Ecoregions and Ecodistricts of Halifax County

Extracts from ECOLOGICAL LAND CLASSIFICATION for NOVA SCOTIA Volume 1 - Mapping Nova Scotia's Terrestrial Ecosystems by Peter D. Neily, Eugene Quigley, Lawrence Benjamin, Bruce Stewart, Tony Duke Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Renewable Resources Branch, April 2003 (Report DNR 2003 -2) and Ecodistricts of Nova Scotia Map.

The Ecological Land Classification (2003) is a product and ongoing project of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Renewable Resources Branch, with an orientation on forest management.

Halifax County contains sections of 4 of 9 Ecoregions of N.S., and 8 of 40 Ecodistricts.
See Map.

Ecoregions reflect distinct climate as expressed through soils and vegetation. Ecodistricts are subdivisions of ecoregions characterized by distinctive assemblages of relief, geology, landform, soils and vegetation.

Below are some highlights of the Ecoregions and Ecodistricts in Halifax County.

400 - Eastern Ecoregion

Distinguishing Ecoregion Features: South sloping upland interior in eastern Nova Scotia with warm summers and cooler winters [than in the Western Ecoregion].

Extending from Bedford Basin to the town of Guysborough, this ecoregion is the eastern extension of the Appalachian peneplain which slopes towards the Atlantic Ocean (see also Western Ecoregion 700). It is bordered to the south by the Atlantic Coastal Ecoregion (800) and to the north by the St. Mary's Fault. The highest points of elevation, 220 m above sea level, are found in the Governor Lake Ecodistrict (450). The ecoregion is underlain by quartzite and slate of the Meguma Group, with granitic intrusives. Webb and Marshall (1999) describe the variety of landforms in this ecoregion, which includes rolling till plains, drumlin fields, extensive rockland, and wetlands...

Removed from the immediate climatic influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the ecoregion is characterized by warmer summers and cooler winters...

The forests of the ecoregion are predominantly coniferous, with red and black spruce occupying the majority of sites. Scattered stands of hemlock are found in the sheltered and moist environments of narrow stream and river valleys and on the slopes of drumlins. Stands of white p ine are found on the deep, well drained coarser soils associated with outwash till. Also, white pine is usually scattered or a minor component of black spruce forests, especially on the fire barrens. Tolerant hardwood forests dominated by yellow birch and sugar maple, with scattered beech are usually found on the drumlins and upper slopes and crests of steeper hills. The dominant natural disturbances are fire and hurricanes.

410 Rawdon / Wittenburg Hills Ecodistrict

These two slate ridges rise notably above the surrounding valleys of the Stewiacke, Musquodoboit and Shubenacadie rivers in central Nova Scotia...

Red spruce forests are very common on both of these slate ridges, occurring predominantly on the hummocky terrain. However, a significant feature of this ecodistrict is the occurrence of mixedwood forests, especially on hilly top ograp hy underlain by moist, fine textured soils. On these ecosections, pure stands of either tolerant softwood or hardwood may occur or combine to form a classic mix of the sugar maple, yellow birch, beech, white ash, red spruce and hemlock with scattered white p ine indicative of the Acadian ecozone.

420 Eastern Drumlins Ecodistrict

This ecodistrict is comprised of three disjunct areas of drumlins within the eastern ecoregion and can be identified roughly by the watersheds of the three rivers that flow through them: Sackville River, Tangier River, and Moser River...

In this ecodistrict, the well drained drumlins and hummocks provide an opportunity for pure stands of tolerant hardwoods, such as yellow birch, sugar maple and beech, to thrive on the crests and up p er slop es. On the lower slop es, pure stands of red spruce will ring around the drumlins. Between drumlins black spruce occupy the wetter, imperfectly drained soils. White pine will occur on sites with dry , coarse, shallow soils such as those that occur on ridged ecosections.

430 Eastern Granite Uplands

Stretching in a narrow ridge (80 km long by 8-10 km wide) just east of Waverley to Sheet Harbour this ecodistrict lies north of the coastal Eastern Shore (820) Ecodistrict. Rising sharply up to 100 m above the adjacent coastal area, often with steep cliffs, this rocky ridge is dissected with narrow river gorges, the most notable being the Musquodoboit. Also of note are long narrow lakes that dissect the ecodistrict, such as Lake Charlotte and Porters Lake....

