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Areas of ecological interest

Loss and alteration of habitats are the biggest threats to biodiversity. Wetlands are particularly sensitive habitats. They are very important for both fauna and flora because they allow many species to carry out all or part of their life cycle and they contribute to the purification of water and the regulation of water levels. The marine biodiversity of the St. Lawrence River also merits particular attention because the pressures put on marine ecosystems are becoming greater and greater.

Projects 2016-2021

Consolidate the portrait of other conservation measures and improve structures for acquiring information

The area covered by the St. Lawrence Action Plan (SLAP) consists largely of private land. Until recent years, however, the portrait of privately owned protected areas listed in Quebec’s Register of Protected Areas was incomplete. As part of the SLAP 2011-2016, our experts developed a georeferenced database to gather, process and verify all the information previously compiled in the Directory of Protected Natural Areas by the Réseau de milieux naturels protégés (RMN). In collaboration with the RMN, a vast operation to acquire data on privately owned protected areas was also launched to complete the RMN’s information. Lastly, to keep the data up to date, the Plateforme d'enregistrement de mesures de conservation sur terres privées ( in French only) was launched. It is an interactive Web-based tool where stakeholders can list the private lands they are protecting through their conservation initiatives.

The goal of the SLAP 2016-2021 project is to make the platform more user friendly and to encourage stakeholders to use it. Users will then have a reliable, real-time image of the conservation efforts being deployed on private land. This Web-based tool allow to conduct more informed geomatic analyses. It also facilitate knowledge sharing among all stakeholders and interested persons, who will, in turn, be better able to guide their conservation efforts by using the RMN’s Directory of Protected Natural Areas and the MDDELCC’s Register of Protected Areas in Quebec, which are regularly updated through the Plateforme d'enregistrement de mesures de conservation sur terres privées ( in French only).

Protect St. Lawrence fish habitats and their connectivity

Over their life cycle, fish frequent various habitats to feed, reproduce, develop and rest. For their survival, it is essential to ensure that habitats, from birth to adulthood, are sufficiently abundant, healthy and interconnected. 

The SLAP project aims to identify the most suitable fish habitats of the river and its tributaries and to preserve its connectivity. . Its focus is on a wide variety of habitats such as sections of the flood plain, tributary mouths, navigable and non-navigable channels, deep trenches, port areas and shallow marshes. It also focuses on migration corridors and unimpeded passage not only to meet the needs of migratory species such as the American shad, striped bass, lake sturgeon and American eel, but also to assess the risk of invasion by alien species such as the Asian carp. As new data are collected, experts will update the electronic atlas of St. Lawrence biodiversityExternal link, part of which is already available on the St. Lawrence Global Observatory siteExternal link.

Give communities the tools they need to conserve natural areas of the St. Lawrence

In the previous phase of the SLAP (2011-2016), our specialists identified the natural areas to be conserved on a priority basis in sectors of the St. Lawrence Lowlands and coastal areas of the estuary and Gulf. Biodiversity in these areas is threatened by factors such as urbanization, agriculture and shoreline erosion.

With a view to coordinating conservation efforts and equipping local communities, this project involves preparing and disseminating a global conservation approach and providing stakeholders with decision-making tools such as maps, reports and analysis results. These actions help stakeholders determine the most relevant and effective conservation measures to be taken.

Assess the health and biodiversity of protected areas of the St. Lawrence and adjacent lands

In a previous phase of the SLAP, about 20 ecological indicators were selected to assess the health of national wildlife areas located along the St. Lawrence and its banks. These indicators included habitat area and the abundance of certain bird, bat and amphibian species. At the same time, the development of a Quebec-wide biodiversity monitoring program was launched.

This project aims to implement an ecological and biodiversity monitoring program in public or private protected areas located along the St. Lawrence and on adjacent lands. Specialists determine the sampling sites and methods, and use key indicators to monitor the health of the river ecosystems. More specifically, they look at the retreating shorelines due to erosion, the quantity of species at risk and the presence of invasive alien species. 

At the end of this project, the public will have a report on the health and biodiversity of protected areas along the St. Lawrence.

Link priority conservation areas to ensure the survival of St. Lawrence Lowland species

In the first phase of the SLAP project, priority areas for conservation in the St. Lawrence Lowlands were identified. However, these areas may be separated from one another by roads, towns or fields. But animal and plant species need to be able to move about or spread freely in these areas. Otherwise, it can be difficult for them to reproduce and survive.

The experts involved in this new study component are pursuing the following objectives: map the areas that have important natural habitats for plants and animals, and determine the best way to connect these conservation areas to each other without impacting human activity. For example, the restoration of natural areas and the installation of wide enough natural riparian strips (10 to 20 m wide) could make it easier for animal species to move about and for plant species to spread throughout the territory where they can grow. 

