Our Changing Forest
Many woodlot owners are wondering how their forests will change over the next 50 years, with predictions of climate warming and changes to precipitation regimes.
How will the tree species we have respond to such changes?
Is there anything we can do to help our forests become more climate-resilient?
This fall, NWAI has been connecting with woodlot owners in the watershed to discuss forest management practices that support resilient and healthy forested ecosystems.
There are many excellent resources available for landowners that have been produced by our partner organizations. One such resource is the engaging and informative video series, “Our Changing Forest,” produced by the NB Federation of Woodlot Owners and their partners (Community Forests International, UNB, and the NB Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development).
This video series is the perfect first step to understanding how your forest might change and how you can help it to become more resilient.
The video series is divided into three parts:
Part 1 of the video series covers the general changes to forest composition expected for this region:
White spruce and balsam fir are not predicted to do well in the face of the changing climate, whereas white pine and red oak are some of the emerging “superhero trees.” The more diverse a forest stand, the more likely it will have some species that will be resilient – complexity is correlated with the ability to adapt to changing conditions.
Part 2 details the predictions of how various species will fare with climate change:
The viewer is taken to three different stands of trees (a black spruce dominated site, mature mixedwood, and a balsam fir dominated stand), and is guided through an assessment of the risk of these stands due to climate change. In the latter two stands, we learn that if balsam fir is a prominent component of the overstory and understory, the stand is at a higher risk from climate change. Balsam fir is sensitive to extremes in weather, is susceptible to pests, and is vulnerable to wind events. If the regeneration in a forest stand is predominantly balsam fir, the stand may be stuck in a “successional loop” and may not move to a more resilient and diverse forest type naturally.
Part 3 of the series takes a deep dive into three stand types, with recommendations for management options to improve carbon storage and create resilience.
Balsam fir-dominated stands – a common situation in many New Brunswick forests. To break the cycle of balsam fir regeneration and improve resilience, the foresters recommend planting other species (like acorns from red oak trees) and gradually removing the balsam fir in the overstory to create an irregular, multi-aged stand.
The second and third stand types covered include Mature mixedwood and Younger mixedwood stands. The recommendations here include leaving the more resilient species (e.g., red maple, red oak) and thinning the spruce and fir.
The video series encourages landowners to understand what species are present in their forests, and to consider the broad spectrum of management options available rather than the conventional recommendations of clearcutting and short-rotation softwood production. A focus on maximizing softwood timber supply could put forest owners in a vulnerable situation when the changing climate is considered.
For a more detailed description of management interventions to adapt to climate change, landowners can consult the silvicultural prescriptions in this companion document: Climate Change Resilience and Carbon Storage: Silvicultural Prescriptions for the Acadian Forest Regio
Campbell Creek Dam Removal Project
The Campbell Creek dam removal has been completed and the former headpond has been replanted with native grasses, willows and Acadian Forest species! This vegetation will serve to restore the former dam headpond to its original forest cover, shade the creek, and increase the stability of the riverbank by reinforcing the soil and preventing erosion. For the first time in over a century the creek is freely flowing!
Numerous partners came together to bring this project to fruition, and we feel privileged to be part of this Wolastoqey-led initiative. The removal of the dam and restoration of the former headpond will provide habitat for aquatic species-at-risk: Atlantic salmon and American eel, as well as other coldwater fish (brook trout & sea lamprey), and terrestrial species. In addition, the restored creek will provide improved water quality, landscape connectivity and downstream regulation of water & sediment flow.
Now that the dam has been removed, we will move onto the last phase of our Dam Removal and Riparian Restoration Management Plan: Post-Restoration Monitoring. This will continue each year until 2024 and will include studying changes in local ecology, water quality, hydrology, and environmental DNA sampling. This monitoring will ensure that the ecosystem is returning to its natural state.
