What We Do

Our Collaborative Approach

Kespukwitk (Southwest Nova Scotia) has long been recognized for its high biodiversity values and high concentration of species at risk, and conservation partners have been working collaboratively in the region for many years. The Priority Place provides the opportunity to ramp up our efforts and take innovative action to protect and recover the animals, plants, and places we love. Focusing our effort in places with high biodiversity and concentrations of species at risk like Kespukwitk will help conserve habitat that benefits many species at the same time. 

The Kespukwitk Conservation Collaborative is working to improve species at risk and biodiversity conservation in the region using an integrated Two-eyed Seeing approach. Two-Eyed Seeing (Etuaptmumk in the Mi’kmaw language) is the Guiding Principle brought to our co-learning journey by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall.

In the words of Albert Marshall, Two-Eyed Seeing refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all. Two-eyed seeing strengthens the collaborative approach and recognizes the respective benefits of Indigenous perspectives and traditional knowledge, as well as mainstream science perspectives.

We are using the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation as an adaptive management framework to support more coordinated, strategic action to achieve our shared conservation goals in Kespukwitk. The framework supports an ecosystem-based approach, whereby species at risk and other species of cultural significance or conservation concern are nested within the ecosystem-based conservation targets.

Conservation Targets: Ecosystems

Conservation Targets are the biodiversity features that we are trying to conserve and restore. With the Kespukwitk Priority Place ecosystem-based approach, we selected the following 12 conservation targets to represent and encompass biodiversity within Kespukwitk. Species at risk and other species of cultural significance or conservation concern are nested within the ecosystem-based conservation targets.


Photo Credit: A for Adventure

Coastal islands are abundant along the Atlantic Coast of Kespukwitk and are an important habitat component for many species. Many of these islands remain relatively intact on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, and some host critical breeding sites for seabirds and waterfowl. Due to their isolation, islands are often free of predators and other sources of disturbance, providing excellent habitat for breeding bird colonies. These include Common Eider, Razorbill, Roseate Tern, and Leach’s Storm Petrel, which nest almost exclusively on islands. Islands in the southern end of Kespukwitk also provide stopover sites for hundreds of thousands of migrating landbirds and marine birds, and over-wintering sites for the federally and provincially listed Harlequin Duck.

Species: Eastern Mountain Avens, Harlequin Duck (Eastern), Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Roseate Tern, Common Eider


Photo Credit: Mike Dembeck

The Priority Place is focused on the conservation of terrestrial species at risk, and a number of at-risk seabirds and waterfowl can be found in and depend on nearshore marine waters. 

Species: Barrow’s Goldeneye (Eastern), Harlequin Duck (Eastern), Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Roseate Tern, Common Eider


Photo Credit: Lesley Farrow

Tidal flats are another common coastal feature of Kespukwitk, particularly in shallow estuaries and coastal marine areas along the Atlantic Coast. Tidal flats consist of large, relatively flat areas of mud or sand that are alternately covered and uncovered by the tide. Tidal flats in Kespukwitk support large numbers of shorebirds which gather to feed on abundant burrowing invertebrates, including clams and worms. Areas at the edge of these flats often transition to salt marshes or beaches and dunes. 

Species: Hudsonian Godwit, Piping Plover, Red Knot, Red-necked Phalarope, Eastern Lilaeopsis


Photo Credit: Emma Kinley

Salt marshes are coastal grass-dominated wetlands that experience flooding and draining of tidal waters. Vegetation is often submerged, and the soil is usually deep mud and peat. Tidal marshes are a common coastal feature in Kespukwitk and are among the most biologically productive ecosystems, providing important breeding, staging, and wintering habitat for a wide variety of bird species, including rare and at risk species. Salt marshes also provide key ecosystem services, by acting as buffers from wave action and sedimentation, reducing erosion and flooding, and protecting water quality. 

Species: Eastern Baccharis, Eastern Lilaeopsis, Bobolink, Red Knot, Short-eared Owl


Photo Credit: Laura Bartlett

Beaches and dunes are two distinct habitats but are commonly linked. Both are dynamic, and shift with environmental conditions. Beaches are areas of accumulated sand, cobbles or stones along a shore. Sand dunes are typically formed by windblown sand strapped and stabilized by vegetation. Not all dunes are vegetated, and some include other soil types.

They are culturally significant to the Mi’kmaq as a place for all to access the coast, and provide social, cultural and ecosystem services. They are also essential nesting and feeding habitat for at-risk shorebirds.

Species: Piping Plover, Red Knot, Savannah Sparrow


Photo Credit: Alain Belliveau

Nova Scotia falls within the Acadian Forest Region, a rich and diverse temperate forest with a unique mixture of boreal species from the north and deciduous species from the south. Upland forests are forests where there is enough drainage that the soils are not damp for long periods of time. They are structurally complex ecosystems and are home to almost 35% of species at risk in Kespukwitk.

