Project to inventory province's numerous rare plants
Among those with a love for plants, Newfoundland and Labrador has been called the best kept secret in North America. The province's geographic position, climate and geology combine to support an unusual diversity of plants for a northern area, with typically sub-arctic species co-occurring and overlapping with typically southern Appalachian species.
"About 440 of the province's plant species are considered by expert botanists to be rare. A three-year project to update the inventory of these species has just begun, with field work beginning on the west coast of the island in June," said Kevin Aylward, Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods.
"The west coast is really rich in rare vascular plant species. We wanted to start the inventory work there because 90 per cent of Newfoundland's rare vascular plant species are found on the west coast. In particular, we'll be concentrating on the Northern and Port au Port peninsulas. These areas contain what we call limestone barrens habitat, which is really critical to the survival of over 100 rare species. Some limited work will also be done on the southern part of Labrador," said the minister.
Joe Brazil, endangered species biologist for the provincial Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, heads a project steering committee comprised of some of the foremost authorities on Newfoundland's flora, including Dr. Luise Hermanutz and Dr. Peter Scott of Memorial University. Henry Mann of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, John Maunder of the Newfoundland Museum, Susan Meades of Thunder Bay, Ontario and Dr. Luc Brouillet of the institut de recherche en biologie vegetale at the Universite du Montreal.
"We are very fortunate to have these experts involved in the project," said Brazil. "Some of them have spent considerable portions of their careers roaming the mountains, rivers and coastlines of Newfoundland documenting the presence and condition of our floral heritage."
The project will cost an estimated $250,000 over three years. To date, financial and in-kind support has been provided from 10 sources across the country. Newfoundland based sources are the Department of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Gros Morne National Park and the Western Newfoundland Model Forest. Other sources are the EJLB Foundation in Montreal, the McLean Foundation in Toronto, Shell Environmental Fund in Calgary, Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver, and the Canadian Wildlife Service. As well, support provided by the Endangered Species Recovery Fund, managed jointly by the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service, has been made possible through a grant from the Canadian Millennium Partnership Program.
"With our first year of funding we've recruited a team of botanists who will do the labour-intensive field work this summer," stated Minister Aylward. "Data on the occurrence and status of rare plants will be compiled by the team in the field, and then sent to the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre in Sackville, New Brunswick."
The conservation data centre (CDC) is set up to manage biodiversity data through its Biological Conservation Data System, a system shared by about 85 other CDC's found in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Recently, centre staff added to this system perhaps the most extensive set of data in the world on rare plants of Newfoundland. The data set was compiled by the institut de recherche en biologie vegetale, which since 1972 has maintained a very active field research program on the island.
"Through the Newfoundland Rare Plant Project, we'll be adding much new information on the island's rare flora to our database," comments Robert Rainer, executive director of the centre. "All Newfoundlanders will be able to access this information. We expect that the Newfoundland government, which is a major partner in our centre, will be using it greatly in the years to come to help make decisions concerning the conservation of rare plants and animals found in Newfoundland and Labrador."
1999 07 29 11:45 a.m.