Ecosystems Services: a benefit to wildlife and people
In the 1700s, rich salt marshes in the upper Bay of Fundy were converted into dykelands, a unique agro-ecosystem which was designed to stop sea water from flooding in during high tide and drain freshwater from the marsh during low tide. Dykelands provide coastal flood protection and are still used today in the production of hay, sod, cereal crops, etc. Food production in agro-ecosystems requires several ecosystem services to be upheld by the ecosystem or through human management like soil fertility, pest control, nutrient cycling, and pollination.
Agro-ecosystems can be important habitat for wildlife species, in fact, Short-eared Owls are known to nest in the dykelands of Grand Pré, Kings County. Several species at risk rely on healthy insect communities that can be supported by agro-ecosystem habitats including the multiple at risk bat species in Nova Scotia (Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis, and Tri-coloured Bat) and bird species like Bobolink and Barn Swallow. There are also a few at risk insect species like Monarchs and Yellow-banded Bumble Bees, that use edge habitat (transitional zones between forests and meadows) and meadow habitat which is often proximal to agro-ecosystems. Some recommended practices for managing an agro-ecosystem for wildlife are to avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides and to delay haying and mowing until after bird nesting periods in early spring.
Municipal residents can contribute to pollinator and insectivore conservation by buying local food directly from growers or at farmers markets, participating in community gardens, and planting a pollinator garden. Old barns and chimneys may be in use by bats and Chimney Swifts, municipalities can ensure their protection by checking for SAR and encouraging the protection and restoration of these sites.