Our project partners include: the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, Saint Mary’s First Nation, Wolastoqey Nation New Brunswick, the City of Fredericton, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Community Forests Canada, Colbr Consulting and Hilcon Engineering. Funding for this work was provided by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation and WWF-Canada.
Special shout out to the amazing tree planting crew from Community Forests Canada who helped us plant the entire headpond in just several hours.
For more information, be sure to check out these articles on the dam removal:
Fredericton’s Campbell Creek flows freely for the first time in a century
Keep up the good work on Nashwaak
Provincial Perspectives, Telegraph Journal
Consistent small steps to improve the Nashwaak River ecosystem are welcome.
The recent removal of the Campbell Creek dam provides an opportunity to monitor and contrast salmon health before and after. This is just the latest step in river health efforts, as work to amend the riparian ecosystem on the river has seen progress in recent years.
Floodplain restoration work has put thousands of trees back on Neill’s Flats, to anchor against erosion. These willows, dogwoods, poplar and silver maples buffer against flooding and also contribute to shading the river to ensure water temperatures stay cool – critical to salmon health.
Now, with free passage further up into tributaries, the fish have a better shot at reproducing and regaining population health in the St. John River watershed. More work is planned to assess culverts.
These continuing efforts matter, contributing to the overall health of the river and the organisms that call it home. The salmon is an iconic species and a symbol of our province’s bounty, but it’s facing challenges, More incremental work to help keep rivers free and cool is essential to setting up the salmon for success.
We support the work of the Nashwaak Watershed Association and wish them success.
Nashwaak group to monitor salmon after dam removal
Savannah Awde | The Daily Gleaner
As a recipient of this year’s Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, the Nashwaak Rivershed Association will look to monitor salmon activity after the recent removal of the Campbell Creek Dam.
Executive director Marieka Chaplin said the association hopes to use that grant to show that the dam’s removal was key to maintaining a healthy habitat for New Brunswick salmon.
“In 2021, along with a large group of quality partners, we were able to remove the dam on the Campbell Creek, which opened up over 32 square kilometers of habitat for species such as the Atlantic salmon,” she said, “The dam had been blocking their passage.”
That’s an issue when it comes to salmon, she said, as they rely on water travel to “high-quality habitats” for reproduction.
“They need to be able to travel out to cold-water tributaries, and they also need to be able to swim way out to the outer Bay of Fundy to complete their life cycles,” she said.
Until the dam’s removal in 2021, Chaplin said it had been 100 years since salmon had a place to travel for rearing and spawning in the Nashwaak Watershed.
Since then, the association has been collecting data to try and understand how successful the removal has been to regenerating the fish’s population in the river.
“One of the things that we’re going to do with the funding is do [environmental DNA] testing for Atlantic salmon,” she said. “That involves getting water samples from a couple different locations along the creek and seeing if they test positive for outer Bay of Fundy salmon or not.”
If the samples are positive, Chaplin said, it gives the group a “strong guarantee” that the salmon are now using that newly freed stream.
“Certainly it’s been exciting, because that species is being considered for listing on the endangered species list,” she said.
“Our human habitats are better places when we have higher species biodiversity. So we want to create more good spaces for salmon, or American eel, or any other type of endangered or native species here in our province.”
She noted that the association is always interested in helping private landowners with dams on their properties.
The grant will also help the Nashwaak team evaluate road culverts for fish passage.
“The goal of these projects is to improve habitat for this important, nearly listed endangered species,” she said.
To protect or retreat: Scores of homes at risk of erosion
Telegraph Journal Article by John Chilibeck
December 22, 2022
Kari Davis says the first sign of trouble was the crashing and banging outside her home.
The financial planner from British Columbia was spending her first winter in New Brunswick in 2018 after she and her husband sold everything and moved east to run an old campground in Durham Bridge, north of Fredericton.
She hadn’t anticipated what would happen if there was a January thaw on the Nashwaak River, just a stone’s throw from her cabin. But she was about to find out.
A large ice jam just downriver caused ice and water to crash the bank and flood her property.
