IBA Cap Tourmente
Saint-Joachim, Québec
Site Summary
QC002 Latitude
47.075° N
70.783° W
0 - 370 m
42.57 km²
native grassland, salt marshes/brackish marshes
Land Use:
Agriculture, Nature conservation and research, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Disturbance, Oil slicks
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Congregatory Species, Waterfowl Concentrations
Conservation status: National Wildlife Area (federal), Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Significance)
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Site Description
Cap Tourmente is located on the north shore of the St Lawrence River approximately 55 km downstream from Québec City. Within the site there are four main habitat types: intertidal marsh, coastal marsh, coastal plain, and a mixed-forest plateau. The Cap Tourmente intertidal marsh, which is especially significant for staging Snow Geese, is part of the vast bulrush marshes that have developed along the North Channel of Ile d'Orléans, and Montmagny Islands in the St Lawrence River. In all, these marshes occupy 2,500 ha and include close to 60% of all the bulrush marshes in Québec.

The heterogeneous habitats within the Cap Tourmente site support a diverse vascular plant community with nearly 700 species having been identified. Several of these plant species are rare in both Quebec and Canada with Cap Tourmente representing the northernmost recorded site for several of these species.

During spring and fall migration, cap Tourmente is a key stopover site hosting a considerable portion of Greater Snow Geese population. At the turn of the century fewer than 3,000 individuals were reported, but since then the population has increased: a census conducted in the spring of 1996 estimated there to be 585,100 individuals. During peak migration, more than 50,000 Greater Snow Geese can be observed daily in the mudflats and marshes. In recent years geese have expanded their staging and range areas to include Lac Saint-Pierre (lake) and the area stretching north from Lake Champlain to the south-west; this is especially notable in spring. The lowlands of cap Tourmente are also important for migrating waterfowl and is home to many species of breeding waterfowl too; the more common are American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, and Wood Duck.

The site also hosts a number of landbirds, including Peregrine Falcons (ssp. anatum), which is nationally identified as a species at risk (COSEWIC Special Concern). In total, over 250 bird species have been identified within the reserve.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
American Black Duck 1972 - 2019 FA 5,000 - 10,000
Barn Owl 1993 - 1995 SU 1
Herring Gull 1971 FA 3,000
Loggerhead Shrike 1991 - 2017 SP 1
Loggerhead Shrike 1994 SU 1
Peregrine Falcon 1984 SU 15
Rusty Blackbird 1993 - 2020 FA 23 - 200
Rusty Blackbird 1990 - 2020 SP 24 - 109
Rusty Blackbird 2000 SU 24
Snow Goose 1953 - 2014 FA 58,500 - 200,000
Snow Goose 1972 - 2018 SP 60,000 - 150,000
Snow Goose 1976 - 1995 WI 60,000 - 100,000
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Cap Tourmente was acquired by the Canadian Government in 1969 and identified as a National Wildlife Area in 1978. In 1981, it was also recognized as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar convention.

Due to the large concentration of Snow Geese at this site, this species is particularily vulnerable to threats such as oil pollution and disease. In addition, given the site's location downstream from the heavily industrialized St. Lawrence River valley, chronic water and air pollution is also a concern. The scirpus marshes being the main food source for the Greater Snow Goose population during migration, the survival and preservation of a healthy habitat are critical.

Approximately 60,000 people visit cap Tourmente each year to watch the spectacular flocks of migrating geese. Disturbance is minimal, however, since most sites have restricted access. Some hunting and agriculture is permitted under closely monitored systems, and the impacts on this population are considered minimal.

Fish Habitat
Habitats in the region are shaped by the strong tides and the intrusion of the salinity in the river. The habitats are composed mainly of bare mudflats, marsh bulrush and wetlands. In spring, several species of fish, such as yellow perch, the northern pike and the three-spined stickleback, use herbaceous areas in shallow water to spawn. Other species, such as American shad and Atlantic tomcod, used the brackish water during their first summer.

Two nationally endanged species are found in this area: the lake sturgeon and the American eel. Deterioration and loss of habitats, whether they are caused by deforestation, erosion of banks, sedimentation, or by the deterioration of water quality are the main threats for those species. Sources of pollution in the area come mainly from the agricultural industry, the industrial wastes, and sewages flowing directly into the river (either sanitary or pluvial). Hydroelectric dams are a major cause of mortality during the seaward migration of American eel, while they may also impede the upstream migration of glass eels / elvers.

Habitat loss is a threat to many aquatic species exploiting the site, whether by direct destruction or by creating obstacles to migration. The residential and commercial development, backfilling, dams, ports and recreational and commercial boating (bank erosion by waves) are some examples. Finally, the presence of invasive species endangers the natural dynamics of the ecosystem and its inhabitants.

Major species present:
American eel
American shad
Atlantic sturgeon
Atlantic tomcod
Lake sturgeon
Northern pike
White sucker
Yellow perch

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 :
American bulrush
Broad-leafed arrowhead
Sessilefruit arrowhead

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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