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Northeast aquatic habitat map now crosses Canadian border

A new seamless freshwater classification is available to help conservation partners on both sides of the border align efforts to protect freshwater ecosystems in the face of change.

The Atlantic office of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has launched a new tool designed to support community-based freshwater conservation. Designed in complement the existing aquatic habitat map covering the U.S. portion of the North Atlantic region that was developed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Eastern Division, the project represents the first classification of streams and rivers to be mapped seamlessly across New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, southern Quebec and northern New England. The freshwater classification is based on natural watershed boundaries, rather than political boundaries, to allow conservation groups to work together more effectively on cross-boundary water issues.

“Atlantic salmon and other wildlife don’t recognize political boundaries, and they need us to work across borders to help plan for their long-term survival,” says Josh Noseworthy, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Director of Conservation Science in Fredericton  “This is the first time an accurate picture of streams and rivers has been compiled at this scale; it is literally a ‘watershed moment’ in freshwater conservation.”

With support from the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), staff from the Nature Conservancy of Canada compiled information to quantify size, temperature, alkalinity and other factors for thousands of streams and rivers in the region. Now the NCC and partners are making this information available to anyone involved in water-related conservation and management. “The new tool will also help NCC focus our conservation efforts where they’ll have the most impact, and we hope it will be actively used by municipal and provincial planners, First Nations, watershed groups, academic institutions, and fish and wildlife conservation organizations,” says Noseworthy.

Until recently, freshwater conservation efforts that crossed provincial or national borders had been hampered by incomplete or incompatible data. The NCC's project will enable better cross-border planning and conservation to protect at-risk species like Eastern brook trout and Atlantic salmon moving forward because the data cover watersheds in northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The user-friendly maps and scientific data compiled by NCC are free and available online now on the North Atlantic LCC's Conservation Planning Atlas

The project also provides a valuable baseline for monitoring freshwater health, which may be impacted in the future due to climate change. Nature Conservancy of Canada’s stream and river classification is the first of four tools being developed to assess freshwater conservation and restoration priorities in the region. The three-year project is funded by North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), Environment and Climate Change Canada, Trottier Family Foundation, and The Salamander Foundation. 

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