“It was a little scary,” she said, describing the ice sheets that careened up over the bank at almost a foot thick. “I was here by myself and I had to evacuate. It’s the one and only time I did load the dog in the truck and left. We just had no idea what would happen.”
In the end, the water only went up on either side of her house. People nearby came to see if she was OK and warned her to stay away from the river’s edge.
“We have a great group of neighbours who came out and checked on me, and then they gave me crap for going to the other end of the property in my snowshoes to investigate. They said it was too dangerous. They told me, ‘No, there will be three surges, and you can’t go until they’re gone,’ and I was, like, ‘what?'”
A flood-proof plan
The Durham Bridge RV Resort had flooded before, in 2010, when several trailers were washed away, a factor that led the previous owners to abandon the business.
Since the scary experience and a slight scouring of the riverbank, Davis and her husband took several measures to flood-proof their property, which includes 34 full-service seasonal sites, a clubhouse and pool.
They raised their house two feet on concrete footings. The Nashwaak Watershed Association planted a dozen or so willows along the upper and lower banks. When they and their neighbour cut down several mature pine trees that were damaging their roofs, they left the stumps five feet high, to block any ice sheets from hitting their homes. And seasonal trailers are not allowed to be parked on the property during the winter.
The campground is similar to thousands of private properties along the province’s waterways and coastlines at risk of erosion and flood damage.
In recent weeks, there have been calls inside the legislature from the opposition Liberals and Greens for government compensation for people whose oceanfront properties collapsed into the sea following storms caused by hurricanes Fiona and Nicole in the fall. Premier Blaine Higgs has promised that federal disaster assistance is on the way to help.
Thousands of properties at risk
One specialist says it shouldn’t be a big surprise where coastal and riverfront properties are eroding.
Sabine Dietz, the executive director of CLIMAtlantic, says while predicting the timing of a catastrophic event is difficult, the provincial government already has excellent flood mapping and a database of the worst erosion spots.
“The worse climate change gets, the more challenges we’ll have along our waterways,” she said in an interview. “We’ve known for many, many years that there are areas at high risk. All you have to do is look at the flood portal that the provincial government has and the erosion database they have as well. People working in these fields have been raising red flags for many, many years.”
A report released in August by Ottawa gives a good idea how many New Brunswick property owners are at risk.
The paper by Canada’s Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation says that New Brunswick private property owners will suffer an annual average loss of $104 million due to flooding. All told, there are 48,951 residential properties in New Brunswick within the top ten per cent for risk of flooding, and 6,867 residential properties within the top one per cent.
Dietz said it made sense to help people whose properties had been developed decades ago along waterways, but that new development in risky areas should be stopped.
She said in some cases, coastal shorelines could be protected by re-creating what she called “living shorelines,” by building back sand dunes, anchored by beach grasses with long roots.
“You want a buffer between people and the waves,” she said. “The dunes of Bouctouche are an excellent example of this. Those dunes move and shift, but they also protect the Town of Bouctouche from erosion.”
Riverbanks, meanwhile, can be shored up by the planting of native trees and bushes, such as willows and silver maples, species that thrive in flood plains, while alders are excellent protection for stream banks.
She strongly recommended against rock armouring, which she described as a temporary emergency solution to protect critical infrastructure such as roadways, but is poor for long-term protection against erosion.
She said during Hurricane Fiona many people in Nova Scotia found out that hard barriers can often be breached by huge waves that cause damage and erosion to the other side. They also tend to compound the problems for neighbouring property owners who don’t have a rock armour.
Time to retreat?
In many instances, the specialist thinks governments should encourage property owners to move back from shorelines, what she called “managed retreat.”
“We need to look everywhere along flood plains and shorelines where it’s eroding really fast and get out of the way of the risk. We can’t actually stop it with rocks or soft measures. We can just slow it down.”
