Northern Appalachian-Acadian Ecoregion
Description & Physiography
The Northern Appalachian-Acadian Ecoregion extends from the Tug Hill and Adirondack ranges of New York, across the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, into Maine and Maritime Canada. It includes all the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, as well as Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalene Islands) and the part of Quebec extending from the Gaspé Peninsula, southwesterly through the Appalachian complex of eastern Quebec to the United States border, south of Sherbrooke.
Since the ecoregion spans many sub regions – from rocky shorelines of Maine to the Green & White Mountain alpine peaks -- it is no surprise to find a diversity of aquatic, wetland, riparian, and coastal ecosystems. Throughout, the land is interspersed with forest and woodland habitats, including floodplains, marshes, estuaries, bogs, fens and peatlands, not to mention the vast stretches of cobble, sand and barrier beaches, dune systems that characterize the Northumberland Strait. Shoreline features include the coastal marshes and tidal mudflats of the Upper Bay of Fundy, the rocky headlands, ravines and coastal forests of the Lower Bay of Fundy and Atlantic Coast, and the many offshore islands that dot the coastline.
The ecoregion has many fast-flowing, cold water rocky rivers with highly fluctuating water levels that support rare species and assemblages.
Plants & Animals
The Northern Appalachian-Acadian ecoregion extends over large ecological gradients from the boreal forest to the north and the deciduous forest to the south. At its northernmost tip, the Gaspé Peninsula, higher elevations support only species hardy enough to endure taiga, or Arctic tree line, conditions. Moving to lower elevations and latitudes, there is a gradual shift toward higher proportions of northern hardwood and mixed-wood species, gradually transitioning to the more heterogeneous landscape that is the Acadian forest. Here, the trees are generally long-lived, shade-tolerant spruce-fir types and deciduous hardwood species, such as red spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch, sugar maple, red oak, red maple and American beech, while red and eastern white pine and eastern hemlock also occur to a lesser but significant degree. The forests also contain 14 species of conifers, more than any other ecoregion within this major habitat type, with the exception of the Southern Appalachian-Blue Ridge Forests and the Southeastern Mixed Forests.
For vertebrate diversity, the NAP ecoregion is among the 20 richest ecoregions in the continental United States and Canada, and is the second-richest ecoregion within the temperate broadleaf and mixed forest types. Characteristic mammals include moose, black bear, red fox, snowshoe hare, porcupine, fisher, beaver, bobcat, lynx, marten, muskrat, and raccoon, although some of these species are less common in the southern parts of the ecoregion. White-tailed deer have expanded northward in this ecoregion, displacing (or replacing) the woodland caribou from the northern realms where the latter were extirpated in the late 1800’s by hunting. Coyotes have recently replaced wolves, which were eradicated from this ecoregion in historical times, along with the eastern cougar. It is estimated that the region supports some 148 endemic species.
Bald eagles reach their highest breeding density in eastern North America (Nova Scotia) and the Upper Bay of Fundy is a globally significant flyway for as many as 2.5 million semipalmated sandpipers that feed in the tidal mudflats.
Humans & History
There has been a historical shift away from the uneven-aged and multi- generational old growth forest toward even-aged and early successional forest types due to human activities. This mirrors the historical trends toward mechanization and industrialization within the forest resource sector over the past century and a shift from harvesting large dimension lumber to smaller dimension pulpwood.