The forests of this ecodistrict are predominantly softwood, with red spruce stands on the better drained and deep er soils associated with hummocky terrain. Elsewhere, the shallow soils give rise to scrubby forests of black spruce and white pine with scattered r ed pine indicating fire disturbances in the past. Jack pine are also found on the shallow soils of ridge tops. Only on the few scattered drumlins will any tolerant hardwoods be found. Stands of hemlock occur on the steep sided slop es of hills and hummocks alongside rivers and streams.

440 Eastern Interior Ecodistrict

One of the largest ecodistr icts in the province with 3,693 km2 or 58% of the ecodistrict, occupies an area from Pockwock Lake in the west to the Town of Guysborough in the east. The bedrock is highly vis ible in those areas where the glacial till is very thin, exp osing the ridge topography . Where the till is thicker, the ridged topography is masked and thick softwood forests occur. The ecodistrict is heavily covered with freshwater lakes (27,312 hectares or 7.4%)...

The composition of the forests in this ecodistrict strongly reflect the depth of the soil profile. Thus, many climax compositions can be found throughout. On the shallow soils repeated fires have reduced forest cover to scrub hardwoods such as red maple and white birch, with scattered white pine and black spruce underlain by a dense layer of ericaceous vegetation. However, on the deep er, well drained soils stands of red spruce will be found. On the crests and upper slopes of hills, drumlins and some hummocks stands of tolerant hardwood occur. Both beech and hemlock occur on these deep er, well drained soils, but their presence is usually individual and seldom of a high percentage in any stand. On the imperfectly and poorly drained soils, black spruce will d o minate the stand composition.

600 - Valley & Central Lowlands Ecoregion

Distinguishing Ecoregion Feature: Lowlands sheltered from coastal climatic influences with warmer summer temperatures and milder winters than elsewhere in the province.
Easily defined, the Valley & Central Lowlands Ecoregion includes the Annapolis Valley, the watersheds of the Minas Basin and the Musquodoboit Valley. The elevation of this lowland seldom exceeds 50 m above sea level, with only a few points reaching 100 m above sea level...
A wide range of forest species associations occur throughout the ecoregion. On the imperfectly drained, finer textured soils, red spruce and balsam fir are predominant. On sites where drainage is better, hemlock and white pine combine with red spruce to form stands more representative of the zonal sites.

630 Central Lowlands Ecodistrict

In central Nova Scotia lies a significant lowland encomp assing much of Hants and Colchester counties. A significant feature of this central basin is the extent to which it is drained by several large rivers, all of which are affected by the tidal movements of the Bay of Fundy. The only exception is the Musquodoboit River, which drains to the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the ecodistrict is fairly level with hummocky to undulating topography, with elevations seldom exceeding 90 m above sea level. The climate is conducive to farming...

As is characterized by the ecoregion, the forests of the Central Lowlands Ecodistrict are predominantly softwood. Only on a few well-drained hills will p ure stands of toler ant up land hardwood be found. Usually yellow birch will grow in association with red spruce on the welldrained hummocks mixed with an occasional occurrence of beech, sugar map le and hemlock.. Red spruce with scattered white pine and hemlock may occur on the better drained sites, with the latter species being found predominantly on steeper slopes near streams and rivers. On sites where soils are derived from the glacial outwash till, white p ine will occup y the coarser soils. Forests of black spruce an d scattered white pine will be found on the imperfectly drained soils. An unusual association is the occurrence of red pine with black spruce on the imperfectly and poorly drained clay soil that is prominent on the smooth topography of the watersheds of the Tom Cod and Cogmagun rivers. Many of these spruce/pine sites have originated from fire. The suppression of fire in this ecosy stem may lead to the absence of red p ine in the future.

700 - Western Ecoregion

Distinguishing Ecoregion Feature: An upland tilting towards the Atlantic Ocean comprising the southwestern half of the peninsula of Nova Scotia and with milder weather conditions than the eastern portion of the mainland.

