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Wetland Protection

Wetlands Work For Us!

Beaver. Blue heron. Marten. Toad. Every mom and dad in New Brunswick has a story about that magical moment their child saw one of these awe-inspiring creatures in the wild for the first time. Often, though, it’s easy to forget about the leading character that makes these special encounters possible: our wetlands.

Call it a bog, or fen, or swamp, or marsh, the truth is, these different types of wetlands are a huge part of what makes life in New Brunswick so great.

Wetlands are nature’s powerhouses. They are teeming with life, from unique vegetation, critters and insects, to frogs, waterfowl and moose — wetlands provide hundreds of species with the ideal habitat to thrive, eat, sleep and raise their young.

Wetlands are key to our way of life in New Brunswick. Let’s be honest — we’re a rural province full of people who’d prefer to get their feet wet outside in the woods than spend a long day indoors. But you may not realize the important role wetlands play in a healthy forest ecosystem. Well-functioning wetlands provide us spaces for hunting, birding, canoeing, hiking, nature photography and more.

Wetlands protect our environment and our communities. They filter pollution from our water and help clean up the water running off agricultural or forested lands. They keep our homes, villages and communities safe during times of flooding. They protect us from drought by holding water during dry spells. They help slow climate change by absorbing excess carbon pollution.

Despite all they do for us, we haven't always been so kind to our wetlands.

Across Canada, up to 70 per cent of wetlands have already been destroyed or downgraded. We have a bad habit of draining wetlands to make space for new developments, often overlooking the value and benefits these wet spaces provide.

Over time, our understanding of just how important wetlands are to our society and to our environment has greatly improved, and we’re getting better at protecting these spaces that do so much to protect us.

In fact, one of the first actions New Brunswick’s provincial government took in January 2020 was releasing a new, more accurate and robust map of wetlands across the province. This was a big step, one that your Conservation Council and fellow watershed associations long called for, as it will help all of us, from nature enthusiasts to developers to hunters and fishers, better protect these important habitats. Check it out!

There is still more we need to do to keep our wetlands—along with all the neat animals and plants that rely upon them—healthy and thriving. We’re working with allies and government to ensure these special spaces get the protections they need and deserve. Click here to read our May 2021 letter to the provincial government laying out our recommendations for stronger wetland protection regulations and laws.

Want to give something back to your local wetland?

Watershed groups are always looking for volunteers to help with their stewardship activities. Check out this list of watershed groups in N.B. to find your local outfit and get involved today! You can also help us spread the love for N.B.’s wetlands by sharing our #LoveNBWetlands posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Go one step further and share your own photos of N.B. wetlands and wetland-loving wildlife or people, and be sure to use the hashtag #LoveNBWetlands!

Take a virtual tour of N.B. wetlands

While nothing can beat the experience getting outside exploring a wetland in person, check out this photo gallery of N.B. wetlands and wetland critters, featuring many photos from our friend, fellow New Brunswicker, and conservation photographer extraordinaire, the talented Nick Hawkins.

The Virginia rail is seldom seen and can remain completely hidden despite being only a few feet away. Their long toes help them to walk on top of submerged vegetation and they can compress their bodies laterally to slip between reeds and grass.
Photograph from the St. George Marsh, NB. Nick Hawkins Photography
An aerial view reveals intricate wetland designs in the Musquash Estuary.
Nick Hawkins Photography
Spring Peepers are nocturnal creatures, hiding from their many predators during the day and emerging at night to feed on such delicacies as beetles, ants, flies, and spiders. Peepers especially love wooded wetlands or swampy areas near forested areas because they like to hibernate under tree bark or fallen logs. The name “spring peeper” refers to the loud, sleigh bell-like calls which males produce at the beginning of the spring.Did you know? Spring Peepers can allow most of their bodies to freeze during winter hibernation and still survive.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
The loud chorus calls of spring peepers is a familiar sound to many who live near or visit wetlands of the Acadian forest. The high-pitched ringing calls are a welcome sign of spring that can be heard through early summer as males compete for the attention of the egg-laying females. Despite being so familiar to many, few people have actually seen a spring peeper up close as these frogs are very small and difficult to see in the dense marsh vegetation that they prefer. They are one of eight species of Acadian forest frogs.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
A bull moose descends to a forest wetland. Moose are an important browser in the Acadian forest region and shape the natural regeneration of the forests they live in.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Spotted Salamander at Ayers Lake, N.B. There are both yellow and blue-spotted species in New Brunswick. They live in temperate hardwood and mixed forests that have nearby swamps or freshwater ponds, which they need for breeding. Did you know that Spotted Salamanders return to the same mating pool via the same route every year?
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
The biodiversity and health of our forests depends on preserving the microhabitats that are found within them. Perhaps there is no better example of this then in the case of the vernal pool, temporary pools of water that form in the spring and dry up later in the summer. These unique wetlands lack predatory fish that would normally eat the young of salamanders and frogs and are critical breeding habitat for the majority of our amphibian species.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
But why do amphibians matter? Consider this - the largest vertebrate biomass in our forests is not made up of bears, moose or deer, in fact, it is not even a mammal. It is the salamanders that make up the majority of vertebrate biomass in our forests! Without these important habitats, amphibian species can not thrive and play the critical role that they do in our forests.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
The developing larvae of yellow spotted salamanders share a symbiotic relationship with a species of green algae that exists no where else in nature. The egg is a habitat for the algae and prevents it from drying out, while the algae produces oxygen for the developing embryo.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
The northern leopard frog is one of the most beautiful amphibians of the Acadian Forest. Research on this species has led to the discovery of an enzyme that could be used to treat many different kinds of cancers! Populations of this stunning frog have declined since the 1970's due to environmental pollutants and habitat loss.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
An aerial view reveals intricate wetland designs in the Musquash Estuary, N.B.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Many people associate orchids with the tropics, but the Acadian Forest of N.B. is home to many orchid species, like this purple-fringed orchid. This uncommon plant grows along forest streams where conditions are just right and can reach a height of 50cm and have up to 40 delicate flowers that give the plant its other name: butterfly orchid.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Salt Marsh, Musquash Estuary Marine Protected Area, New Brunswick.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
The round-leaved sundew is a carnivorous plant often found in bogs, fens and marshes. This one was photographed in a wooded wetland at Ayers Lake, New Brunswick.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
The round-leaved sundew is a carnivorous plant often found in bogs, fens and marshes. This one was photographed in a wooded wetland at Ayers Lake, New Brunswick.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Another beautiful orchid from the Acadian Forest. The yellow lady slipper is a distinct species, separate from the more common pink lady's slipper. They prefer wet, calcareous soils, such as the wetland habitat of vernal pools, and are very specific to local growing conditions.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Reflections of Canada Geese nesting at Mactaquac Provincial Park.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
A dynamic mosaic of Acadian forest and freshwater wetlands in southern New Brunswick.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Beaver lodge at Hyla Park Nature Preserve, Fredericton.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
Saints Rest Marsh. N.B.
Photo: Nick Hawkins Photography
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