John Sylvester

Prince Edward Island

  • Number of Completed Projects (2014-2015)
  • 4
  • Acres Conserved
  • 195
  • Land Value
  • $700,000
  • Stewardship Volunteers
  • 53

Partnership protects dunes and loons

Even frigid November winds couldn’t stop NCC and the Province of Prince Edward Island from celebrating a conservation partnership that succeeded in protecting a 75-acre (30-hectare) dune and wetland site at Deroche Pond (Blooming Point) on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.

Despite a wind chill of -20 that froze reporters’ pens, NCC staff, volunteers and provincial politicians showed off the new conservation lands, hopping into vehicles to do media interviews and get the ink flowing.

Sand dunes are a significant ecological feature on Prince Edward Island. The dunes on this conservation site have the distinctive feature of being covered in vegetation thanks to their location further inland, where they are sheltered from high winds.

Additionally, common loons, which have a very small breeding population on PEI, nest on the wetlands here.

This is the third land conservation project at Deroche Pond with which NCC has assisted since 1978. NCC has now helped to protect a total of 322 acres (130 hectares) here.


The Fifth Element

The curious harbour seals of Murray Harbour on eastern Prince Edward Island were treated to a busy day of people-watching when 31 kayakers showed up to participate in a shoreline cleanup.

While the seals looked on, the volunteers collected one tonne of garbage off the archipelago of islands that sit within the harbour.

The five islands in Murray Harbour have long been a conservation priority in the area. Earlier in the year NCC acquired Thomas Island, the fifth and only remaining unprotected island in Murray Harbour. This is NCC’s second project in Murray Harbour. NCC also conserved Reynolds Island in 2012, later transferring it to the provincial government.

Thomas Island provides habitat for many species, notably supporting Prince Edward Island’s breeding population of great blue herons. These birds will only nest in undisturbed, mature spruce trees. The island’s mature white spruce forest also includes red maple, yellow birch, balsam fir and black spruce.

A sand bar links Thomas Island to Herring Island, making it possible to cross between the two at low tide. Waterfowl feed in the shallow waters of the salt marsh. Herring gulls and great black-backed gulls nest in the harbour.

With the five islands of Murray Harbour now protected – Thomas, Herring, Cherry, Gordons and Reynolds – a decades-long conservation vision dating back to the early 1970s is now complete.

Lichens are spectacular. They are the coral reefs of the forest. Like coral they come in a myriad of shapes and colours, in addition to being multiple organisms working together and being sensitive to disturbance." Troy McMullin, lichenologist
Troy McMullin

The coral reefs of the forest

Lichenologist Troy McMullin was so excited about the bounty of lichen he found on NCC’s North Enmore Nature Reserve, he repeatedly stayed on the reserve so late in the day that the tide had covered the narrow access beach and he had to wade and even swim his way out of the remote reserve. Every other direction was choked with dense, trail-less forest.

This isolation is exactly what makes North Enmore a haven for lichen. The reserve protects 194 acres (79 hectares) of black spruce forest and is surrounded by substantially more forested land on all sides, except where it borders Percival Bay.

Lichen tend to be extremely sensitive to environmental change, so a forest that is far from cities and agricultural lands tend to maintain the best air quality for lichen. Some lichen species are so sensitive to changes in their environment that they can be used to monitor changes in air pollution or the effects of climate change.

In total, McMullin collected 122 species (equivalent to 40 percent of the 320 known lichen species on PEI) from the nature reserve, including 15 new species that had not previously been found on PEI. This is the most species of lichen collected for any one study site so far across the province.

The survey uncovered PEI’s only known population of yellow specklebelly, a brown lichen with a powdery yellow fringe, as well as Methuselah’s beard, a long stringy lichen that was once used to decorate Christmas trees.