The Canadian Maritimes

The Maritime Provinces of Canada include New Brunswick (NB), Nova Scotia (NS), and Prince Edward Island (PEI) and are zoned as a cold temperate Atlantic-boreal region (van den Hoek, 1975). These Provinces front the Atlantic Ocean and its various sub-basins such as the Gulf of Maine, the Bay of Fundy, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Fig. 1). Each basin presents different oceanographic conditions with the consequent temperature regimes. The SST of the Nova Scotian shore open to the Atlantic experiences average temperatures of 0.4°C during the winter and 14.5°C during the summer (range -1.4°C to 21.5°C). The Gulf of Maine directly influences the shoreline of southwestern NS to provide a summer average SST of 13.9°C and a winter average of 2.0°C (overall range 22.6-1.1°C). However, shallow embayments along the southwestern and southern shores of NS normally freeze over during the winter and experience higher temperatures than those of the open coast during the summer. The Bay of Fundy, due to its depth and exceptional tidal range with the resultant deep mixing, is the coldest basin in the region. Its maximum SST never rises above 15°C during the summer, but it also rarely experiences freezing during the winter. Finally, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is a relatively shallow basin where SST has a much higher variation. Average winter SST in the Gulf is -1.7°C with a solid layer of ice covering much of the Gulf from January to mid-April, whereas, in August it reaches an average of 23.3°C, with a maximum of 25.6°C. Thus, the seaweeds in all these systems have to survive drastic changes of temperature, especially in the case of the intertidal seaweeds that can experience changes of more than 20°C within minutes during a tidal cycle in winter when water temperatures may be -1.5°C and air temperatures -25°C.

Figure 1. The Maritime Provinces of Canada and their main sub-basin systems.


The shores of PEI and NS and NB within the Gulf of Saint Lawrence (Fig. 1) present a small tidal range and a limited amount of rocky substrata. The few available locations for intertidal seaweeds suffer intensive ice abrasion during late winter and early spring (Scrosati and Heaven, 2006). Thus, most of the intertidal flora biomass of the region is located on the rocky substrata of eastern and southern NS and the Bay of Fundy shores of both NS and NB. These rocky shores extend more than 4,000 km and are dominated by the fucoid Ascophyllum nodosum, which forms extensive beds especially in moderately wave sheltered to sheltered areas (Fig. 2) (Sharp, 1986). Fucus vesiculosus is also found in the rocky intertidal zone, but in lesser quantities. It appears especially in more wave exposed or ice-scoured areas and in the upper and lower portions of the Ascophyllum beds in the sheltered intertidal zone (Fensom and Taylor (1974); Sharp, op. cit.; Ugarte et al., 2008). The geographical distribution of these two fucoids in the north Atlantic largely overlaps with the exception that A. nodosum does not occur along the Baltic Coasts, whereas, F. vesiculosus is well established there (Lüning, 1990). This difference is attributed to the more euryhaline characteristics of F. vesiculosus (Gylle et al., 2009). The red and

Figure 2. The rocky intertidal zone of New Brunswick with the dominant fucoid Ascophyllum nodosum (location: Red Point in Seal Cove, Grand Manan Island).

brown seaweeds, Polysiphonia lanosa and Pilayella littoralis, are common epiphytes of Ascophyllum in our region (Rawlence and Taylor, 1972; Chopin et al., 1996). Two other fucoids, Fucus evanescens and F. serratus, are also found in the lower intertidal regions in some areas. The red seaweed Chondrus crispus is also an important component in the lower intertidal zone in semi-exposed to exposed areas. Other red seaweeds such as Palmariapalmata (dulse) and Mastocarpus stellatus are also found in patches and sparsely intermixed with Chondrus in the Canadian Maritimes (Ste-phenson and Stephenson, 1972; Chapman and Johnson, 1990).

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