Friday 20 December 2019

SAM Newsletter #25 Winter 2019

Green Crab monitoring in Codroy Valley 

SAM partnered with the College of the North Atlantic and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans this past fall on a invasive species monitoring project. SAM Conservation Biologist, Elizabeth Belanzaren, joined the group during Green Crab monitoring in the Grand Codroy Estuary.

The Grand Codroy Estuary site is the only Ramsar wetland of International Importance in Newfoundland and Labrador. It received this designation in 1987 because it is an exceptionally fine example of a large coastal estuary and supports a large numbers of geese and ducks. The area is a hotspot for over 100 bird species. The stunning diversity of the wetland is dependent on the rich eel grass (Zostera marina)  beds that the area supports, as they provide a rich feeding ground for many bird species. 
Eelgrass provides cover for young wildlife and helps reduce ocean acidification, (Image by Arnault Lebris).
Unfortunately, eel grass beds throughout the province are under threat from a new invader - European green crab (Carcinus maenas). Dubbed "one of the most unwanted species in the world," green crab is an aquatic invasive species that has been found in Canadian waters since 1951, and in Newfoundland waters since 2007. These hardy, aggressive little crabs can be highly damaging to local ecosystems. They out-compete local species, destroy eel grass beds in their search for prey, and are tolerant to a wide variety of adverse conditions. 
In 2015, the Qalipu First Nation published a report confirming the presence of green crab on the coastline near the community of Codroy. This past October, there was an effort made to determine if the crab had traveled into the brackish waters of the Grand Codroy Estuary. SAM partnered with the CNA Fish and Wildlife Technician class to deploy traps at ten locations along the estuary. Unfortunately, they were able to confirm that live crab are present well inside the Grand Codroy Estuary. Future efforts will be needed to determine the scale and possible impact of the presence of green crab in this important wetland.
Green Crab monitoring with Fish and Wildlife Technician Class of the College of the North Atlantic.
Special thanks to Dean Snow and Paul Arnold and their students for their help in conducting the survey, to Andrew Oxford and Michael Lyda of DFO for their technical expertise, and to Dr. Cynthia McKenzie of DFO for the guidance in the development of the project.
SAM Steward Award: Recognizing our environmental stewardship leaders

At Fall 2019 SAM meeting, representatives approved a new initiative, the SAM Steward Award. Over the years, many individuals have given their time, knowledge and passion to SAM. They have advocated for wildlife habitat conservation, supported wetland and wildlife education, and completed wildlife enhancement projects in their municipalities.

The SAM Steward Award has been created to recognize these heroes of environmental stewardship. SAM hopes this acknowledgement will inspire residents across the province to continue support wildlife habitat conservation and stewardship
Peter Reccord, former town councillor and SAM member, was recognized in 2018 during the Fall 2018 SAM Meeting hosted by Labrador City.
Recipients will be recognized in several ways:
1) A profile will be put on the SAM Website
2) A newsletter article & social media posts will be written about their achievements
3) A donation will be made in their name to a relevant charity of their choice

SAM member municipalities can nominate individuals that have made an impact in environmental conservation and stewardship in NL. The selection of the SAM Steward will be done prior to SAM meetings by the SAM Officers Committee. If at all possible, it is our hope that the selected SAM Steward will attend a SAM meeting to receive the award.

SAM Members, please send your nominations to . The nomination deadline is May 1, 2020.

A Good Read in the Reeds

Check out these articles, blog posts, and social media posts from SAM, our partners and from around our province.
SAM Conservation Biologist, Laura King, surveying Lundrigan's Marsh in St. John's for signs of muskrat.

SAM Participates in Muskrat Surveys

In the fall, SAM staff participated in a muskrat distribution and population survey in and around the St. John's and Corner Brook areas. The surveys are being led by the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, Wildlife Division. 

There has been some concern by trappers in Newfoundland that the muskrat population has been declining, and in some areas disappearing from their historic range. To better understand this potential decline, more needs to be known about the distribution and abundance of muskrat on the island. The provincial government is collecting distribution  and abundance data over the next 10 years.
Muskrat swimming through a wetland.

Photo By D. Gordon E. Robertson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Muskrats are interesting mammals that are well adapted to life in the wetlands.

Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus, is native to North America and is one of the 14 native mammals on the island portion on the province. They are a medium sized semi-aquatic rodent about 40 - 70 cm long, with half of that being their long, vertically flattened tail. Despite their name, they are not part of the family of rats (Rattus), they are actually more closely related to voles and lemmings.

