White-tailed deer fawn in city of Saint John wetland, (Photo by Allison Patrick/NCC staff)

White-tailed deer fawn in city of Saint John wetland, (Photo by Allison Patrick/NCC staff)

Study confirms wetlands around Saint John Harbour provide benefits to people and wildlife

February 2, 2022
Saint John, New Brunswick


Wetlands help reduce flooding and clean water

To mark World Wetlands Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is releasing some interesting news about wetlands located in the Saint John Harbour. The land trust recently completed assessments using standardized methods for data collection called the Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol for Atlantic Canada. These results can now be compared to other wetlands around the region.

The work began by identifying sites of interest using aerial and satellite imagery and contacting landowners. That was followed by on the ground field work. NCC biologists collected information about the plants and wildlife in the wetlands, as well as information on water levels, soils and channels. Combined with measurements from imagery, it was determined that the wetlands are particularly good at intercepting storm surges. This helps reduce property flooding, remove pollutants from water and export nutrients to the surrounding waters, which benefits aquatic and marine wildlife and fisheries.

On the coast and within estuaries like the Saint John Harbour, wetlands along the shore influence, and are impacted by, the health of the surrounding waters. These wetlands are affected by the tides, which provide a direct connection to the marine habitats and fisheries in the Bay of Fundy. Activities like infilling wet areas, the adjacent clearing of vegetation and introducing invasive species can degrade wetlands and impair their abilities to perform these important functions.

“We found a remarkable variety of wildlife. They included species of concern for conservation like green ash (tree) and nelson’s sparrow (bird), as well as deer, shorebirds, ducks and herons, showing the importance of these wetlands as refuges for urban wildlife” said Allison Patrick, conservation biologist with NCC.

A variety of invasive species were discovered at all 12 sites within the city of Saint John. The most common was the widespread invasive reed canary grass. This grass can grow so thickly it takes up a lot of space and crowds out all other wildlife. One east-side wetland was covered with a small South African plant called brass buttons. 

This project was supported partially by a financial contribution from Fisheries and Oceans Canada through the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program. The Port of Saint John is one of six locations across Canada where baseline data is being collected to better detect changes in the marine environment over time.


“World Wetlands Day is a great opportunity to shine a light on projects like this that help us better understand the current condition of wetlands in Canada. Data from this project will support efforts to detect changes in Saint John Harbour, making it easier to protect its diverse ecosystems and the species that depend on them.” - The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

In the coming weeks, detailed reports of the findings will be mailed to the participating landowners. Also included will be recommendations to protect or improve wetlands on their property for their knowledge and consideration. Get more information about this project here.


  • World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on February 2 to raise awareness about wetlands. This day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, which was adopted as an international treaty in 1971.
  • There are several organizations helping collect baseline data in and around the Port of Saint John.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares, coast to coast to coast. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

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Andrew Herygers
Communications Manager

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