MTRI is a non-profit co-operative with a mandate to promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and beyond through research, education, and the operation of a field station.
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Photo Credit: Diane LaRue
In 2012 MTRI began a project to help the recovery of the Eastern Mountain Avens (Geum peckii). This plant lives in only two locations in the world! In the White Mountains of New Hampshire it lives in mountainous brooks and alpine areas. On Brier Island, and Digby Neck, Nova Scotia it lives in bogs close to sea level.
The Eastern Mountain Avens has many threats but the Canadian population has been helped for many decades by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). NCC owns the Brier Island Nature Preserve on Brier Island. This important conservation property is a large portion of the island and encompasses much of the Eastern Mountain Avens habitat. Over the decades NCC has successfully mitigated many of the threats on their property.
Some of the avens habitat on the island is in pristine condition. Elsewhere on Brier Island some of the avens population is under threat from historical circumstances. In 1952 a large drainage ditch was dug through a bog in the center of the island (Big Meadow Bog) in an attempt to increase its potential for agriculture. Though that project never 'bore fruit', so to speak, the ditch remains to this day and has drastically altered the hydrology of Big Meadow Bog. As a result the bog has dried out, allowing rudderal species to invade.
Over the decades a gull colony also moved into the bog. The result of this is increased nutrients (from the gulls) and drier soil/peat (from the drainage ditch) and a drastically altered vegetation community. Eastern Mountain Avens in many parts of Big Meadow Bog is under direct threat from nesting gulls and encroaching vegetation.
In 2012, MTRI sought to conduct a census of Eastern Mountain Avens in Nova Scotia in order to establish a baseline for a long term monitoring project. As a result MTRI will produce a standardized monitoring protocol for the avens that will provide a variety of monitoring opportunities for a variety of volunteers and professionals. MTRI is also following up on past recommendations by Nature Conservancy Canada reports investigating bog restoration (plugging it up!). This is likely the only long term solution to help this globally endangered species on Brier Island and will require the input of many wetland experts. MTRI also worked with Acadia University (E.C. Smith Herbarium) to establish a seed bank for Eastern Mountain Avens by collecting seeds and transporting them to the herbarium for storage.
Eastern mountain avens (EMA) is listed as Endangered both federally and provincially. It is an herbaceous perennial that reproduces vegetatively through rhizomes, which produce clonal patches, and sexually by seed. It is only found in Nova Scotia, on Brier Island and at one site on the Digby Neck, and in alpine New Hampshire. It occurs in a variety of habitats in both New Hampshire and Nova Scotia, and consistent moisture is probably the one critical habitat requirement. In Nova Scotia, it usually grows with sphagnum in bogs and fens, although it is also found in drier areas such as roadsides and recovering pasture on Brier Island. Prior to this study, little was known about germination requirements for seeds from Nova Scotia populations. It is not known if patches in Nova Scotia are expanding or only stable through clonal growth in response to shrub encroachment. Propagation and growth studies can provide information on life history to be gathered without disturbing natural populations.
Photo Credits: Diane LaRue
To investigate propagation in situ and ex situ by rhizome.
To conduct in situ studies of rhizome characteristics and growth.
To investigate germination requirements in the field and in the lab.
To determine if EMA is actively reproducing on Brier Island.
To study basic growth biology in the field and through ex situ studies.
Many of the individual plants that were tagged in the field in 2013 at several sites on Brier Island to track growth and new plant production were monitored.
Rhizomes collected from several sites on Brier Island and taken to the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre at Acadia University (KCIC) for propagation under several conditions in 2013 were tracked in terms of growth and new rosette production.
Plants resulting from seeds collected from several sites and taken to the KCIC for germination studies were monitored.
Rhizomes and seeds set up in the field for propagation in 2013 were monitored for new rosettes.
All rosettes were re-potted into a 3:1 mixture of potting soil and a mineral soil collected from Brier Island to provide drainage and native soil microorganisms.
EMA rosettes at KCIC were set up to study the effects of shade and hydrology for growth and new rosette production.
Some rhizome cuttings, of various sizes, produced new plants in each of the three types of media.
Rhizome cuttings kept cold but indoors over winter did poorly in the mineral soil, but reasonable in the peat soil.
All rosettes from rhizome cuttings did well when overwintered outside.
Seeds without cold pretreatment germinated more erratically and slowly than those with a cold pretreatment but had better survival.
Most seedlings that survived from germination trials grew well and produced many new ramets (side rosettes on rhizomes).
Rhizome and seed propagation efforts both at KCIC and on Brier Island produced new rosettes.
Observations in the field indicated that given suitable substrate, EMA is actively reproducing by seed, and under some conditions is actively reproducing vegetatively.
Ongoing project since 2013
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
K. C. Irving Environmental Science Centre, Acadia University
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute
Photo Credit: Diane LaRue