The Western Ecoregion extends from Yarmouth to Windsor and includes the Halifax peninsula. The ecoregion excludes the Annapolis Valley and the coastal ecoregions along the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean. The surface of this region is part of the Appalachian peneplain which tilts towards the southeast, creating some of the longest rivers in Nova Scotia...

Forest stands of red spruce, hemlock and white pine are most prominent in the Western Ecoregion and perhaps more so than anywhere else in the province. Stands of this distinctive Maritime forest occur on the sandy and generally shallow soils of the ecoregion. Other dominant trees include the fire species red oak and red pine. Pure stands of white pine can be found on the drumlins, eskers and flutes of the barren lands and occupying abandoned fields on t he drumlins along the LaHave River and elsewhere. Although balsam fir occurs in most of the forest types, its dominance within stands has been reduced by the damaging effects of the balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae) a gout-causing forest pest introduced from Europe circa 1910. Significant portions of the ecoregion are occupied by stunted forests of black spruce on the bogs. Large tracts of red maple occur on other wetlands associated with the western rivers. A conspicuous feature of this ecoregion are the extensive barrens occupied by sparse forests of black spruce and white pine with a shrub and herb layer dominated by a variety of ericaceous (heath) plants such as lambkill, huckleberry, rhodora, leather leaf, bearberry and black crowberry.

720 South Mountain Ecodistrict

The South Mountain Ecodistrict, the largest in the classification, is a fairly homogenous land mass underlain by Devonian granite (the South Mountain Batholith). It extends from the headwaters of the Tusket River to the Halifax peninsula wrapping around the LaHave Drumlin Ecodistrict (740)...

Usually the tops and upper slopes of drumlins are occupied by forests of tolerant hardwoods such as sugar maple, yellow birch and beech, with occasional red oak on fire sites. Middle and lower slop es are occup ied with tolerant softwood such as red spruce, white p ine and hemlock. These same sp ecies will also occup y the welldrained matrix between drumlins or, where soils are imperfectly drained, will be rep laced by black spruce and scattered white pine and red maple. The Panuke Lake old growth hemlock stand is on a well-drained, coarse textured drumlin ecosection (WCDM). Abandoned farmland on drumlins tends to reforest with white pine...

Usually the tops and upper slopes of drumlins are occupied by forests of tolerant hardwoods such as sugar maple, yellow birch and beech, with occasional red oak on fire sites. Middle and lower slop es are occup ied with tolerant softwood such as red spruce, white p ine and hemlock. These same sp ecies will also occup y the welldrained matrix between drumlins or, where soils are imperfectly drained, will be rep laced by black spruce and scattered white pine and red maple. The Panuke Lake old growth hemlock stand is on a well-drained, coarse textured drumlin ecosection (WCDM). Abandoned farmland on drumlins tends to reforest with white pine. 780 St. Margarets Bay AC10, AC11

800 - Atlantic Coastal Ecoregion

Distinguishing Ecoregion Feature: A coastal climate dominated by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and vegetation reflecting this climate.

This ecoregion extends along the Atlantic coast of the province from Yarmouth to Scaterie Island. The Atlantic Coastal Ecoregion seldom exceeds five km in width...

The near absence of red spruce delineates this ecoregion from the adjacent Western and Eastern Ecoregions on the mainland. Only near Yarmouth and Lobster Bay (Tusket River Islands) can red spruce be found growing close to the coast. In the southwest, an indicator of the approximate inland boundary is the reappearance of red oak and white pine. White spruce is a common forest species on the most exposed sites in the Coastal Ecoregion, i.e. coastal islands and headlands, but becomes less abundant away from the water. Hardwood species take a subordinate role in the coastal forest with red maple and white birch common components of the understory of black spruce and balsam fir forests. Most notably on the nutritionally poor sites along the eastern shore, balsam fir will form dense stands with small diameters, an indication that site conditions do not allow self thinning. Much of the eastern portion is comprised of flat and raised bogs, fens and salt marshes.

820 - Eastern Shore Ecodistrict