Île aux Pommes lies 5.6 km off the south shore of the St. Lawrence estuary, near the town of L'Isle-Verte Québec. The town approximately 25 km east of Rivière-du-Loup, and the mouth of the Saguenay River is opposite Île aux Pommes on the north shore of the river. The island is 1.7 km long with a maximum width of 200 m and is surrounded by five islets. Approximately half of the island is covered with two types of vegetation. In the protected areas, high herbaceous and low shrub vegetation is mainly composed of Calamagrostis canadensis, with Epilobium angustifolium, Ribes hirtellum, Rubus idaeus, Rosa blanda, and some pockets of Heracleum maximum. Isolated stunted individuals of White spruce, White birch, and Green Alder are the only trees present. The more exposed parts of the island are chiefly covered with Elymus arenaria, along with Lathyrus japonicus and Rumex mexicanus. The island and surrounding islets are an extension of the Applachian Mountain System and are comprised of shale. The mean annual temperature is 3.3°C and the mean tidal amplitude is about 3.5 m. The only building found on Île aux Pommes is a cabin occasionally used by visitors and researchers.
Île au Pommes is an important breeding island for several species. The nesting birds on the island have been monitored on a somewhat regular basis since at least 1951. In 2000, greater than 2% of the Atlantic Common Eider population (ssp. dresseri), or almost 1% of the North American Common Eider breeding population nested on Île aux Pommes. An average of 2,277 pairs was recorded between 1963-78 and 2,368 pairs were counted in 2000. Also, in 1990, about 3% of the North American Herring Gull and 1.4% of the Great Black-backed Gull population nested here.
Since 1951, numbers of Double-crested Cormorants have ranged between about 150 and 1,050 pairs (1951- 1999); high counts of 1039/1050 pairs were recorded in 1989.
Other birds found on this island include American Black Duck, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and American Crow. On average about 33 pairs of American Black Ducks breed on Île au Pommes each year. Broods of these ducks tend to be led to a tidal marsh on the mainland shore, whereas eider broods tend to be led to downstream shorelines. Colonial nesting species breed in the sheltered areas of the island.
The St. Lawrence is one of the most important and heavily used waterways in North America and therefore, oil spills are an ongoing threat to the islands of the estuary. In 1977, most eider nests (63.3 %) were destroyed by Herring and Great Black-backed gulls. At this site, spectacular concentrations of birds, like the eiders, attract many tourists and naturalists. In spring, yachting can become very intense around the islands, leading to unintentional disruption of nesting birds.
The landscape of the are is made out of Spartina marsh, eelgrass beds, rocky shores and gravel or pebbles beaches. Some rivers are hosting rainbow smelt spawning runs (the south shore population of the St. Lawrence middle estuary). At the beginning of the summer, it is possbile to observe capelin rolling on the beaches during spawning. The downstream migration of American eel toward their breeding sites in the Atlantic, which takes place in the fall, allows the capture of migraing adults using fishing weirs. Two other species commercially exploited are also roaming in the open waters of the estuary: the Atlantic sturgeon and Atlantic herring.
Loss of fish habitat remains a major problem in the region. The dikes, for example, reduce the number of spawning habitats, while agricultural along the coast, the residential development and the presence of resorts together with coastal erosion are resulting in the destruction of several riparian ecosystems.
Major species present:
Rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary)
The islands of the region are made out of schist and quartzite. Despite the harshness of the environment and climate, a surprising flora manages to grow there. In herbaceous areas, the fireweed and grasses, such as Small reed dominate. Small groves of wild rose, raspberry and Gooseberry ornament the landscape. Areas sheltered are colonized by spruces, which form small woodlands. In area swept by the tides, algae colonize the bedrock while the shallow areas are occupied by eelgrass.
The geographical barrier created by the St. Lawrence river provides the IBA a kind of natural protection, a protection often enhanced by legal protection. However, water pollution and the risks of oil spills remain a source of concern for the protection of the flora and fauna of this area.
Major species present :
Small reed / reed grass
|Great Black-backed Gull|