The Lac-à-la-Tortue Bog
Lac-à-la-Tortue Bog (Photo by Martin Beaulieu)
Located south of Shawinigan and covering 66 sqaure kilometres, the Lac-à-la Tortue Bog is the largest bog in the St. Lawrence valley. It was formed several thousand years ago by a branch of the Saint-Maurice River.
Bogs are wetlands in which peat forms and accumulates over time from dead plants, particularly sphagnum mosses, but also other types of moss, sedges and woody plants.
The Lac-à-Tortue bog is a particular type of bog, with a raised centre, fed only by rainwater and snowmelt. This peat bog is characterized by an acidic pH and by the fact that is supplied in minerals only through precipitation.
It is home to a wide variety of animals, including beaver, coyote, redbelly snake, wood frog and green frog. Moose, black bear and white-tailed deer are the large mammals that use this vast site. In addition, there are several ponds and swamps that are home to many waterfowl, including black duck, wood duck, great blue heron and blue-winged teal. Sandhill cranes have also been seen on numerous occasions. There are also plant species considered to be at-risk, such as Virginia chain fern and twin-scaped bladderwort.
Wetlands provide us with many ecological services, particularly by absorbing large quantities of water during heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt. This buffering effect helps prevent overflowing of streams near the bog. In addition, bogs are considered important carbon sinks that contribute to mitigating global warming.
For these reasons, the preservation of this type of environment is essential. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) began its work in this sector in 2005, and now owns 48 square kilometres (4,803 hectares) of the Tourbière-du-Lac-à-la-Tortue nature reserve. This is an area almost twice the size of Oka National Park. The site straddles the municipalities of Shawinigan, Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, Saint-Narcisse and Saint-Maurice in the Mauricie region. As the provincial government also protects a significant area within its Lac-à-la-Tortue ecological reserve, in all approximately 81 per cent of wetlands in this area are now protected.
Due to the humid nature of this area, the NCC-protected bog is only accessible through access agreements. However, it is possible to get a glimpse of it via the trails of Cœur nature park, located in Saint-Narcisse. University researchers are also studying the ongoing status of the bog as well as the ecological and physical processes that take place there.
“This project safeguards a very rich natural environment, consisting mainly of peat bogs, which is home to at-risk plant species, such as Virginia chain fern and twin-scaped bladderwort, both of which are likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable under the Government of Quebec’s Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species,” explains Patrice Laliberté, NCC project manager in Quebec. “There are also several species of orchids, carnivorous plants and health such as bog-laurel and blueberries. The remainder is composed of a mosaic of softwood forests and wooded islets, some of which contain large mature pines.”
This project was made possible with financial support from many partners, including the Ensemble pour la nature project of the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques du Québec, the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program, the MapleCross Fund, the ECHO Foundation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (through its North American Wetlands Conservation Act), Cogeco, Sanimax and other donors who wish to remain anonymous.
NCC would like to thank forest asset management company Solifor, a company of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, from which NCC acquired the property, for its extensive collaboration throughout this project.