Nature Conservancy of Canada using drone to map Pugwash River Estuary
Important habitat for ducks, fish impacted by European Green Crab
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.