Caledonia Highlands Plateau
The Caledonia Highlands quickly rise 300 metres from the nearby coast. Fundy National Park is in the transition zone between the strictly coniferous boreal forest to the north and deciduous-dominated forest to the south.
Generally the park's forest is a mix of red spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch, white birch and maples. It is known as the Acadian Forest. While maples contribute the most brilliant autumn colours from mid-September to mid-October, balsam fir gives a wonderful fragrance to the forests of Fundy. The forest floor is covered with carpets of moss, wood fern and bunchberry. By mid-late summer, the bright red clumps of the bunchberry fruit are very common.
Representing the southern element of the Acadian Forest and covering only 5.4% of the park are pure hardwood stands. Although common as part of the mixed forest that blankets the park, hardwood species grow in pure stands only on well-drained rocky hillsides with southern exposure. Yellow birch, the largest of Fundy's hardwoods, and white birch are the most abundant. Other species include sugar maple, red maple and beech. A unique group of plants, called spring ephemeral, grows in the hardwood forest. They bloom before the trees grow their leaves in late May. In a few short weeks, species such as spring beauty and trout lily have bloomed and disappeared underground, waiting for next year's spring rush.
The coniferous forest represents the boreal element of the Acadian Forest. With the rarity of fire along the Bay of Fundy coast, spruce budworm has been the most important agent of change in the spruce-fir forest and is responsible for maintaining the forest in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Pure stands of conifers are rare in Fundy National Park, but it is there that one can appreciate the majesty of the tall red spruce, which can live 200 years or more. The park harbours some of the last pure stands of red spruce in eastern North America.
Fundy National Park protects a wide variety of plants. There are 804 species of vascular plants here. These include ferns and club-mosses, which reproduce by spores. Flowering plants such as the rare bird's-eye Primrose, found only in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, is a cliff-dwelling plant remnant of a colder climate.
Less known are the bryophytes represented by mosses and liverworts. These small plants are often found growing on rocks and tree trunks. Many also grow on the forest floor. There are 276 species of bryophytes in Fundy National Park.
More than 400 species of lichens have been found in Fundy National Park. These small plants, that few people know by name, cover the forest floor, rocks and tree trunks. One may find as many as 30 species on a single tree! The lichen does not harm the trees they grow on, they simply use them to avoid competition from other taller plants on the ground.
In wet, poorly drained areas such as along the Caribou Plain trail, black spruce and larch live in a thick sphagnum moss carpet. Some of these stunted trees have lived here for more than a century, yet are no taller than a person. A lack of nutrients in naturally acidic soil is a major constraint to their growth. Some bog plants have found ways to supplement their meagre diets by catching and consuming insects. Three species of insectivorous plants may be seen at Caribou Plain bog; they are the pitcher plant, sundew and bladderwort.
The shallow waters of ponds and streams surrounding the bog support much animal life. At dusk or dawn, moose and beaver become active, feeding on succulent yellow pond lilies. Although the bog pond is too acidic for most frogs and fish eggs to hatch, many adult frogs can be seen in and near the pond.
Fundy is well positioned on the Atlantic migration route, and over 260 bird species have been identified in the park or on the adjacent bay. Of those, approximately 95 species have nested in the park. Common species in the park include many types of warblers, pileated woodpeckers, juncos, white-winged crossbills, great blue herons, cormorants, semi-palmated sandpipers and semi-palmated plovers. The Peregrine falcon, which was extirpated by the time the park was established in 1948, has been successfully reintroduced.
A common resident of Fundy's forests is the ruffed grouse. Early spring resonates with the deep thumping sounds of the male grouse's drumming.
Spring and early summer nights vibrate with the mating calls of frogs and toads. The earliest performers are the wood frogs and the tiny spring peepers whose forceful whistles echo in shrill massed chorus across the dark ponds. These sounds are soon augmented by the long trills of American toads. Marshy ponds and lakes are the home of leopard and pickerel frogs whose roars and growls mix with the "plunks" of green frogs, and -later in the summer-the bass droning roar of bullfrogs.
Salamanders, the other amphibians in the park are mute. Seven species live in moist places: the yellow-spotted, red-backed and four-toed in mossy glades and inside rotten logs; the dusky, blue-spotted and two-lined under rocks near springs and brooks, and adult newts in ponds and lakes.
Of these seven species, three are considered rare. Four-toed salamanders have not been found anywhere else in New Brunswick, and Fundy is the only Canadian national park known to contain northern dusky salamanders. The third rare salamander is the blue-spotted salamander.
There are no turtles in Fundy. The rugged terrain and the rocky and boggy characteristics of its lakes have prevented their establishment.
Four species of snakes have been found in Fundy National Park. The largest and most common is the eastern garter snake. Up to a metre long, garter snakes feed on small mammals, frogs, young birds and insects.
Green snakes-emerald above and cream-coloured below grow to about 50 cm long. Like the smaller red-bellied snake, they are most often found in old fields and around rock piles. Both feed mainly on insects. The ring-necked snake is rare. It only grows to 30 cm long, and feeds at nights on insects and salamanders.
There are no poisonous snakes in Fundy National Park.
Opportunities exist in Fundy National Park to observe mammals in their natural habitat, especially along trails and streams where openings are common. Of the 38 species in the park, those most commonly seen include snowshoe hare, chipmunk, red squirrel, little brown bat, eastern coyote, white-tailed deer and moose. Moose are the largest animals in the park and may weigh 1000 kilograms. They feed primarily in lakes and wetlands, but may browse along roadsides at dusk. Caution signs along the highway are meant to be heeded!
Darkness in Fundy brings the forest even more alive. Many species are active at night, including various mice and shrews, raccoon, black bear, beaver and the northern flying squirrel.
The nocturnal northern flying squirrel is almost as common as the diurnal red squirrel in Fundy's forests. The flying squirrel has been studied here. Recent research demonstrates an important association between this animal's diet and the trees. It dines on a particular kind of fungus that fruits underground. These fungi grow close to the roots of trees, and other plants, and help them to extract nutrients from poor soils. The squirrel helps spread the fungi via its droppings, contributing to the development of a healthy forest.