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Bird Surveys (Spring 2019) Prior to Wildlife Habitat Restoration in the Lake Saint-Pierre Shoreline – Segment 2, Saint-Barthélemy


Lake Saint-Pierre and its floodplain, which is the most extensive in Quebec, are a key component of the St. Lawrence ecosystem. With more than 288 resident and migratory bird species and 79 fish species (MDDEFP, 2013), the lake offers an exceptional natural environment, which has received international recognition for its rich biodiversity (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and RAMSAR site).

Agricultural activities have been carried out on the fertile floodplain of Lake Saint-Pierre for several centuries. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, perennial crops were gradually replaced by annual crops, even in the lake’s floodplain (Dauphin and Jobin, 2016). Agricultural practices associated with annual crops have resulted in the degradation of natural habitats and reduced the amount of habitat available for many wildlife species (Latendresse et al., 2008; Rioux et al., 2009). Grassland birds (Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, etc.), whose populations are in decline (NABCI, 2019), and waterfowl are among the species that have been adversely affected by the disappearance of wet meadows and the conversion of perennial crops to annual crops. The loss of plant substrates caused by fall tillage creates soil erosion during high water periods and results in the destruction of key spawning and rearing grounds used by fish in the spring. This degradation has played a key role in the decline of the yellow perch population in Lake Saint-Pierre (Magnan et al., 2017). To date, roughly 5,000 hectares of potential yellow perch spawning habitat have been lost (TCRLSP, 2017).

With the aim of balancing agricultural activities and wildlife protection, an approach has been developed for restoring wildlife habitats near the shoreline of Lake Saint-Pierre (Groupe de travail « Intendance en milieu agricole : culture du littoral au lac Saint-Pierre », 2010). This approach involves stream maintenance (bank reshaping, planting, etc.) and conversion of annual crops back into perennial crops or natural grasslands. To this end, various restoration works have been underway since 2017 in the Berthierville and Saint?Barthélemy areas to help restore the ecological functions of Lake Saint-Pierre.

Bird surveys were conducted in 2012, 2017 and 2018 in order to obtain a picture of the bird communities present along seven watercourses and in three wildlife management areas in the Baie-du-Febvre, Berthierville and Saint-Barthélemy areas (Jobin, 2015; Nicole and Dauphin, 2018a, 2018b, 2019a and 2019b). In 2019, prior to restoration, a survey was conducted to assess the use of Segment 2 (in Saint-Barthélemy on the north shore of the St. Lawrence) by migrating geese and waterfowl. The surveys provide baseline data that can be used to evaluate the potential benefits of the habitat restoration activities for the birds.

This approach is part of the project to restore the Lake Saint?Pierre shoreline, which is being carried out jointly by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Quebec Department of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP), as part of the 2016-2021 programming for the St. Lawrence Action Plan (SLAP) ( link).

Prepared by

Alexandre Nicole
Canadian Wildlife Service
Québec Region
Environment and Climate Change Canada

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