A tale of 400 trees

A Parks Canada ecologist measures a tree 

The Bring Back the Boreal project is about restoring degraded boreal forest. One component of the project includes reducing moose browsing in a 20km2 area of North Mountain so vegetation will have an opportunity to regenerate. Preliminary results are promising. At the start of this pilot project, we identified 100 plots on North Mountain and French Mountain, which has a similar ecological terrain to North Mountain. We measure the same balsam fir and white birch trees in each plot. We look at height, diameter, number of branches with new shoots, and the number of branches that have been browsed. These measurements are taken on the same trees every year and we compare changes year to year. Each year since June 2016, both areas have shown a statistically significant decrease in browsed twigs. In fact, North Mountain is showing fewer browsed twigs than French Mountain.

It takes decades for a forest to change. If individual trees are able to recover and grow normally, we can expect the forest to recover. Once trees get to a certain height, they can provide necessary shade for wildlife, prevent grass from overtaking the forest, and allow natural forest plants to re-establish.

Counting moose

Parks Canada monitors moose activity throughout the year and completes aerial surveys of the whole park every two to three years. We attempted to survey the moose population early in 2018 but Mother Nature had other plans! There was little snow on the ground, which meant moose were harder to spot and could move freely in and out of the survey transects, resulting in unreliable information.

We are hopeful the right conditions will be in place for a survey this winter, including lots of deep snow.

Fourth and final moose harvest

A moose 

Since 2015, Parks Canada has been reducing the moose population on North Mountain to give trees a chance to recover on their own. This year’s Mi’kmaq-led moose harvest will again be a collaboration with the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative) starting November 6 and could last until December 3 within the same 20 km2 area as previous years. Motorists may notice activity near the harvest area. Some closures will be in effect to help ensure everyone’s safety. The Cabot Trail will remain open to through traffic. This will be the last moose harvest of the Bring Back the Boreal pilot project.

Nova Scotia Community College on the Skyline trail

Students from the Nova Scotia Community College have been a part of the project the last few years. They helped plant tree seedlings on the Skyline trail and are measuring seedling growth. Working in the field alongside Parks Canada adds a valuable hands-on learning experience for the students as they prepare for careers in resource and environmental management.

The boreal forest in Cape Breton Highlands National Park is struggling. The Bring Back the Boreal project is a first step in restoring the health of this important ecosystem by planting tree seedlings, reducing the moose population, and building fences to prevent moose from overeating young trees. A healthy boreal forest provides shelter to animals who depend on that forest for survival, including moose, snowshoe hares, birds, squirrels, lynx and American marten.

Pour en savoir plus, consultez parcscanada.gc.ca/retablirlaforetboreale