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Battures de Beauport and chenal de l'île d'Orléans (QC107)

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Battures de Beauport and chenal de l'île d'Orléans (QC107)

Beauport, Québec

Latitude 46.880°N
Longitude 71.128°W
Altitude 0 - 6m
Area 36.13km²

Site Description

This IBA is situated along the St. Lawrence River, just east of Quebec City. The site includes the Île d'Orleans channel westward from l'Ange­Gardien, and continues westward to include the Beauport tidal mudflats. In some areas, tidal flats can be as wide as 800 metres with extensive scirpus marshes. The waters in this area are turbulent with strong currents and tides. Immediately adjacent to the shorelines are highways, a railway, and heavily urbanized areas. The Île d'Orleans Bridge is also included within this IBA.

Birds

In spring and fall large numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds are attracted to the mudflats. Up to 105,876 waterfowl have been counted on spring surveys. Many of these birds were probably Greater Snow Geese since flocks of up to 100,000 Snow Geese have been recorded (2% of the North American population). In the fall of 1987, 4,000 American Black Ducks were tallied, representing over 1% of the global population. Before the construction of a highway in the late 1970s, this species was regularly present in even larger numbers - 5,000 to 8,000 were regularly seen. In the fall, many other species of waterfowl are present in the hundreds, sometimes thousands, especially Greater and Lesser scaup, Common and Red-breasted merganser, Green and Blue-winged teal and Northern Pintail. During hunting season, ducks tend to concentrate in the middle of the channel and in the hunting free area.

Thirty four species of shorebirds have been observed here, most in the Beauport flats. The most abundant species is the Semipalmated Sandpiper, which in fall migration was formerly recorded in flocks of 5,000 to 10,000 birds (maximum of 40,000 in 1973). Since then however, Semipalmated Sandpiper numbers have declined, with 2,000 being the highest number counted here since 1990. Hundreds of Least Sandpipers, Dunlin, Lesser and Greater yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers and Killdeers are also seen.

Mixed flocks of Ring-billed and Herring gulls, gather together in flocks of about 1,000 to 2,000 birds. Great Black-backed Gulls and Bonaparte's Gulls are present in smaller numbers in various seasons. Common Tern formerly nested here in low numbers (1972-1978).

Horned Grebe and Barrow's Goldeneye, both rare in Quebec, are occasionally seen here, with noteworthy peaks of 81 and 41, respectively.

Conservation Issues

Because of its heavy industrialization and urbanization the area has many contaminants, including heavy metals. An Environment Canada restoration project of the river sediments in Québec's port area was launched in 2014. The river is a heavily travelled seaway, thus oil spills are a constant risk for nearby sites. In addition, the fast development of certain recreational activities, such as wind sports, is of concern: the growing number of users and the inappropriate management of the activities may lead to habitat degradation and cause disturbance to birds. For the past several years, the Grands-Feux Loto-Québec were held in front of Montmorency Falls. In 2012, the activity was moved to the Old Port of Québec. This is a positive outcome for the IBA, since the stress due to noise and the heavy metals pollution caused by fireworks were effectively reduced. The mudflats have been designated an Aquatic Birds Concentration Area and part of the river is designated a Fish Habitat, preventing any habitat modifying activities. Also, a part of the site was identified as a No Hunting Zone.

Fish Habitat

Habitats in the region are shaped by the strong tides and the intrusion of the salinity in the river. The habitats are composed mainly of bare mudflats, marsh bulrush and wetlands. In spring, several species of fish, such as yellow perch, the northern pike and the three-spined stickleback, use herbaceous areas in shallow water to spawn. Other species, such as American shad and Atlantic tomcod, used the brackish water during their first summer.

Two nationally endanged species are found in this area: the lake sturgeon and the American eel. Deterioration and loss of habitats, whether they are caused by deforestation, erosion of banks, sedimentation, or by the deterioration of water quality are the main threats for those species. Sources of pollution in the area come mainly from the agricultural industry, the industrial wastes, and sewages flowing directly into the river (either sanitary or pluvial). Hydroelectric dams are a major cause of mortality during the seaward migration of American eel, while they may also impede the upstream migration of glass eels / elvers.

Habitat loss is a threat to many aquatic species exploiting the site, whether by direct destruction or by creating obstacles to migration. The residential and commercial development, backfilling, dams, ports and recreational and commercial boating (bank erosion by waves) are some examples. Finally, the presence of invasive species endangers the natural dynamics of the ecosystem and its inhabitants.

Major species present:
American eel
American shad
Atlantic sturgeon
Atlantic tomcod
Lake sturgeon
Northern pike
Sauger
Walleye
White sucker
Yellow perch

Plants

The habitats of this area are strongly influenced by marine currents and high tidal range (4-5 m). Well adapted to cope with waves action and ice, the American bulrush dominates the coastal marshes of the region. With it's important root system, this plant maintains the soil, helping to protect banks against coastal erosion. In addition, its underground parts are a food source sought by snow geese during migrations. Besides the bulrush marshes, the area is also home to cattail marshes, wet meadows with tall cordgrass and swamps dominated by willow and alder.

Changes in the water regime, backfilling and agricultural practices (drainage) have caused the disappearance of large areas of wetlands in the region. In addition, the artificialization of the banks (for urbanization and transport) is a significant threat to riparian ecosystems. It should be noted that the region has the Victorin's water hemlock, an endemic species designated as threatened in Quebec.


Major species present :
American bulrush
Broad-leafed cattail
Tall cordgrass

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Number Year Season
40,0001973Fall
15,0001967Fall
Snow Goose
Number Year Season
60,0002016Spring
5,000 - 75,0001997Spring
5,000 - 40,0001996Spring
10,000 - 100,0001994Spring
5,0001993Spring
5,000 - 20,0001992Spring
5,000 - 25,0001991Spring
5,000 - 15,0001990Spring
5,000 - 15,0001989Spring
5,000 - 10,0001988Spring
5,000 - 10,0001987Spring
5,000 - 15,0001986Spring
5,000 - 8,0001985Spring
5,000 - 6,0001984Spring
5,000 - 8,0001983Spring
5,000 - 10,0001981Spring
20,0001980Winter
5,0001979Spring
5,000 - 6,0001978Spring
50,0001975Spring
8,0001974Winter
5,000 - 6,5001973Spring
5,0001963Spring
6,5001960Spring
Rusty Blackbird
Number Year Season
332017Spring
252016Fall
35 - 802016Spring
1032014Fall
352013Spring
Little Gull
Number Year Season
2 - 32006Summer