A Rare, Fire-Dependent Pine Barrens at the Wildland-Urban Interface of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Presentation to the Wildland Fire Canada 2014 Conference, Halifax, N.S. Oct 6-9, 2014
by Nick Hill1 and David Patriquin2

1. Fern Hill Institute for Plant Conservation,Berwick, Nova Scotia 2. Biology Dept., Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia (retired)
Jack Pine/Broom Crowberry Barrens


Given the appropriate geology and climate, fire barrens of high ecological integrity require space and fire, making them increasingly threatened systems. The Purcell's Cove Backlands (PCB), approximately 1350 ha on the Halifax south mainland, are an area of rough terrain with shallow soils and outcroppings of hard rock that have remained without roads or significant settlement except at their periphery until recently. There are many trails and several lakes are popular for swimming. There are frequent fires. The 2009 "Spryfield Fire" covered 800 ha and destroyed eight houses on a street recently developed in an area of Jack Pines. In 2013, we surveyed plant communities and wetlands of the Williams Lake Backlands which cover approximately 200 ha within the PCB.* The fire dependent/fire adapted nature of plant species in seven upland vegetation types and carbon dating of charcoal from a Jack Pine Tussock Sedge fen indicate that fires within PCB are part of a long-term fire regime that predates European settlement. One result is the presence of a fire-dependent Jack Pine/Broom Crowberry Barrens community that is nationally unique to Nova Scotia and globally rare. The recent frequency of fire in the PCB appears sufficient to maintain this community. However settlement that impinges on Jack Pine/Broom Crowberry Barrens has involved either their complete destruction or subjected residents to highly elevated fire risk. No further development within the PCB would help to reduce fire threats to habitations, conserve a rare pine barrens and provide several other significant social and ecological benefits.


Annotated PDF of slides for presentation

Hill, N. and Patriquin. D. 2014. Ecological Assessment of the Plant Communities of the Williams Lake Backlands. Report to The Williams Lake Conservation Company. Link

Regeneration of Forest and Barrens after the Spryfield Fire of April 30, 2009
Photo-essay by Richard Beazley and David Patriquin. Link

Nova Scotia Wild Flora Society: Corema conradii

Nova Scotia Wild Flora Society: Pinus banksiana

The forest fires that nature intended
Article in Chronicle Herald

The Backlands: Flora, Fauna and Geology
Pages on the website for the Backlands Coalition