Conserving NL's Special Places
Newfoundland and Labrador is home to many important and sensitive wildlife habitats. The iconic puffin, the fish that swim our rivers, and the shorebirds that visit our coastlines each fall are just some of the things that make our biodiversity special. As a central part of SAM's mission we work to identify, prioritize and conserve the land areas of the province that support important biodiversity and are important to us culturally. We seek, in partnership with our municipal members, to find a balance between preservation of biodiversity values and economic and social development opportunities. We also recognize that there are many ways that these lands can be effectively conserved and so we actively seek to share our findings with other people and groups who share our vision.
The Limestone Barrens of the west coast of the island of Newfoundland constitutes an ecosystem at risk. The Limestone Barrens are comprised of the Northern and Southern Limestone Barren regions. The Northern Region is made up of patches and slivers of unforested land, extending in a north-northeasterly direction, along the extreme western and northwestern margins of the Great Northern Peninsula. The Southern Region is made up of the summit of Table Mountain, west of Stephenville, and several exposed sections of the nearby Port au Port Peninsula.
The Limestone Barrens supports a very high percentage of its rare plants. Of the 298 vascular plants considered rare on the Island, 104 occur on the Barrens and 22 of these species are found only on the Great Northern Peninsula. The Town of Port au Choix has been identified by the Limestone Barrens Species at Risk Recovery Team as having the most vulnerable population of the threatened Fernald's braya in the world. In addition to Fernald's braya, Wild chives and Wooly arnica are both rare Limestone Barrens plant species.
Chemically, these regions are underlain by both limestone and dolomite bedrock. Biologically, these regions harbour a rich and unique flora and fauna. And, anthropologically, they tend to occur in close proximity to human habitation, and are therefore subject to the many dangers of this close association.
Threats to the Limestone Barrens:
Ecologically, they are consistently subjected to challenging climactic conditions; in general because of their exposed barren aspect, but, more specifically, towards the north, because of the colder conditions. The limestone barrens occupy a very restricted area. Thus, most of the limestone plants that live there are quite rare. The worry is that climate change may both diminish the already small size of our barrens (through natural reforestation), and cause cold-loving arctic and alpine species at the limit of their ranges here to perish from our shores.
By signing a Habitat Stewardship Agreement, communities that lie within the Limestone Barren regions are committing to the conservation and enhancement of the habitat within their municipal boundaries, protecting the vulnerable species within.
Habitat Stewardship Agreements within the Limestone Barrens: