Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada us­ing drone to map Pug­wash River Es­tu­ary

Im­por­tant habi­tat for ducks, fish im­pacted by Euro­pean Green Crab

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - COMMUNIT Y -

PUG­WASH - The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada is tak­ing steps to try and as­sess the im­pact of the Euro­pean Green Crab on the Northum­ber­land Strait in Nova Sco­tia.

It is us­ing a small air­plane as well as an un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle, or a drone, to gather images and in­for­ma­tion on the sta­tus of in­ter­tidal habi­tat in the Pug­wash River Es­tu­ary.

The im­agery will help the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada take a closer look at the amount and con­di­tion of eel grass in the es­tu­ary, an in­di­ca­tor of how healthy it is.

Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada Pro­gram Man­ager Craig Smith said the project is de­signed to help track how eel grass is sur­viv­ing against an in­creas­ing and sig­nif­i­cant threat.

The Euro­pean Green Crab is found in coastal wa­ters in north­ern Nova Sco­tia. It re­duces the health of eel­grass beds by dig­ging into the sandy or muddy bot­tom look­ing for prey. This dig­ging causes eel grass to be up­rooted and lost.

Eel-grass mead­ows are im­por­tant for fil­ter­ing and trap­ping sed­i­ment, im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity and help­ing sus­tain mi­gra­tory wa­ter­fowl. Th­ese mead­ows also act as a crit­i­cal marine nurs­ery area by pro­vid­ing food and pro­tec­tion for many com­mer­cial fish and species like lob­sters and shrimp.

"Eel-grass mead­ows are one of the most pro­duc­tive ecosys­tems in the world," said Smith. "Their slip­pery, grass like leaves pro­vide nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits to coastal en­vi­ron­ments and we are cre­at­ing a base­line dataset of eel­grass in the es­tu­ary to help de­tect fu­ture changes."

The images are be­ing taken and used for re­search and plan­ning as the Na­ture Con­ser­vancy of Canada man­ages over 1,100 acres in the Pug­wash River Es­tu­ary, a provin­cially sig­nif­i­cant wet­land com­plex. The im­agery was col­lected by Hal­i­fax pho­tog­ra­pher and videog­ra­pher Mike Dem­beck. The images and data col­lected will help in­form man­age­ment de­ci­sions in the area and pro­vide a ref­er­ence for re­search ques­tions in the fu­ture.

The Euro­pean green crab is na­tive to Europe and North Africa and ar­rived on the shores of At­lantic Canada in the 1990s. Since then, it has spread be­tween New­found­land and Vir­ginia, com­pet­ing for re­sources and sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect­ing the abun­dance of eel-grass in coastal ar­eas.

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