GREATER FUNDY ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH PROJECT
UNB Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management
State of the Greater Fundy Ecosystem
An Historical Review of Logging and River Driving in Fundy National Park
Laurie Cooper 1 and Douglas Clay2
1 Consultant, Alma, N.B.
2 Fundy National Park, P.O. Box 40
Alma, N.B. E0A 1B0
The goal of this review was to document the history of logging within Fundy National Park and the adjacent high plateau lands along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy in order to visually recreate the ecosystems of 100 years ago. This review is essential if a comprehensive history of the Fundy NP area is to be used to determine the baseline definitions that will identify target values for the maintenance of ecosystem integrity. Our goal is to provide at least a qualitative reference point of the history of logging and river driving in the GFE.
The river valleys within the Park are deeply incised into the rocky plateau of the highlands. As a result of this topography, the rivers and streams are characterized by waterfalls, rapids, and large cobble substrate. Dams, mills, and mill ponds were constructed in the past on the Point Wolfe and the Upper Salmon Rivers; the two major river systems running through the Park. These early dams and their subsequent reconstruction were large enough to effectively block the movement of anadromous fish for over 150 years.
The log drives of the early forest industry resulted in scouring of the river bed, erosion of the banks and removal of any large woody debris. Such scouring action would have destroyed fish spawning habitat, removed any established invertebrate community and probably removed all resident fish species, especially anadromous stocks. Secondary de-population would have occurred from organic debris accumulation from the logs and sawdust flowing from the mills.
The scouring action removed the fine gravel substrate that is used by fish for spawning and that serves as habitat for the invertebrate community. With the removal of the fine gravel, a substrate composed of bedrock and large boulder or cobble was left behind. Based on stream studies conducted on the west coast, it has been estimated that the replacement time for fine substrate and the large woody debris necessary to maintain such a system is several hundred years (1 to 2 generations of the forest).
Forestry practices have changed over the last century. The early selective cutting practice (high-grading) used in harvesting the trees tended to be more sensitive to the land; however, the water mills, and especially the river log driving (frequently several drives per year) was particularly destructive to aquatic habitat. One hundred years of highgrading the best spruce trees has probably had an impact on the genetic diversity of the spruce within the Park.
The salmon and other anadromous fish stocks of the Point Wolfe and Upper Salmon Rivers were extirpated by the time the Park was created and the original habitat has been altered, perhaps irreparably. There are few freshwater fish species within the Park, even in the headwaters, when compared to adjacent watersheds.
There are many potentially plausible causes for the low numbers of returning adult Atlantic Salmon in both Park rivers:
Low at sea survival - could be caused by either heavier than expected mortality at sea due to fishing or pollution or global climate change affecting either migration or food availability.
This problem is beyond the means and jurisdiction of Parks Canada. It is currently being addressed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Stocked fish returning to their natal river - in this case the Big Salmon River, 30 km southwest along the Bay of Fundy coast. This 'loss' of stocked fish in the Park's rivers would result in the returning adults being composed of stray stragglers from various rivers of the inner Bay of Fundy rather than those originally released here.
To examine this possibility, a study currently underway of the mitochondrial DNA of the juveniles in the Point Wolfe River compared with fish from the Big Salmon River and other nearby salmon populations. If there is no relationship between the two groups, it can be assumed that the stocked fish did not survive and our population is composed of wanderers. If there is some relationship, it can be speculated that 15 years and 2-3 generations of selection is evolving a specialized stock for the Point Wolfe River. If they are genetically similar then the stocking was successful and some other factor may be influencing survival.
Low 'over-winter' survival in 'altered', unsuitable riverine habitats.
Immature salmonids must have sufficient habitat to avoid ice and extreme cold water in winter. Investigation of over-winter survival will require detailed surveys of both the habitat and the resident juvenile Salmon in the Point Wolfe River. The juvenile surveys of the <20 cm Parr and Smolt will be required in all seasons but specifically in late winter and early spring (March/April). The physical habitat surveys will require detailed cross-sectional data, gradient, bed composition, and pool and riffle ratios. With this data, hydrologic flow models and scour and deposition models could be used to develop 'pictures' of what the natural river may have looked like. If restoration of the river was considered possible and desirable, it would allow hypothetical construction of weirs of large woody debris to be tested for their efficacy.
A similar approach would be needed to assess the low adult numbers in the Upper Salmon River. However, in the latter case, the original 'stocking' may have been of adults denied access to the Petitcodiac River by the construction of a causeway over that river in 1968. Both of these rivers supported significant anadromous populations of fish before dam construction in the early 1800s.
Other less likely causes include:
Harvesting of returning adults within the river system is not considered a problem
Other investigations that follow from this review would include: a study of the brow sites within the park, the potential risk of land slides and the need for restoration. Many of the brow sites used for log storage and loading of the river for log driving have not re-vegetated and are a potential source of land slides or slumps. Indications are that one major slide occurs every decade.
The forest harvest that has taken place outside of the Park by extensive clearcut operations has tended to increase peak hydrological flows. This will further aggravate the effects of the early splash dam logging that occurred along the Bay of Fundy northwest coast. Both this increased variation in flow and the lack of large woody debris will reduce the capacity of the rivers to build up the finer sediments necessary for spawning bed construction.
IMPLICATIONS FOR MANAGEMENT
Many, if not all, of the above mentioned factors probably contribute to stress on all the inner Bay of Fundy fish stocks. The combination and degree of each factor will vary between river systems. However, it is becoming evident that the cumulative effects on the habitats of these fish stocks are approaching the limits of these populations.
We wish to express our appreciation to all those who provided advice and encouragement and little tid-bits of information that allow such a review to be pieced together. We especially wish to acknowledge the invaluable help of the late Murice Martin of Alma. He provided much keystone data both directly for this report and indirectly in having been a major data source in earlier studies on the region's history.
Cooper, L. and D. Clay. 1997. The history of logging and river driving in Fundy National Park: Implications for ecological integrity of aquatic ecosystems. In: D. Clay (ed.) Resources of Fundy National Park: A primer of ecosystem studies. Part I. Chapter III. Pks. Can. Eco. Sci. Rev. Rept. No. 9. 63 pp.
Information provided by:
Dr. Graham Forbes
Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management at UNB
Last Update: May 7, 1998
This document: http://www.unb.ca/web/forestry/centers/cwru/soe/logging.htm