They live in wetlands, ponds, and lakes, and their thick two-layered coat keeps them warm, they can close their ears to keep water out, and their long flattened tail propels them through wetlands and waterways. Even though they have the appearance of a small beaver, their bodies are much like those of seals and whales because they are less sensitive to the buildup of carbon dioxide. This allows them to stay under water for up to 17 minutes.

This amazing breath holding ability is told in several indigenous creation stories, when the muskrat dives to the bottom of the ocean to bring up the mud from which the earth is created, after other animals were not able to complete the task. 
A muskrat trail or path through aquatic vegetation along the shore of a pond in St. John's.
They are considered one of the most valuable fur-bearers, and continue to be the most harvested pelt in North America. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have used muskrat fur on their winter hats because of the pelts excellent warmth during the cold Canadian winters. They are also an important prey source for other species in Newfoundland including lynx, fox, coyotes, mink, eagles, and owls.
A muskrat burrow at the edge of a pond, in St. John's.
Surveyors participating in the project look for clues of muskrat presence in wetlands. These clues include paths through vegetation, burrows in the soft banks of a pond, muskrat houses of piled reeds and cattails, and scat. These clues are recorded along with types of plant species, and average water depth. With this information surveyors are able to estimate abundance in a wetland, pond or lake.

Have questions about this Department of Fisheries and Land Resources initiative? Email us to find out more.

SAM Network News & Updates

  • SAM Conservation Fund Scholarship Application is Online  the 2020 scholarship deadline is May 1st, 2020. The $1000 scholarship recognizes a student from Newfoundland and Labrador that has a passion for environmental conservation and stewardship work in their community. For more info on how to apply visit our website
  • Apply for Funding  Looking to get your next environmental stewardship project off the ground in your community? Visit our Apply for Funding page and you will find over 50 potential funding grants. Need help? Email us for more info.

World Wetlands Day 2020: Plan your event 

It is never to early to plan for World Wetlands Day 2020 in your community, and SAM and Ramsar are making it easy.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2nd each year and this years theme is wetlands and biodiversity. It is a day to raise global awareness about the vital role wetlands play for people and our planet. It also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on wetlands in 1971.

Wetlands in Newfoundland and Labrador provide habitat for many species of plants, animals and birds.This years theme is a great opportunity to celebrate the biodiversity of wetlands in our province. 
Take the steps and get involved this year in the global celebration.
The City of Corner Brook and SAM celebrating World Wetlands Day 2019 with a snowshoe in Hughes Brook.
First, visit the Ramsar Website and learn more about this years theme, wetlands and biodiversity. Also, take time to visit the SAM website to learn about local wetland conservation and find educational resources that are specific to Newfoundland and Labrador. 
Secondly, make a plan to participate in the global celebration. You can get involved as an event organizer, educator or participant.
Here are a few ideas of how  you and your municipality can get involved. 

Organize an event:
- Organize a family fun day at a community or science center
- Hold an exhibition to show case art or photography about wetland biodiversity
- Organize a community walk, run, or snowshoe for wetlands
- Host a trivia night about wetland biodiversity in NL

Raise public awareness:
- Share the outreach materials from Ramsar and SAM
- Write a blog or article for your local newspaper
- Bake wetland themed cupcakes for 
your local school, office, or community group

Teachers, guide/scout & youth group leaders can organize a classroom discussion:
- Discuss how wetlands naturally help us cope with climate change
- Discuss why wetlands continue to be degraded around the world and how we can stop loss
- Organize a quiz about the different types of wetlands and their services

Finally, you can download the World Wetlands Day Ramsar graphics for free. Remember to post your event on social media and use the hashtags #WorldWetlandsDay #WetlandBiodiversityMatters. Remember to send along your event to SAM staff and we can help promote it to our other members.

Happy World Wetlands Day planning! If you need any assistance in getting your idea off the ground send us an email.

2019 Stewardship Anniversaries

Another year is coming to a close, and we would like to recognize some significant Municipal Habitat Stewardship Agreement signing anniversaries. Congratulations and we look forward to many more years of conservation and stewardship.

10 years signed 2009
Mary’s Harbour
St. Lewis
Red Bay
Port au Choix

15 years signed 2004
 Happy Valley - Goose Bay
St. John’s
Copyright © 2019, Stewardship Association of Municipalities Inc., All rights reserved.

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