Species: Black Ash, Eastern White Cedar, Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis, Tri-colored Bat, Black-foam Lichen, Blue Felt Lichen, Boreal Felt Lichen (Atlantic), Vole Ears Lichen, White-rimmed Shingle Lichen, Canada Warbler, Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern Wood-pewee, Evening Grosbeak, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Rusty Blackbird, Short-eared Owl, Wood Thrush


Photo Credit: John Brazner

Forested wetlands are those wetlands (swamps, bogs, fens, marshes) that are dominated by trees and shrubs . Wetlands have a water level that is either permanently, periodically or seasonally at or above the land’s surface with soils that are typically saturated and poorly draining; vegetation is adapted to wet conditions. Forested wetlands are home to almost 35% of the species at risk in Kespukwitk. 

Species: Black Ash, Eastern White Cedar, Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Ribbonsnake (Atlantic), Eastern Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Mainland Moose, Tri-colored Bat, Black-foam Lichen, Blue Felt Lichen, Boreal Felt Lichen (Atlantic), White-rimmed Shingle Lichen, Wrinkled Shingle Lichen, Vole Ears Lichen, Canada Warbler, Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood-pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rusty Blackbird, Macropis Cuckoo Bee


Photo Credit: Lesley Farrow

Freshwater wetlands, including marshes, fens, bogs, swamps, and vernal pools, are common throughout Kespukwitk. Wetlands have soils that are typically saturated in water and biodiversity that is adapted to wet conditions, and are among some of the most productive ecosystems, supporting a number of Nova Scotia’s rare and endangered species. Freshwater wetlands also provide key ecological services, including carbon storage, water quality improvement, and contribute to flood, drought, and erosion mitigation. They are home to 27% of species at risk in Kespukwitk.

Species: Eastern Mountain Avens, Goldencrest, Long’s Bulrush, Thread-leaved Sundew, Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Painted Turtle, Eastern Ribbonsnake (Atlantic), Snapping Turtle, Wood Turtle, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood-pewee, Lesser Yellowlegs, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rusty Blackbird, Short-eared Owl


Photo Credit: Nova Scotia Nature Trust

Riparian and floodplain systems refer to the transition zone between freshwater aquatic ecosystems – such as rivers, streams, wetlands, and lakes – and their adjacent ecosystems. Within riparian areas, vegetation is influenced by the presence of water and is distinct from adjacent uplands. Floodplains are flooded intermittently, or seasonally, creating a unique and dynamic ecosystem. Riparian and floodplain systems are used by a broad range of species, and typically support higher diversity and density of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals than adjacent uplands.

Species: Black Ash, Eastern White Cedar, Goldencrest, Long’s Bulrush, Maleberry, Pink Coreopsis, Plymouth Gentian, Prototype Quillwort, Redroot, Spotted Pondweed, Sweet Pepperbush, Tall Beakrush, Tubercled Spike-rush, Water-pennywort, Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Painted Turtle, Eastern Ribbonsnake, Snapping Turtle, Wood Turtle, Little Brown Myotis, Moose, Tri-colored Bat, Blue Felt Lichen, Wrinkled Shingle Lichen, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Canada Warbler, Eastern Wood-pewee, Peregrine Falcon, Rusty Blackbird, Wood Thrush, Macropis Cuckoo Bee, Monarch


Photo Credit: Mike Dembeck

Aquatic ecosystems, including rivers, streams, and lakes, are abundant throughout Kespukwitk. Many species at risk that are classified as terrestrial species spend much of their life history in aquatic ecosystems, including Snapping Turtle, Painted Turtle, and Blanding’s Turtle, or are highly associated with them, such as Eastern Ribbonsnake, and a number of Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora.

Species: Prototype Quillwort, Water-pennywort, Blanding’s Turtle, Eastern Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Barrow’s Goldeneye (Eastern)


Photo Credit: Katie McLean

There are extensive inland barrens located in Kespukwitk, as well as coastal barrens, mainly along the Atlantic Coast. Barrens are acidic, nutrient-poor habitat types dominated by heath vegetation with sparse tree cover. These shrub-dominated habitats often occur where prevailing conditions are too stressful for tree growth and frequently in association with bogs. Many of the common shrub species, including blueberry, cranberry, crowberry, and huckleberry, are prolific berry producers, providing an abundant food source for foraging birds and mammals in the late summer and early fall. Though barrens support relatively low productivity, they do host a number of rare species. The dry, sand barrens of the Annapolis Valley are a unique and rare type of barren habitat in the province. 

Species: Common Nighthawk, Rockrose (Canada Frostweed), Savannah Sparrow


Photo Credit: Katie McLean

Agro-ecosystems are ecosystems that are currently used and/or managed with the specific purpose of agriculture, and include natural and the man-made habitat features associated with them. These cultivated and managed areas, particularly those near water, are used by a broad variety of species and can be areas of high biodiversity. Common ecosystems found in agricultural landscapes include riparian and floodplain systems, freshwater wetlands, and patches of upland forest.

Species: Little Brown Myotis, Wood Turtle, Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee, Monarch, Yellow-banded Bumble Bee, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Chimney Swifts, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Rusty Blackbird, Short-eared Owl