Percival River, Prince Edward Island (Photo by NCC)
The Egmont Bay coastline includes ecologically rich wetland habitats that are critical to the lifecycle of many populations of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, seabirds and perching birds (passerines).
Percival River, which feeds into Egmont Bay, provides Islanders with a view rarely seen on Prince Edward Island: forest all around you. Spared from major agricultural conversion due to low-lying, swampy territory, the forests and salt marshes around Percival River feature one of the best examples of natural connectivity remaining in the province, with a network of habitat corridors reaching all the way to the north shore of the Conway Narrows.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has conserved 398 acres (161 hectares) of coastal salt marsh and black spruce forest in the Percival River area to date. These properties are located approximately 40 kilometres west of Summerside, PEI and feature habitats ranging from intact forests, to salt marshes, to freshwater wetlands.
The Percival River area is home to a number of important habitats and species:
- Freshwater wetlands, which are home to mammals like muskrats and waterfowl. Wetlands also store excess carbon from the atmosphere;
- Salt marshes, which provide a buffer against flooding and storm surges and act as a natural water filter;
- Plants like the marsh marigold; a delicate spring flower that flourishes wherever there is water-logged soil and sunlight;
- Intact spruce forest, which shelters songbirds like warblers and ovenbirds.
Percival Bay and River boast a considerable amount of salt marsh habitat. The largest and deepest unbroken tract of salt marsh in the province is located along the Percival River. Significant salt marshes, sand dunes, wooded and coastal bogs are found along the coast of Egmont Bay, and many important riparian systems and wetlands occur further inland. The warm water of Egmont Bay and Percival River provides ideal habitat for a rich diversity of marine life.
Some forest in natural regeneration are even dotted with vernal pools.
Percival River forests and wetlands (Photo by Mike Dembeck)
Forest vegetation in the area consists primarily of spruce, aspen, birch, ash and white cedar. White cedar usually grows on calcareous soils; its presence on the property may be an indication of other rare plant species in the surrounding area. The forests in this area are characteristic of the Maritime mixed forest type.
Ash trees have historically been used by the Mi’kmaq to make baskets.
A variety of unusual fungi and lichens, ferns and wildflowers flourish in the forest. Several rare species of lichen have been found in NCC nature reserves along the Percival River, and the area boasts the widest diversity of lichen across PEI to date. Many species of lichen are sensitive to air pollution, and their presence and variety within the Percival River forests indicates a healthy environment.
Canada goose (Photo by Helen Jones)
NCC has completed the PEI Coast and Forest Natural Area Conservation Plan, identifying conservation priorities across the Maritime provinces; this includes the Percival River and Egmont Bay, which are high priorities due to the habitat connectivity and the long tract of salt marshes in the river.
By further protecting the land around Percival Bay and River from development, this area will continue to serve as an important refuge for migratory birds and ultimately contribute to the sustainability of waterfowl populations in Prince Edward Island and along the Atlantic Flyway.
NCC wishes to acknowledge and thank the project donors, including: the Government of Canada, under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, TD Forests, The United States Fish and Wildlife Service through the North American Conservation Act, PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund and other local donors.
To learn more about this property and the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work on Prince Edward Island or how you can donate, please contact Julie Vasseur at (902) 892-3608 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Faith Flemming at Faith.Flemming@natureconservancy.ca.