She said one of the problems was local governments, desperate for funds, often support risky development because waterfront properties are popular and bring in a lot of property tax money.
Dietz also said it was important for governments to do a careful cost-benefit analysis before taking on expensive measures to protect shoreline.
“I would put my emphasis on helping people retreat,” she said. “Because if you try to protect everyone in the highest-risk areas, you’d have to put in a massive amount of structures, which are not the long term solution to this problem. They are temporary measures that won’t last forever.”
As for Davis, she said she supports government compensation for property owners who sustain damage is someone else is at fault.
“If the government has allowed activities upriver that have caused drastic changes to the landscape, for example deforestation or putting in a mine or clearing lots, they should compensate people downriver in some way. If that leads to erosion downriver, they should compensate property owners for some of it.”
She made the case that property owners should seek flood insurance if they want to live in risky areas such as hers. “People say you can’t get flood insurance. But you should look into it. I got flood insurance. Granted there’s a large deductible of $25,000 but if the entire place goes, I’ll gladly pay that.”
To see the original article, check out the Telegraph Journal.
Province Provides Only Partial Protection To River
July 19, 2022 Daily Gleaner article by John Chilibeck
A newly conserved area along the Nashwaak River in central New Brunswick has one large gaping hole, says the group that helped nominate the area as part of the provincial government’s goal to double its permanently protected land and waterways.
Ian Lodge, a board director of the Nashwaak Watershed Association, had recommended the province conserve several tracts of old growth forest near the proposed Sisson Mine site. Instead, the province announced last week it would protect Crown Land from industrial development and forestry south of the proposed mine site, along about 50 kilometres of the Nashwaak, a tributary of the St. John, or Wolastoq, River.
“I didn’t expect all the area that I nominated to be selected for conservation” Lodge said in an interview Monday. “It was kind of a shoot-high-and-expect-low exercise. But I’m pretty happy that 3,000 hectares in the Upper Nashwaak have been selected, which is a large area. It covers the river from Nashwaak Lake to the Stanley area. That’s awesome. And I hope they’ll expand it.”
When the province launched its New Brunswick Nature Legacy Information Hub in November 2020, people were invited to nominate specific areas and share their reasons why they should be preserved. Mike Holland, the minister responsible for natural resources, set a goal of increasing permanently protected areas from 4.6 per cent to 10 per cent of New Brunswick’s land and freshwater.
Lodge, who also worked for the Nature Trust of New Brunswick at the time, know that Crown land along the Nashwaak was a prime candidate. Using geographic information system mapping, he put together a list of the most important old forest, riparian and wetland habitat that’s home to several species at risk.
He eventually submitted a list of 2,000 hectares he thought would be best to conserve. The province, however, included fewer than 500 of these hectares, picking different parcels along the river’s banks.
The rural area an hour’s drive north of Fredericton has rolling hills, steep banks and a shallow, rocky-bottom river where endangered Atlantic Salmon spawn. The trees nestled on the hill include sugar maples, hemlock, black spruce and red spruce, idea of rare species such as the Canada Warbler, Olive-Sided Flycatcher and Canada Lynx. “It’s beautiful in there” Lodge said. “Very few people, very few camps, and a lot of forestry.”
A spokesperson for the provincial government pointed out it had only announced the first 100,000 hectares associated with The Nature Legacy initiative. By March 31, 2023 about another 300,000 hectares of conserved areas will be selected for final protection.
The Upper Nashwaak River Valley (from Nashwaak Lake to the Stanly area) is one of the featured conserved areas of the NB Nature Legacy. In addition to the Nashwaak River, the Headwaters of the Penniac Stream are also featured. The NWAI is deeply committed to increasing protected and conserved Crown land in the watershed. On July 14th, the province announced that the first 84 Nature Legacy protected areas were established. The first 84 areas will protect about 90,000 hectares and more than 10,000 hectares will soon be added for a total of more than 100,000 and will provide important habitat to conserve the province’s biodiversity.
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