For Immediate Release
Photo by: iStockphoto
Biosphere reserves are “living laboratories” where conservation and sustainable land-use practices are intertwined. They are critical tools in helping us conserve global biodiversity. They also allow us to maintain healthy, natural ecosystems. These provide us with clean water, healthy soil, pest control and other services that are impossible to duplicate and without which we would not survive. At the same time, one of the basic functions of a biosphere reserve is to foster economic and human development that is ecologically, socially and culturally sustainable.
Extending from the St. Lawrence in the south to the Manicouagan Crater in the north, Manicouagan Uapishka is now Canada’s largest biosphere reserve. Included within its boundaries are boreal forest habitat, whale feeding grounds and the Baie Comeau Important Bird Area. Three bird species that are nationally at risk – the Harlequin Duck, Piping Plover and Short-eared Owl – have been recorded at this IBA.
Situated on the New Brunswick side of the uppermost reaches of the Bay of Fundy, the Fundy Biosphere Reserve’s mudflats and tidal marshes represent one of the most important staging sites for shorebirds in eastern North America. An estimated one to two million shorebirds congregate here before the fall migration. Sites such as the Shepody Bay West, Dorchester Cape and Grand Anse, and Upper Cumberland Basin IBAs are their last port of call before embarking on a three- to four-day non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean to South America. The Bay of Fundy’s rich feeding habitats are ideal for the birds, allowing them to build up the fat reserves they need for this marathon migration.
|Map by: UNESCO|
An Important Bird Area is a site that provides essential habitat for one or more bird species. In 2001, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada identified 597 IBAs in Canada using internationally agreed scientific criteria. The IBAs located inside Canada’s two new biosphere reserves provide critical habitat for approximately a dozen globally, continentally and nationally significant bird species. More detailed information about five of the IBAs included within Canada’s two new biosphere reserves is provided in the backgrounder below.
UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves spans 529 sites in 105 countries. The core area of each biosphere reserve is dedicated to the long-term protection of landscapes, ecosystems and species. Here, human activity is limited to research, monitoring and traditional activities by local people, such as hunting and fishing. Surrounding buffer zones and transition areas are used for sustainable tourism and other activities that promote protection of the core area.
Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada are Canadian co-partners in BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation organizations working for the world's birds and people. With BirdLife partners in over 100 countries, we identify, conserve and monitor a worldwide network of sites that provide essential habitat for birds.
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UNESCO added two new sites – Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve in Quebec and Fundy Biosphere Reserve in New Brunswick - to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves in September. At the same time, it extended the boundaries of a third Canadian site – Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. Together, these three biosphere reserves incorporate five of Canada’s 597 Important Bird Areas. A description of these IBAs is provided below:
Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve
This continentally significant IBA is adjacent to the town of Baie-Comeau on the north shore of the St. Lawrence lower estuary. While open water dominates the site, mud flats between 500 and 1,700 metres in width are exposed at low tides. A large proportion of the nationally Special Concern Barrow’s Goldeneye (eastern population) winters at this IBA between December and mid-April. One thousand and twenty individuals – about one third of the eastern population - were counted here in 1998.
Three nationally at-risk species have been recorded in low numbers at Baie Comeau IBA during migration. These include Harlequin Duck (endangered eastern population), Piping Plover (endangered) and Short-eared Owl (Special Concern). The provincially at-risk Horned Grebe was recorded here in the spring of 1989.
Pollution is a key threat to the birds and other wildlife that inhabit Baie Comeau. Concentrations of PCBs, PAHs, phenols, mineral oils, greases and other pollutants occur in the sediment in elevated concentrations. Aluminum and paper plants have largely been responsible for the contamination of the site.
Fundy Biosphere Reserve
Shepody Bay West
Located at the western head of the Bay of Fundy, Shepody Bay features vast intertidal mud flats extending seaward up to four kilometres. The mudflats and tidal marshes in this area provide one of the most important stopover sites in eastern North America for migrating shorebirds. Many species may be attracted by the high densities of mud shrimp (Corophium voluntator).
Between 50 and 95 percent of the global population of Semipalmated Sandpipers flocks to the Bay of Fundy. At least 7.7 percent of the world’s population – an estimated 269,445 individuals - uses the Shepody Bay west IBA during migration to wintering areas in South America.
This IBA is also home to an estimated two percent of the North American population of Semipalmated Plovers, and Black-bellied Plovers have been counted there in a number that is almost of global significance.
Situated on the north coast of the Bay of Fundy, Quaco Bay lies near the mouth of the Saint John River, southwest of Saint John. It is characterized by intertidal reef ledges, mud flats and shallow inlets. Low cliffs are exposed along the shoreline at low tide.
Quaco Bay is home to one of the Bay of Fundy’s largest concentrations of Semipalmated Plovers. Counts during the fall migration in the 1970s and 1980s indicate that over one percent of this species’ global population uses the IBA. The one-day peak total of all shorebird species at this site approaches nationally significant levels in some years.
Dorchester Cape and Grand Anse
This IBA on the eastern coast of Shepody Bay at the head of the Bay of Fundy includes the rocky Dorchester Cape and an area of sand and gravel beaches (Grand Anse). The shoreline here, as elsewhere in the Bay of Fundy, experiences the highest tides in the world (between 10 and 15 metres). At low tide, vast mud flats at the Dorchester Cape and Grand Anse IBA extend at least two kilometres seaward. This enormous open area with its abundance of vertebrates makes the IBA a vitally important site for roosting and feeding migrant shorebirds. Approximately 200,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers – about 5.6 percent of the global population – have been recorded in a roosting area at Dorchester Cape. Almost one percent of the central Canadian breeding population of Dunlin use this IBA, together with more than one percent of the global population of Semipalmated Plovers.
Dorchester Cape is incorporated within the Shepody Bay and Mary’s Point Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve – the first reserve to be declared in Canada under the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) in 1987. In 1982, the area was designated as Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. More than 100 acres of habitat around the Semipalmated Sandpiper roosting area at Dorchester Cape is protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Upper Cumberland Basin
The Cumberland Basin is situated in Nova Scotia on the eastern side of Chignecto Bay at the head of the Bay of Fundy. Here, as in other parts of the bay, extremely low tides expose vast areas of mud and sand flats, and salt marshes, and the rich mud harbours millions of mud shrimp. This vital food source attracts millions of shorebirds to the area, where they build up the fat stores necessary to make their three- to four-day non-stop migration to South America. About 1.4 percent of the global population of Semipalmated Plovers – approximately 50,000 individuals – have been recorded at the Upper Cumberland Basin IBA.
A small marsh portion of this IBA covering 1,300 hectares was added to Environment Canada’s network of National Wildlife Areas in 1975 as the Chignecto National Wildlife. In the 1980s, the Upper Cumberland Basin was included in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.