57
19802,103.55
19812,905.55
19822,905.55
19832,918.33
19842,946.67
19852,963.86
19862,966.92
19873,122.60
19883,147.01
19893,150.50
19903,151.99
19913,157.43
19923,173.62
19933,557.99
19943,614.27
19953,687.16
19963,703.99
19973,706.14
19986,223.78
19996,510.29
20006,571.90
20016,753.48
20026,760.60
20036,766.09
20046,782.72
20057,964.30
20067,974.94
20077,982.48
20088,007.72
20098,056.85
Total10,157.91

 

Data for figure 25. - Part 2.
Year protection
established
Cumulative area protected (km2)
IUCN Categories V-VI
197719.90
197819.90
197919.90
198025.75
198125.75
198229.85
198329.85
198429.85
198529.85
198629.85
198729.85
198829.85
198929.85
199029.85
199129.85
199229.85
199342.03
199442.03
199542.03
199642.03
199742.03
199853.38
199953.76
200057.29
2001608.28
2002608.28
2003608.28
2004608.28
2005795.67
2006795.67
2007795.67
2008795.67
2009795.67
Total795.67

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

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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.

Invasive plants

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.66 131

Figure 26. Total number of native and non-native plant species in the Maritime provinces, 2001.

graph

Long Description for Figure 26

This stacked bar graph shows the following information:

Data for figure 26.
PronvinceNative -
Number of species
Non-native -
Number of species
Maritime Total1278769
NB1140589
NS1101634
PEI718384

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.

graph

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.

Table 8. Major invasive non-native insects, and diseases in Nova Scotia, including year of introduction, location of first introduction to North America, and preferred host species, 1890s–2000.
Insect/diseaseYearLocation of first introduction to North AmericaPreferred host
Beech bark disease1890sHalifax, NSAmerican beech
(Fagus grandifolia)
Balsam woolly adelgid
(Adelges piceae)
1910sWestern Nova ScotiaBalsam fir
(Abies balsamea)
European spruce sawfly
(Gilpinia hercyniae)
1922Ottawa, ONSpruce
(Picea spp.)
Mountain-ash sawfly
(Pristiphora geniculata)
1926New YorkMountain ash
(Sorbus americana)
White pine blister rust
(Cronartium ribicola)
1929Chester, NSEastern white pine
(Pinus strobus)
European winter moth
(Operophtera brumata)
1950Nova ScotiaOak
(Quercus spp.)
Dutch elm disease1969Liverpool, NSAmerican elm
(Ulmus americana)
Gypsy moth
(Lymantria dispar)
1981Yarmouth, NSHardwoods
Spruce longhorn beetle
(Tetropium fuscum)
2000Halifax, NSRed spruce
(Picea rubens)

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,10 Footnote137 .Footnote138 Footnote139 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

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.

graph

Long Description for Figure 28

This bar graph shows the following information:

Data for figure 28.
YearTotal number
of lakes
19421
19441
19461
19473
19481
19501
19523
19542
19591
19601
19613
19654
19661
19677
19704
19712
19721
19731
19756
19763
19783
19812
19821
19831
19844
19863
19884
19897
19903
19923
19931
199415
19957
19969
19977
19988
199911
200014
20016
200219
20031
20063

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.143 Footnote146

Didymo

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.

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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.

Nitrogen

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+.

map

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.

graph

Long Description for Figure 30

This graph shows the following information:

Data for figure 30.
YearMean nitrate
level (mg/l)
% wells
exceeding 10 mg/l
19843.2 
19953.5 
20003.63.5
20013.74.9
20023.85.2
20033.95.3
20043.53.5
20053.64.2
20063.64.3
20074.14

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.

map

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”.161 Footnote162 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.

map

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

Phosphorous

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)

map

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. 

Quebec
Scale1981
(%)
1986
(%)
1991
(%)
1996
(%)
2001
(%)
2006
(%)
Very Low37343183213
Low553938384046
Moderate82723172022
High00829818
Very High000800

 

Prince Edward Island
Scale1981
(%)
1986
(%)
1991
(%)
1996
(%)
2001
(%)
2006
(%)
Very Low341003421346
Low66066796656
Moderate0000038
High000000
Very High000000

 

New Brunswick
Scale1981
(%)
1986
(%)
1991
(%)
1996
(%)
2001
(%)
2006
(%)
Very Low1001001003010040
Low00070060
Moderate000000
High000000
Very High000000

 

Nova Scotia
Scale1981
(%)
1986
(%)
1991
(%)
1996
(%)
2001
(%)
2006
(%)
Very Low636328182818
Low373754485448
Moderate0018161816
High00018018
Very High000000

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.

graph

Long Description for Figure 34

This stacked bar graph shows the following information:

Data for figure 34.
Administrative regionsNumber 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
Bas-Saint-Laurent21369
Chaudière-Appalaches11387

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

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Key finding 13
Acid deposition

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.169 171 Footnote172 Footnote173

Figure 35. Trend in wet sulphate and wet nitrate deposition in the Atlantic Maritime ecozone+, 1990–1994 and 2000–2004.

map

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.

map

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.170 175 Footnote176 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

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Key finding 14
Climate change

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

Table 9. Summary of changes in climate variables in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, 1950–2007.
Climate variableOverall ecozone+ trend (1950–2007)Comments and regional variation
Temperature
  • Rise of 1.1°C in summer
  • No trend in spring, fall, or winter
  • Trends are consistent across ecozone+
  • Spring temperatures rose at two stations, near Sussex, NB,  and Greenwood, NS
Precipitation
  • Rise of 18.6% in fall
  • Rise in number of days with precipitation in spring, summer, and fall
  • No trend in ratio of snow to total precipitation
  • The rise in fall largely concentrated around northern portion of ecozone+
Snow
  • No trend in maximum snow depth or duration
  • Snow cover season decreased by >20 days at some stations (spring and fall)
  • Maximum snow depth decreased by >40 cm at some stations
Drought Severity Index
  • No trend
  • No extreme wet or severe drought years
  • Rise of > 2 index units near Rimouski, QC (index ranges from 4 to –4)
  • Decrease of > 2 index levels near Saint John, NB
Growing season
  • No change in length or start and end data
  • Rise in length of growing season between 20–40 days and earlier start by 15–30 days at one station at the southern tip of Quebec
  • Growing season started 0–15 days earlier at 3 stations around the Bay of Fundy

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).

map

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).

map

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.

map

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

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Key finding 15
Ecosystem services

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).

Table 10. Summary of the estimated values of ecosystem goods and services in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone+, excluding the Quebec portion.Table note1
ServiceYearValue
(millions)**
Measure
WaterVarious$2,434Various
Forests2006$466GDP + farm value
Outdoor recreation1996$463Expenditures
Fishing (commercial)2006$406Landed value
Agriculture2006$347Added value
Tourism2006$300Expenditures
Wetlands*2007$122Choice experiment
Recreational fishing2006$122Expenditures
Total $4,753 

Table 10 - Notes

Table note 1

In this table: * Wetland figures not included in total to avoid double counting; ** Values converted to 2006 dollars
Source: Eaton, 2013Footnote4 using data from various sources

Return to note1referrer

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