Eastern mountain avens (Photo by June Swift)
If you visit Brier Island in Nova Scotia you may see a delicate plant growing at the edge of several bogs. Small and fragile, it may not be well known, but the eastern mountain avens (EMA) is in fact one of the most endangered plants in Canada. And now, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is helping change this.
Where are eastern mountain avens found?
A member of the rose family, this yellow flower exists in only two isolated populations – along streams in the alpine meadows of the White Mountains in New Hampshire and in the coastal peat lands of Brier Island and Digby Neck, Nova Scotia. The Canadian population of EMA represents a quarter to a third of the global population. Roughly a third of the Canadian population can be found on NCC’s property on Brier Island in southwest Nova Scotia.
What is the conservation status of this species?
In the last 20 years, EMA has declined by almost 50 percent, due to changes in its habitat. In Canada, the species is listed as endangered both federally and provincially.
What is NCC doing to protect this species?
So it is no surprise that NCC is concerned about the fate of this plant. Laurel Bernard, NCC’s director of stewardship in Atlantic Canada, assisted in the development of the federal recovery strategy for the EMA. “The recovery strategy will help support NCC’s future research on EMA,” says Bernard. The strategy will include improving the population inventory process, mapping critical EMA habitat and monitoring threats to the population.
To date, NCC’s work has focused on outreach and engagement with the local community about the species by alerting them to the presence of EMA on Brier Island through communications and the distribution of interpretive materials. NCC has also created trails on the property to steer visitors away from EMA habitat. Craig Smith, Nova Scotia program manager with NCC and a member of the Eastern Mountain Avens Recovery Team, believes NCC is now poised to play a more active and strategic role in the protection of this endangered plant.
The power of partnership
NCC has teamed up with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute in a partnership that Smith hopes will study the entire Canadian population of EMA. If funding is approved (under the federal government’s Habitat Stewardship Program), the project will allow Smith and his team to gather information that will help decide how to better protect the EMA from threats to its habitat.
So as spring returns to Brier Island and the first flowers of the eastern mountain avens unfurl, its yellow petals signal a sense of hope that this little plant will continue to survive and thrive due to the efforts of NCC and its dedicated conservation staff.