Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI) : Institut de recherche du Mersey Tobeatic

Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora Project


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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Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora (ACPF)

In 2010, the MTRI started working on a project to help fulfill the goals outlined in the Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora Recovery Strategy. This is a multi-year project that has three aspects: Science, Education and Stewardship. The project is funded by the Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) and many partnering organizations. Check back for new details and the results of the first field season in the near future.


Photo Credits:  Brad Toms



ACPF Stewards in Cottage Country

The Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora (ACPF) is a group of plants that exist mainly on lakeshores and wetland habitats in Nova Scotia.   Their populations are largely disjunct from other ACPF populations in Canada and several species have been listed under the Species At Risk Act (SARA).  In 2010 MTRI, in partnership with the ACPF Recovery Team, Nova Scotia Nature Trust and Parks Canada, initiated a project to collect baseline data for the Species At Risk Act listed ACPF populations in southwest Nova Scotia, establish monitoring protocols and increase stewardship opportunities for landowners who live with ACPF.


Project Objectives

  • To monitor populations of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern ACPF on 36 high priority lakes identified in the ACPF recovery strategy.

  • To engage landowners on the 36 high priority lakes.

  • To collect habitat information on lakes where botanical surveys are conducted.

Photo Credit:  Brad Toms 


  • Populations of SARA listed ACPF species were counted by botanists and georeferenced along lake shores.

  • Shoreline habitat was documented through georeferenced photos and habitat parameter data collected by researchers and volunteers.

  • Landowners were directly involved in a variety of recovery activities.


2014 Results 

  • Complete surveys took place on three lakes (Pearl, Kegeshook and Bennetts).

  • Partial surveys took place on four lakes (Molega, Ponhook, Great Pubnico and Gilfillan.)  These lakes were too large to complete in a single year. 

  • From 2010 to 2014, the entire shoreline of 35 of the high priority lakes has been completely surveyed for rare ACPF plants (~530km).  Habitat and threat surveys still need to be completed on some lakes.

Photo: Standing at the last meter of ACPF shoreline surveyed for rare plants by A. Belliveau


Years of Data 

  • Ongoing project since 2010


  • Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute

  • Government of Canada through the federal Department of the Environment: Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk

  • Parks Canada

  • Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre 

  • Environment Canada

  • Dalhousie University

  • Nova Scotia Environment

  • Sage Environmental Program

  • Nova Scotia Nature Trust

  • Tusket River Environmental Protections Association

  • Fern Hill Institute for Plant Conservation 




Water Quality Monitoring by Volunteers

One of the main objectives of the ACPF project is to engage volunteers from local communities and teach them the skills and knowledge needed to become active participants in the scientific aspects of the project and learn more about ACPF in southwest Nova Scotia. There are many ways for volunteers to get involved in the ACPF project, one of which is the collection of water quality samples and data on lakes we have selected for sampling. If you are interested in becoming a water quality volunteer, please contact us, we can always use more volunteers! 

If you are interested in learning about how we are monitoring water quality, have a look at our sampling protocol.

Visit our Water Quality page for more information.


 Photo Credit:  Colin Gray



New ACPF Discoveries in 2011: by Alain Belliveau

Ever thought about how neat it would be to discover a native species for the first time in Nova Scotia, or even Canada? Believe it or not, even with all of the research and “stomping” around by experts and naturalists, new discoveries still happen! This year was a particularly good year for these discoveries.

In all, two species new to Canada were discovered and at least seven species were found in brand new areas in Nova Scotia. The discoveries were made possible by several ongoing research projects like Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute's (MTRI) Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora project, ACCDC’s Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre's (ACCDC) rare plant surveys, and also by keen naturalists paddling around on a good ol’ fashion canoe trip.


Photo: Shingle Lake by Pat Hudson


In the rock barrens of Queens and Lunenburg counties, botanists from the ACCDC discovered an extremely rare plant: Blue curls, a member of the mint family. As the name suggests, the small plant has blue, curly flowers. In its eastern North American distribution range, it is often found in harsh barren habitat, and its rarity in Nova Scotia is an indicator of the open, dry, nutrient-deprived habitat in which it usually resides. Currently in Canada, this species is only known from one other location in southern Ontario.

Along the lower stretch of the Tusket River, botanists also discovered a coastal plain shrub called Maleberry. The species had only previously been found as far north as Maine. Neither it nor any cousin species are known to occur anywhere else in Canada. What a find! This significant discovery outlines the importance of looking for these rare species and examining these rare habitats: after all, how can we conserve and manage natural ecosystems sustainably if we are missing important pieces of the ecological puzzle? 

At least seven other species were found in new places within the province. Water-pennywort was found in a lake in the Tusket watershed, which extends its overall Canadian distribution from two lakes to three lakes. Tall Beakrush, which was found for the first time in all of Canada in 2009, was discovered in a second location, again in the Medway watershed. Tubercled Spike-rush was found for the first time in the Tusket watershed; it had previously only been found in the Barrington area and more recently in one small lake in the Medway watershed. Spotted Pondweed was found in several formerly undiscovered places in the Tusket watershed. New locations for Long’s Bulrush were recorded in the upper Medway watershed, and for the first time in the Mersey watershed in Kejimkujik National Park. Goldencrest was also discovered in a new site in the Medway watershed. Even a group of outlandish paddlers got in on the fun and found Southern Twayblade in two counties – Digby and Annapolis – that had previously not been known for this species.

All of the plants mentioned here are quite rare, and the last example just goes to show that anyone – with a bit of knowledge and a love for the outdoors – can make meaningful discoveries that help with the conservation of these species. If you’re physically fit, enjoy the outdoors, have a bit of spare time, why not spend a day or two with expert botanists in your area? Contact MTRI at 902-682-2371 or for more details on how to help while also learning from top-notch experts! Maybe you’ll be the one to make the next big discovery…


Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora in Nova Scotia:  Identification and Information Guide


Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora (ACPF) are a special group of plants. They are a unique group of unrelated plants that are mainly concentrated in southwest Nova Scotia along lakeshores, salt marshes and freshwater wetlands. They provide ecosystem services and indicate good water quality, both of which are very important to people and communities. There are over 90 species of ACPF in Nova Scotia and over 1/3 are found nowhere else in Canada! And they need help to make sure they are not lost from this province. To learn more about ACPF please view the online field guide for ACPF in Nova Scotia by clicking here.