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Atlantic Maritime Ecozone evidence for key findings summary

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.

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