The Kamouraska IBA includes approximately 25 km of coast on the south shore of the St. Lawrence Upper Estuary. The IBA is bordered, in whole or in part, by four municipalities: Saint-Denis-De-La Bouteillerie, Kamouraska, Saint-Germain and Saint-André which are connected by Highway 132. The terrestrial area of the IBA is comprised of arable land, resorts and numerous tributaries including the Kamouraska River. Aboiteaux (dykes) are installed intermittently in the upper tidal marshes to prevent the flooding of cultivated land along the estuary during high tides. These structures are interspersed with two wharves, monadnocks (rock formations) as well as some access paths to the St. Lawrence River. The coastal area is characterized by cordgrass marshes and a large mud flat holding sea kelp which is exposed at low tide. The IBA's maritime portion comprises the Kamouraska archipelago including around fifteen islands, islets and reefs.
Kamouraska supports globally significant flocks of Greater Snow Geese in spring, with a peak count of 25,000 recorded in 1988. Atlantic Canada Geese (subspecies interior and canadensis) also pass through here in significant numbers. In 1976, 8,100 were recorded, which is more than 1% of this subspecies' population.
A diversity of waterfowl species also congregate at this site in globally significant numbers. The size of the waterfowl population at this site varied from 36,000 in 1992 to 9,000 in 1998. Surveys prior to 1982 recorded 57 waterbird species (loons, grebes, cormorants, geese, ducks etc), and a total of 14,680 birds in spring, and 2,575 in fall.
Spring surveys of the mid-estuary and western part of the marine estuary revealed that of these sections of the St Lawrence River the Kamouraska-Andréville area is one of the most frequently used places by waterbirds. The marsh is particularly important to dabblers, and compared to other areas in the St. Lawrence system, this site supports a high diversity and abundance of waterfowl. Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal also occur here, and the area is an important breeding area for American Black Ducks.
Large flocks of Snow Buntings pass through the site, especially during spring migration. In 1991, 6,700 Snow Buntings were counted. Horned Larks are also often recorded in large numbers, migrating alongside the Snow Buntings.
In the fall of 1982, 1,200 shorebirds were counted on the Kamouraska flats. The most abundant species was Semipalmated Sandpiper, followed by Black-bellied Plover and Semipalmated Plover. Flocks of other shorebird species did not exceed one hundred individuals. Spring shorebird numbers are lower for all species, except Semipalmated Plover, which is equally abundant in both seasons.
There is a pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting nearby that hunt within the site during the breeding season.
Agriculture is an important economic activity in the region and this poses some challenges to conserving habitats here. The quality and availability of natural habitats are affected by the loss of large tracts of coastal wetlands following the construction of aboiteaux (dykes) in the 1970s as well as the degradation of water quality in many tributaries where nonpoint source pollution has been detected. The aboiteaux are also preventing the input of organic matter from surrounding lands, thus reducing the marshes productivity. Finally, the regular maintenance of these infrastructures causes disturbance to flora of the upper marshes.
European reed and Japanese knotweed are two invasive plant species which have been reported in many parts of the IBA. The spread of these invasive species may have a negative impact on the breeding habitat of the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow and Short-eared Owl.
The risk of oil spills from the numerous boats/vessels using the St. Lawrence Seaway remains a threat to this IBA's habitats and biodiversity. Furthermore, recreational and commercial boating, including nautical tourism, can disturb wildlife.
However, the Kamouraska IBA is offered several forms of protection. It is within the coordination area of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and includes eight designated Aquatic Birds Concentration Areas and a National Wildlife Area. Some islands have been designated (provincially) as Wildlife Habitat - Bird Colony. The Société d'écologie de la batture du Kamouraska (SEBKA), which is devoted to the development of the natural environment of the Batture de Saint-André, owns and manages approximately 2 km of coastal habitat. Note that hunting is prohibited on almost all of the islands of the archipelago as well as on the outskirts of Kamouraska and Saint-André within the IBA's limits.
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 landscape of the coastal region is punctuated with salt marshes. Plant species that grow are especially well adapted to survive the rigors of the environment. They occupy different parts of the marsh according to their tolerance to salinity and immersion (tides). We found there mainly cordgrass, saltmeadow cordgrass and glasswort. The tight formation of stems and the large roots network of cordgrass promote the deposition and retention of sediments, reducing coastal erosion. In areas with weak currents, eelgrass colonizes silty soils, while seaweeds attach and inhabit rocky substrates.
The destruction and loss of habitats (shoreline fill, draining wetlands, urbanization) are the main threats affecting the ecosystems of the area. Water pollution and risks of oil spills remain issues of concern. The spread of invasive species need to be monitored. It should be noted that the region is home to 18 endemic plant species, including two endangered species in Québec.
Major species present :
Cordgrass – main species
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