Cap Saint-Ignace is on the south shore of St. Lawrence River, near the town of Cap-Saint-Ignace, Québec. The site, which surrounds the cape, is primarily composed of a tidal scirpus marsh. The water is slightly salty with parts of the marsh covered with shrubs. The centre of the site is the 1.5 km long Migratory Bird Sanctuary, but geese are also found outside this area along the coast in a easterly and westerly direction. The north and south limits of the area are delineated by the high and low tide levels.
Several fish species at risk are present, including American Eel which migrate along the St. Lawrence River south shore.
Cap Saint-Ignace is one of several sites in the St Lawrence River that hosts large numbers of Greater Snow Geese during migration. Up to 15,000 have been recorded. This represents approximately 2% of the population of this atlanticus subspecies. Within the Migratory Bird Sanctuary alone two to three thousand are regularly seen in both spring and fall migration.
Dabbling ducks, such as American Black Duck, and Green-winged and Blue-winged teal, can also be seen, with maximum numbers usually between 200 and 300. This site is part of a stretch of shoreline that has been identified as a waterfowl concentration area. Common Eiders can be seen, while the only shorebird that is present in moderate numbers is Spotted Sandpiper.
There are a few nesting ducks here including American Black Duck, Northern Pintail and Mallard. Some other species such as Horned Lark, Savannah Sparrow and swallows have been recorded at the site in breeding season. Low numbers of Red-shouldered Hawks (nationally vulnerable) and Peregrine Falcons (nationally threatened) are recorded in migration in most years.
The St. Lawrence River is a heavily travelled seaway, so the risk of oil spills are constant. In addition, despite efforts to reduce them, industrial pollutants are still present in the river although their effects are not fully known; the same is true for locally produced pollutants. Soil erosion, already a chronic problem here, is worsened by the excessive grazing and trampling by the Snow Geese.
The site is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary, a Periodically Flooded Area, and is part of a Hunting Free Area. It should eventually be incorporated into a Priority Intervention Area.
The bulrush marsh is the typical coastal habitat in the region. While the water has in this region a low salinity, tides are still present and reshape continuously the river landscape. Several species, such as the rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary) and Atlantic tomcod exploit the shallow waters of the area. Many migratory species (anadromous and catadromous) are also found in the area. In addition to the two species mentioned above, we found also the American shad, the Atlantic sturgeon and the American eel, all three species being prized for their tasteful flesh.
However, several sources of pressures are threatening both the quality and the availability of aquatic habitats. The expansion of agriculture, the residential development, the creation of new resorts and artificialization of the shoreline represent significant habitat losses. The presence of major obstacles may impede the movement of fish toward their breeding site. Finally, the maintenance of the Seaway for commercial navigation (dredging and the discharge of sediments) reduces the water quality and may cause the destruction of spawning sites. The decrease of the Atlantic sturgeon population of in the St. Lawrence can be assign to this aspect. Because of habitat alteration, high exploitation of commercial and recreational fisheries and non-compliance, the population of striped bass in the estuary of the St. Lawrence disappeared around 1968. In 2002, Quebec government has established an important reintroduction program to rehabilitate the specie. Between 2002 and 2007, more than 6 300 striped bass and 6,5 millions larvae were introduced into the St. Lawrence river. A network monitoring incidental captures has been implemented in 2004, allowing to document the evolution of the population.
30,000 fry and more than a thousand individual larger than 35 cm were introduced into the St. Lawrence. In early summer 2006, over one million . From 2008, up to 50 000 fry are introduced annually over a period of 10 years. The objective of this program is to rehabilitate the striped bass population of the St. Lawrence.
Major species present:
Rainbow smelt (population of south shore of the St. Lawrence middle estuary)
Coastal habitats of this area are soaked by generally turbid and lightly salted water. We found mostly brackish marshes, dominated by American bulrush, sessilefruit arrowhead and broad-leafed arrowhead. With there large root system, theses plants retain the soil in place, helping to protect the banks against coastal erosion. In addition, the underground parts are used as a food source by the snow geese during their migrations.
The destruction and loss of habitat (shoreline fill, draining wetlands, urbanization) are the main threats affecting this ecosystem. Water pollution and the risks of oil spills are issues of concern. The spread of invasive species is to be monitored. This region is hosting 18 endemic plant species, including three endangered species in Québec.
Major species present :