Île de l'Est is the eastern end of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine archipelago. The reserve (that is actually continuous with other ‘islands'), contains habitats that are indicative of the landscape diversity that occurs throughout the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. These habitats include outcrops of red sandstone, sand dunes, lagoons (some eutrophic and filled with vegetation), Crowberry moors, salt meadows, marshes, large beaches, freshwater, brackish and saltwater ponds, and stunted coniferous forest. Much of the area is comprised of sand deposits that have been colonized to a large extent by beachgrass (Short-liguled Ammophila). The extensive root system of this plant helps to stabilize the dunes. The red and purple berries of the Crowberry shrub provide an important food source for several species of birds. The site includes both the Pointe de l‘Est National Wildlife Reserve and the Refuge faunique de Pointe-de-l'Est
Île de l'Est beaches are a nationally significant breeding area for the globally vulnerable and nationally endangered Piping Plover. During the 1996 International Piping Plover Census, 8 birds were recorded, which represents almost 2% of the estimated Atlantic Canadian population. Records from 1979 onwards indicate a regular presence of one to four pairs at this site; the most recent 5 years of data show an average of 3 pairs.
Îles-de-la-Madeleine is the only site in eastern North America where Horned Grebes nest. One to four pairs breed each year in the IBA and additional post-breeding birds from the archipelago come Étang de Est. As many as 41 birds were observed during the summer of 1989.
Étang de l'Est is a large pond in the reserve that is particularly important to waterfowl as a staging and breeding area. Large numbers of American Black Ducks and Blue-winged Teals have been observed, as well as Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers. Seabirds that use this site include Common, Arctic, and Caspian terns and Great Black-backed and Herring gulls.
Good numbers of shorebirds make use of this site; during fall migration - about 2,500 shorebirds are typically found in the reserve at this time. The shallow waters of the outlying ponds and salt marshes attract Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated and White-rumped sandpipers, and Greater Yellowlegs. Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Golden Plovers and Pectoral Sandpipers may be found inland on the salt meadows. Substantial numbers of Whimbrels (200) have been also observed in the Crowberry moor.
Many birds that are local rarities or at the edge of their range have also been recorded at Pointe de l'Est, including the Stilt Sandpiper, Ruff, Eared Grebe, Northern Wheatear and Townsend's Solitaire.
In 1978, Pointe de l‘Est was designated as a National Wildlife Reserve and is owned by Environment Canada. The beaches are just outside the boundary of the reserve, but in 1998 the area around the reserve including the beaches was designated a provincial wildlife refuge (Refuge faunique de Pointe-de-l'Est). The dunal habitat is extremely susceptible to wind and tidal erosion, such that even walking in the area results in plant destruction and initiates erosion. Visitors are notified to stay on the trails and camping is forbidden, but hunting of migratory birds is allowed. The area is also at risk for oil spills, due to frequent boat traffic through the Gulf of St. Lawrence.In 1978, Pointe de l‘Est was designated as a National Wildlife Reserve and is owned by Environment Canada. The beaches are just outside the boundary of the reserve, but in 1998 the area around the reserve including the beaches was designated a provincial wildlife refuge (Refuge faunique de Pointe-de-l'Est). The dunal habitat is extremely susceptible to wind and tidal erosion, such that even walking in the area results in plant destruction and initiates erosion. Visitors are notified to stay on the trails and camping is forbidden, but hunting of migratory birds is allowed. The area is also at risk for oil spills, due to frequent boat traffic through the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The area is a paradise for many marine animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. The deep-water of Gulf harbor a variety of crustaceans, mollusks and benthic fish, including the yellowtail flounder, the winter flounder and the Atlantic halibut, a species highly prized by commercial fishermen. The American lobster is a important economic resource in the region. Many species also inhabit the offshore waters. For example, the mackerel is important for both the fishing industry and for its role in the food chain. The sandy beaches are populated by Atlantic surf clam and by soft-shell clam, two species targeted by the local population for recreational fishing. The Atlantic surf clam is also fished commercially with hand tools and hydraulic dredges. Spartina marshes and numerous brooks are found in the area and they are used as feeding and resting areas for a variety of fish, such the rainbow smelt and American eel. Brooks are also used for the reproduction of some species, such as rainbow smelt.
The main pressures on fish habitat are related to port operations, navigation, dredging and increased coastal erosion (increased suspended sediment, increased noise, riprap, etc.).
Major species present:
Atlantic surf clam
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