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Ecoregion Description


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Species Richness


# of Endemic Species


Threats

119: Scotia - Fundy

Major Habitat Type:

temperate coastal rivers

Author:

Mary Burridge and Nicholas Mandrak

Countries:

Canada

Boundaries:

This ecoregion covers the province of Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton Island.

Drainages flowing into:

All rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean either directly or via the Bay of Fundy or Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Main rivers or other water bodies:

Shubenacadie River, the longest river in this ecoregion, flows into the Bay of Fundy. The swift Northeast Margaree rises in the Cape Breton Highlands and flows along the Aspy Fault through a steep-sided valley. The Southwest Margaree begins at Lake Ainslie, the largest natural lake in Nova Scotia, and travels north to join the Northeast Margaree at Margaree Forks. The Margaree River then flows through a wide tidal estuary to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Shelburne River begins at Buckshot Lake in the Granite Barrens and flows into the Mersey River. Bras d’Or Lake, spanning 1,100 km2, is located in the center of Cape Breton Island, and receives the inflow from rivers such as the Skye and Washabuck rivers.

Topography:

Northern Nova Scotia consists of lowlands that are underlain by Carboniferous sandstone, shale, and small bedrock outcrops. Glaciers have shaped this ecoregion into mountains and plateaus with wide valleys of glacial outwash deposits, poor soils, and numerous wetlands and lakes.

Climate:

The ecoregion experiences a continental rather than maritime climate, despite being surrounded by water. Average annual precipitation ranges from less than 1000 mm to over 1400 mm. Winters are generally cold and summers are warm, with average annual winter temperatures ranging between –1 and –21 °C, and average annual summer temperatures ranging between 14 and 39 °C. Temperature extremes are moderated by the ocean.

Freshwater habitats:

The Margaree - Lake Ainslie system of Cape Breton is known for its waterfalls, marshes, and deep pools. Lake Ainslie was formed from meltwaters dammed from glacial moraines. Erosion from ice and water and deposition from the last Ice Age have formed valleys, river terraces, point bars, cut banks, meanders, pools, riffles, and natural levees. Gravel bars of the upper Northeast Margaree provide spawning grounds for Atlantic salmon. The Margaree River delta is a broad tidal estuary.  

Bras d’Or Lake on Cape Breton Island has been described as a gulf. However, the lack of significant tidal exchange and the inflow of freshwater from rivers and streams results in its lower salinity than the Atlantic Ocean.

Terrestrial Habitats:

This area falls mainly in the New England Acadian Forests terrestrial ecoregion and is a good example of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests in a transition zone between boreal spruce-fir forest to the north and deciduous forest to the south. The Atlantic Ocean strongly influences the vegetation, especially in coastal areas. Tundra meadows occur on a few mountain peaks in the Cape Breton Highlands. Red spruce (Picea rubens) and red pine (Pinus resinosa) are characteristic of this ecoregion, with eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), and white pine (P. strobus) found along low mountain slopes. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) characterize the hardwood forests.

Fish Fauna:

The fish fauna of this ecoregion is largely comprised of species originating in the Atlantic Coastal refugium and, perhaps, Grand Banks refugia, which were less speciose than the Mississippian refugium. As a result, the fauna is depauparate relative to the faunas of central Canada, and is dominated by secondary freshwater fishes such as shads (Alosa spp.), Atlantic rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), sticklebacks (Gasterosteidae), killifishes (Fundulus spp.), and temperate basses (Morone spp.). The chain pickerel (Esox niger) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolemieu) have been introduced in this ecoregion.

Description of endemic fishes:

The Atlantic whitefish (Coregonus huntsmani) is endemic to several lakes in this ecoregion.

Other noteworthy fishes:

The chain pickerel (Esox niger) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolemieu) have been introduced in this ecoregion.

Other noteworthy aquatic biotic elements:

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris) nest in the Loch Ban wetlands.

Ecological phenomena:

Many species in this ecoregion exhibit diadromy, including shads (Alosa spp.), Atlantic rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and temperate basses (Morone spp.).

Justification for delineation:

The ecoregions of Canada were identified based on the faunal similarity of 166 major watersheds based on a cluster analysis of freshwater fish occurrences in these watersheds. The Scotia – Fundy ecoregion includes all watersheds in the province of Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton Island. The fish fauna of this ecoregion is largely comprised of species originating in the Atlantic Coastal refugium and, perhaps, Grand Banks refugium, which were less speciose than the Mississippian refugium. As a result, the fauna is depauparate relative to the faunas of central Canada, and is dominated by saltwater-tolerant freshwater fishes.

Level of taxonomic exploration:

Good / Fair

References/sources:

Abell, R., Olson, D., et al. (2000). "Freshwater ecoregions of North America" Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Eswg (1995) "A national ecological framework for Canada". Ottawa/Hull, Ontario, 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..

Ricketts, Taylor H. Dinerstein Eric Olson David M. Loucks Colby J. (1999). "Terrestrial ecoregions of North America: A conservation assessment" Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund.

Scott, W. B.,Crossman, E. J. (1998). "Freshwater fishes of Canada" Fisheries Research Board of Canada Bulletin 184 966 + xvii..

The Nature Conservancy World Wildlife Fund
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