The Magdalen Islands: an ecosystem unique in Quebec
Piping plover (photo by Natural Resources Canada)
A unique natural environment
The Magdalen Islands are located in the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, between the Gaspé Peninsula and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Made up of around 15 islands and islets, seven of which are connected by sandbars, the archipelago has a coastal profile completely different from the rest of Quebec. Dunes and beaches make up around a third of the land area. Despite their small size, the Magdalen Islands are home to 14 at-risk species and 14 zones recognized as important bird conservation areas (IBA).
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been involved in protecting the Magdalen Islands’ fragile habitats for almost 20 years and is currently working in the areas of Havre-aux-Basques and the Pointe de l’Est.
The Havre-aux-Basques area is known for its exceptional wetlands, containing a variety of wildlife species, including several at-risk species. Indeed, the piping plover, a bird designated as endangered in Canada and threatened in Quebec, nests on the beaches of Havre-aux-Basques, among others. Identified as a high priority site for conservation by the Société de conservation des Îles-de-la-Madeleine (SCÎM - Magdalen Islands Conservation Society), the dune area of Havre-aux-Basques has been targeted for protection by NCC. In 2013, NCC secured the largest private property in the area, covering 103 acres (42 hectares), with financial assistance from its partners. The Communauté maritime des Îles-de-la-Madeleine engaged in a great collective effort to safeguard this natural environment of high ecological value. In fact, it won the award “Villes et villages à la rescousse !” (Towns and villages to the rescue!) in 2015 for its exemplary involvement in protection the piping plover’s habitat among the dunes of Havre-aux-Basques.
The Pointe de l’Est
The Pointe de l’Est is a vestige of an ecosystem unique in Quebec, showcasing typical elements of the Magdalen Islands landscape (lagoons, marshes, salt-meadows, extensive beaches and freshwater, brackish, or saltwater ponds, etc.). These natural environments are strategic areas for several species of ducks and shorebirds, and provide grounds for nesting and shelter for several important species, such as piping plover and horned grebe, two species designated as endangered in Canada and threatened in Quebec. As for plant life, three species in particular, which are designated as threatened in Quebec, can be found: Gulf of St. Lawrence aster, broom crowberry and bog huckleberry.
To date, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s efforts have helped protect around 148 acres (60 hectares) of natural environments of high ecological value in the Pointe de l’Est area.
NNC intends to continue, in collaboration with its partners, ensuring securement and stewardship of conservation lands in the Magdalen Islands.
NCC thanks its partners who have contributed to protecting this territory: the Government of Quebec, the Government of Canada though its North American Bird Conservation Initiative and the Habitat Stewardship Program of Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of the United States (US Fish and Wildlife Services), the Fondation de la faune du Québec, the Communauté maritime des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the Canadian Wildlife Service, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Metcalfe Foundation, the Société de conservation des Îles-de-la-Madeleine.