Wetlands: Top of the biodiversity charts
Wetland and forest protected by NCC in Bristol, Quebec (Photo by NCC)
Recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve for more than 10 years, the Lac-Saint-Pierre region begins where the Saint Lawrence River widens between Sorel and Trois-Rivières. Its vast floodplain is the largest on the Saint Lawrence, containing 40 percent of the entire river’s wetlands!
Did you know that wetlands are at the top of the charts where biodiversity is concerned? A wetland is an area that has been flooded or saturated with water long enough that it begins to support vegetation adapted to aquatic life. Many species are dependent on wetlands for migration, feeding, finding shelter, nesting, hatching or spawning.
Lac Saint-Pierre is a perfect example of wetlands’ natural wealth. It supports 24 species of mammals, 79 species of freshwater fish (including a species endemic to Quebec, the copper redhorse), 288 species of birds and 27 species of rare plants — including the green dragon, an endangered plant that has the ability to change genders! The area is also home to one of the largest heronries in North America. All of these species depend on a healthy natural environment and clean water for their good health.
Wetlands not only provide an incredible habitat for hundreds of species to live in or migrate through; they also improve water quality by filtering and absorbing fertilizers and contaminants. As the water in wetlands is relatively stagnant, particles in suspension tend to be deposited. Wetlands also protect against flooding and bank erosion by serving as buffer zones for the overflow of waterways.
To protect this important natural habitat, conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) have acquired properties around Lac Saint-Pierre to protect them for the long term. These protected private lands sustain functional ecosystems as well as fragile habitats for certain endangered or vulnerable species, such as the copper redhorse and the green dragon.
Recreational boaters who visit this region also have a key role to play in the conservation of Lac Saint-Pierre. The beating of waves produced by motorboats, which lap against the riverbanks, has resulted in the banks receding by an estimated 1.6 metres per year at several points between Montreal and Sorel-Tracy. This phenomenon has serious consequences: the destruction of habitats, increased water turbidity and soil erosion. Boaters can help protect these environments by reducing boat speeds near the riverbanks and in shallow waters. Small non-motorized craft, such as kayaks and canoes, are ideal for exploring the area’s natural beauty.
You can help protect this important natural area
Quebec’s warm season is short, and everyone wants to make the most of it! If you are planning to visit a natural aquatic area in the summer, a few simple guidelines can make a huge difference in helping to protect this environment:
- Avoid disturbing bird colonies, as it interferes with their feeding and reproduction;
- Do not travel through wetland areas, to avoid damaging wildlife habitats;
- Respect rules concerning access and regulation of hunting and fishing;
- Respect rules regarding restricted access to protected sites;
- Use biodegradable cleaning products and do not dump dirty water into the river;
- Carry your trash out with you and recycle waste material;
- Camp only in designated areas; and
- Keep pets on a leash.
Conservation of Lac Saint-Pierre wetlands was made possible thanks to the NCC's partners involved in the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (EHJV) for waterfowl:
- Environment Canada
- Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques
- Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs
- Fondation de la faune du Québec
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act – USFWS
Many local and regional organizations are committed to the conservation of Lac Saint-Pierre:
- Ducks Unlimited Canada
- Centre d'interprétation de Baie-du-Febvre (in French only)
- Centre d'interprétation du patrimoine de Sorel
- Centre de la biodiversité du Québec
- Comité ZIP du lac Saint-Pierre ( in French only)
- Coopérative de solidarité de la réserve de biosphère du Lac-Saint-Pierre (in French only)
- Société d'aménagement de la baie Lavallière
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- SARCEL (in French only)
- Regroupement des sauvaginiers du lac Saint-Pierre