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Extending the Northeast Aquatic Habitat Map to Canada

This project is developing a comprehensive aquatic habitat map for the entire extent of the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NALCC) region by extending the Northeast Aquatic Habitat Map to Canada and southern Quebec.

Worldwide, species extinction in freshwater environments is estimated to be higher than in terrestrial ecosystems. Conversely, conservation action largely occurs in terrestrial environments.  Demands on aquatic resources is increasing, therefore, coordinated and effective conservation action is needed.

Conserving the NA LCC’s freshwater resources will require a consistent classification of stream and lake features into recognizable categories.  The freshwater classification developed for the U.S. portion of the NA LCC has allowed individual states to understand their freshwater resources in light of the full distribution of stream types in the U.S.  A group of over 40 Canadian and U.S. partners met last year and agreed that there is a need for a consistent aquatic classification across this ecoregion.  Further, this work will allow us to plan for aquatic resources shared between the U.S. and Canada.

Until recently, ecological data and frameworks required to effectively manage and protect aquatic resources were largely not available in Canada across broad areas such as the NA LCC. Even five years ago, the base data required for such a classification tool was not available in Canada.  However, recent efforts by various partners has made much of the needed information available, or easily created, which is why there is so much interest in this project. Aquatic conservation planning efforts on the U.S. side of the NA LCC have increased significantly, but comprehensive aquatic datasets generally stop at the Canadian border.  We have resolved the border issue for terrestrial systems through the release of the NA LCC-funded Northeast Terrestrial Habitat map that now includes Maritime Canada. This will inform the management of terrestrial-based resources, and facilitate large-scale conservation planning. A comprehensive aquatic classification will do the same for freshwater ecosystems which, to date, has largely occurred incidentally by conserving or managing terrestrial resources.

The overall goal of this project is to increase the knowledge and data available to more effectively protect and manage freshwater aquatic resources in the Canadian and cross-border portions of the NA LCC.  Specifically, the classification will: 1) fill a large data gap by developing and mapping an aquatic ecosystem classification in the Canadian portion of the  NA LCC;  2)  provide the ecological basis to identify “representative” aquatic ecosystems for management, restoration, research and most importantly as an aid to programs and organizations aimed at conserving biological diversity of freshwater resources;  3)  provide common definitions and mapping of aquatic habitat types across provincial and bordering state lines allowing each province/state to identify aquatic habitats consistently across jurisdictional borders;  4)build a greater understanding of the state of the aquatic ecosystems by providing a standardised approach for assessing the current state of riverine ecosystems and identifying potential changes to riverine ecosystems resulting from the alteration of physical and biological processes.

This project began on September 21, 2015. Read the original project proposal here.

By the end of March 2016, the core team had met twice via webinar. Data collection was completed for some provinces and is actively underway to fill remaining gaps. Data collection is expected to be complete by July 2016. A third core team meeting will be held in May 2016 and outreach to aquatic conservation groups will begin this summer.

Quarterly Reports
2016 1st Qtr (Jan-March) Quarterly Report
2015 4th Qtr (Oct-Dec) Quarterly Report

North Atlantic LCC; $110,000
Salamander Foundation,  Eco Canada: $27,000
In-kind contributions from partners:  $5,800

Canadian portion of the North Atlantic LCC

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