Better together: Working with the Village of Riverside-Albert to protect a rare forest
Allison Patrick observing a tree in Riverside Albert (Photo by NCC)
If you ask Allison Patrick, conservation biologist for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Atlantic Region, to describe the Caledonia Gorge property, she will point you towards the area’s magnificent Acadian forest.
“It has a sugar maple and red spruce forest that is quite old,” she says. “Most trees on the property are more than 80 years old, with some measured at over 130 years old. Trees of this age are now quite rare in New Brunswick.”
The property boasts 326 acres (132 hectares) of mature, Acadian forest, a rare forest-type, with less than five per cent of its kind left in the Maritimes.
“The Acadian forest is a highly diverse forest type, due to the mixing of boreal tree species, such as black spruce, balsam fir and trembling aspen with temperate forest tree species, such as red spruce and sugar maple. It is estimated that only one to five cent of the Acadian forest in the Maritimes remains in pre-settlement condition, due to forest harvesting practices and land conversion for agriculture,” says Allison. “Large and intact patches of long-lived forest communities are now quite rare.”
In addition to a unique forest, the property also boasts part of an exceptional geologic feature called the Arabian Vault. According to Allison, this feature is a canyon with steep sides through which flows the Arabian Vault Brook. It provides drinking water for the community in the nearby Village of Riverside-Albert.
NCC is working with the community in order to protect this vulnerable forest, which is responsible for a large portion of the village’s fresh water reserves. Nearly 100 years ago, the village leased 22 acres (nine hectares) of the land around the brook for its water reservoirs from a previous landowner.
The lease was set to expire in 2019, and then NCC entered the picture.
Under a new arrangement with NCC, the village will own the land surrounding the reservoirs, while NCC will protect the headwaters of the Arabian Vault Brook where the forest will continue to act as a natural filter for the water.
NCC staff continue to conduct field work on the property to gather a better understanding of what species live here and how to maintain the natural integrity of the landscape.
“During an inventory last summer, I was surprised to discover a few populations of the lesser purple-fringed orchid in the wetter, more open parts of the property,” recalls Allison. “This is a species of orchid that I had never seen before! It is ranked provincially as an S4 species, which means it is uncommon in the province, but not rare.”
According to Allison, communities of both people and wildlife rely on this unique habitat type.
“Moose, bear and many migratory birds rely on the habitats on the Caledonia Gorge property. Two bird species at risk — the eastern wood-pewee (special concern) and the chimney swift (threatened) have been found on our near the property.”
By working with the nearby community in the Village of Riverside-Albert, NCC is fostering a connection with people who are deeply ingrained in the ecological and historical features of the land.
The Village of Riverside-Albert has been a key partner in planning for the future of this property and has helped a lot with fundraising,” says Allison. “It is very important for NCC to work with communities near NCC properties because the people local to the area are connected to local issues and can help NCC manage land in the best way possible.”