With this project, local communities and citizens have access to the knowledge that is gained about priority areas and proposed methods for linking conservation areas to each other. Local communities and citizens can also draw inspiration from suggested concrete actions that could be taken to establish this connectivity and effectively restore habitats.

Restore the Lake Saint-Pierre shoreline

Lake Saint-Pierre is home to over 280 bird species and 78 fish species. Many species, such as the yellow perch and the brown bullhead, use the calm waters of the lake’s floodplain to feed and reproduce. The lake is used for agriculture after the water recedes, and current practices not only promote soil erosion during spring flooding but also limit the ability of wildlife to access quality habitat. Local communities would like to reconcile farmers’ needs with biodiversity conservation. In the first phase of this project (2011-2016), restoration work was done with farmers, who were encouraged to modify their practices in a way that would maintain protective buffers on both sides of the waterway using vegetation cover that is conducive to maintaining fish and wildlife.

In the second phase (2016-2021), the goal of our experts is to produce a guide of best conservation practices and an atlas of sites that are suitable for restoration to better facilitate local communities' involvement. A mapping of primary conservation sites was established in collaboration with the Lake St-Pierre’s Regional Concertation Table. Our experts also participate in the restoration of certain sites and  follow up to measure the benefits to local wildlife.

Protect and restore the St. Lawrence River’s degraded wetlands

In a previous phase of the SLAP, an Atlas of Bank Restoration Sites of the St. Lawrence River  was created. It catalogues nearly 500 sites along the St. Lawrence that are disturbed by human activity and that have restoration potential. Around 200 of them contain wetlands and habitats of great ecological value that particularly help mitigate the adverse effects of flooding and climate change.  

The goal of the new project is to create a wetland restoration guide. Specifically, it could help users choose wetlands to be restored, establish better objectives for restoration work (reference ecosystems) and select appropriate techniques.

Projects 2011-2016

Develop and share unified habitat mapping

Human activity exerts constant pressure on remaining habitats and the species using them. Production of detailed maps of land use and natural environments, including woodlands and wetlands, will assist in identifying areas subjected to the greatest pressure with a view to focusing actions relating to habitat conservation.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Create a portrait of protected areas and other complementarty conservation measures

Numerous administrative and legal means exist for contributing to biodiversity conservation, including acquisition, conservation easements and the establishment of nature reserves and protected areas. The creation of a database of information on all Crown and private land in conjunction with the use of a geographic information system will enable the identification of gaps and conservation opportunities available to support more effective conservation action planning.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Identify important fish habitats and protect them or restore their connections

The life cycle phases of numerous fish species play out in multiple habitats. These sequences of habitats and the connections between them must be preserved in order to provide for the survival of these species. The creation of an atlas documenting these important habitats in the St. Lawrence region will support the creation of habitat models and the development of geomatic tools for improving the selection of areas with the highest conservation potential.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Develop an integrated plan for "priority conservation areas"

Land analysis that combines information collected from unified habitat mapping, identification of habitats important to fish and the portrait of protected areas and other conservation measures will enable the identification of priority areas in order to enlarge the area of protected habitats, restore and preserve the connections between them and create transition zones to help reduce the pressure on these habitats from human activity. Moreover, the development of conservation scenarios will help to increase the effectiveness of measures targeting the preseervation of biodiversity.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Implement a biodiversity monitoring program in and around protected areas

A monitoring mechanism is essential for tracking the effectiveness of conservation actions. The implementation of a biodiversity monitoring program in and around protected areas will enable verification of the extent to which protecting these areas promotes long-term maintenance of biodiversity and identification of any necessary improvements.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Proceed with 3 marine protected area (MPA) initiatives

The pressure on marine ecosystems is increasing with the passage of time. To date, activities under the St. Lawrence Action Plan have led to creation of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, the first marine protected area in Quebec. The establishment of additional marine protected areas in conjunction with local stakeholders will help to strengthen the protection of the St. Lawrence's marine biodiversity.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Participate in the creation of a model interventions for the conservation of biodiversity in the agricultural setting

Numerous best management and development practices are recognized in agriculture in terms of supporting and increasing biodiversity. The joint implementation of these practices with agricultural producers across the region will help to raise awareness among producers about their positive impact on biodiversity and the benefits to them of following best practices.

Read the backgrounder for this project.

Launch an online interactive version of the Atlas of Bank Restoration Sites of the St. Lawrence River

The purpose of this project is to enhance the Atlas of Bank Restoration Sites of the St. Lawrence River, which was originally published in 2007, in order to better serve users’ needs. In collaboration with the St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO), an interactive Web application was developed to make the Atlas more user friendly. The project team took advantage of this upgrade to update some of the data and create a tool that meets accessibility standards. The Atlas provides an overview of wildlife habitats with restoration potential along the St. Lawrence. Its purpose is to foster stakeholder engagement in the conservation and restoration of sites of ecological interest along the St. Lawrence.

Read the backgrounder for this project.