Atlas of Bank Restoration Sites of the St. Lawrence River - Objectives

The St. Lawrence River is a very important habitat for Quebecers. An international seaway that welcomes thousands of ships each year, it also provides tens of thousands of hectares of habitat essential to many wildlife species, numerous recreational and tourist activities, as well as banks in high demand for residential, industrial and commercial development. The St. Lawrence is so important to the Quebec community that more than half (60%) of its population is concentrated within a 10-km-wide band on either side of its banks.

High pressure from population and various activities has unfortunately had repercussions on the fluvial environment and, in some cases, has contributed to significant degradation of its ecosystems. Several habitats along the St. Lawrence River have low species diversity because they do not offer the essential components that make them attractive to wildlife. The lack of diversity may have natural causes or may be due to human modifications that have substantially reduced the capacity of these habitats to support wildlife.

There are many degraded habitats along the St. Lawrence River. They include freshwater marshes invaded by dense vegetation due, in particular, to low water levels in the St. Lawrence; several thousand hectares of island environments where the vegetation is maintained in the state of low meadow by agriculture or pasturage; more than 700 km of rip-rap shores whose denuded substratum offers little opportunity for varied wildlife and vegetation to establish; thousands of hectares of fill areas that prevent vegetation of potential interest to wildlife from establishing; tens of hectares of cordgrass marshes, diked and drained for agricultural purposes, which retain the typical features of a marsh, but where the absence of regular flooding hinders exchanges with the surrounding environment and the maintenance of ponds that are of interest to species typical of intertidal marshes; hundreds of hectares of cordgrass marshes with few ponds in their highest elevations, due to agricultural drainage, which limits their use by waterfowl broods an finally the dozens of sites where human activities degrade extremely fragile dune environments.

The main objective of the Restoration Atlas is to draw up an inventory of the main habitats along the St. Lawrence River that have been disturbed by human activities over the past few decades and for which restoration work would be possible. This guide was designed so that it can respond quickly to the basic needs of organizations that want to get involved in the restoration of habitats along the St. Lawrence River, either to mitigate impacts resulting from development projects or simply to improve the value of a habitat in a particular region.

This Atlas aims to encourage the restoration of disturbed sites by identifying the involved issues as well as the preferred techniques for restoring deteriorated habitat. The techniques described have been adapted to the problems at each site, but they depend on our knowledge when the Atlas was created. The proposed techniques take into account, as much as possible, the intrinsic characteristics of the sites and their location in the St. Lawrence system. The development plans provide an idea of the method to follow. A preliminary assessment of the anticipated environmental gains following the restoration of a site and the associated costs is also supplied. The amount of information provided may, however, vary from one case to another.