Scotia - Fundy




Mary Burridge, Nicholas Mandrak, Jennifer Hales



Major Habitat Type

Temperate coastal rivers

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 to 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.



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


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.

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.

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.

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


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