Sable Island’s Vulnerable Ecosystems


This Dalhousie research project is to develop a new biomonitoring measure for the freshwater ecosystems of Sable Island National Park Reserve. The development of a new biomonitoring measure will enable Dalhousie and Parks Canada to directly address the unknowns about the sustainability of Sable Island’s freshwater ecosystems in the face of ongoing environmental change. It will also aid in conservation planning and development through paleolimnology, the study of indicators preserved in lake sediment through time, which serve as storybooks of the past to ultimately calibrate projections for the future of the ecosystems.


Your contribution will be used to recruit students to Dalhousie University to assist with developing a monitoring program for the coastal freshwater ecosystems of Sable Island National Park Reserve, fieldwork and laboratory expenses for the collection and processing of samples, and equipment and consumables used for this research. Each dollar you give will be matched with three dollars by MEOPAR’s Fathom Fund, a federally-funded research granting agency – multiplying the impact of your gifts.


Dalhousie’s College of Sustainability will be partnering with Parks Canada to proceed with this Sable Island National Park Reserve research project. This research will use benthic macroinvertebrates as biological indicators for assessing the health of freshwater habitats as it is a common biomonitoring approach used across Canada. The basis behind their use is the ability to infer ecological condition from shifts in their abundance and diversity. Knowledge gained from monitoring benthic macroinvertebrate indicators can also be applied to detecting the influence of environmental stress at fine scales.

Sable Island National Park Reserve is an example of a coastal ecosystem that is highly influenced by environmental change and subsequent variability in weather extremes. An increase in storm-surge activity and erosion has led to large-scale change in the surface hydrology of Sable Island. This includes the loss of major freshwater sources that sustain populations of horses, birds, and many species of rare plants and invertebrates. Ultimately, the sustainability of freshwater systems of Sable Island is not known. Through this project, Dalhousie and Parks Canada will be able to highlight the need to understand the trajectory of these systems and monitor their ecological integrity.


Your donations will help recruit two Dalhousie graduate students to work with Parks Canada on setting up the biomonitoring assessment methods for the park. 100 per cent of the donations made to ProjectDal will go to student support.


jane stevenson