Botanical Surveys

Nick Hill (PhD) has long experience with wetland plants. He is member and scientific adviser of the Recovery Team for the Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora of southwest Nova Scotia.  In 2011, The Fern Hill Institute for Plant Conservation took botanical inventory contracts with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute and with Nova Scotia Power on lakeshore in southwestern NS. In both cases, a full species list was prepared and the populations of Species at Risk and all rare plants were censused.

Monitoring Program

The SARA-listed plants of the Tusket River are restricted to about a dozen infertile waterbodies and there are concerns that populations of these rare plants that occur in Canada only in this vicinity, will be lost if the quality of the river water continues to deteriorate.  A plan to monitor rare plants and indicators of habitat quality was drawn up in 2011 with the cooperation of Nova Scotia Power Corporation and the Wildlife Division of NSDNR. This program is monitoring the state of habitat on 10 lakes of the Tusket River and will run from 2011 to 2015. The deteriorating water quality may be linked to the many mink ranches situated in the headwaters of the Tusket. The Canadian Botanical Association has designated (2013) the Tusket River as its first national area of Special Conservation Concern. Thank you!

In 2014, Fern Hill was approached by a citizens group to assess the possible impact of a proposed quarry above Middleton (Brooklyn Road) on wetlands. Wetlands in the area and immediately below the proposed impact zone were delineated and described. The basalt to be quarried is relatively porous and water from swamps above the quarry zone on the south-facing slope of the North Mountain and water infiltrating the slope, hits a relatively impenetrable sandstone of the Blomidon formation. These waters come to the surface just below the edge of the proposed quarry at sites of active and historically used springs. The rare plant Carex X knieskernii (hybrid of rare C. castanea and C. arctata) was found here as a first for NS. More than 5 ha of wetland (wet meadows and marshes primarily) stand to be disrupted by such a quarry and Fern Hill reported to the citizens group and the Department (NS Environment) that such a development was counter-indicated.

Swamp on cuesta, hilltop above quarry

Water table of wet meadows immediately below planned quarry

Wet meadow immediately below basalt zone where impermeable Blomidon formation creates springs and wetlands

Old Growth Trees

Cluster of old growth red spruce at Lower Trout Lake

A contract from friends of the Big Five Bridges Wilderness Area was taken to investigate the area for old growth woodland.  This work with Dr. David Patriquin (Biol. Dalhousie) found valuable old growth communities: one was dominated by red oak, the other by red spruce. While the old spruce occurred mostly as remnant individuals or clusters in a matrix of younger forest, the oak community had integrity and was found to occur in a predictable way on drumlins.  Patriquin and Hill argue that these communities are not simply determined by fire, rather they are in a  “proclimax” (equilibrium maintained by constant

Nest cavity in century oak

disturbance or stress) in response to wind and poor soils: only the oaks can tolerate the desiccating winds at the canopy top and they grow tallest but are always forming valuable deadwood for animals as winds shear the tallest limbs. This work only furthered the determination to designate the area, Wilderness, and this was formalized in 2011.

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