Natural History

Natural history is the observation and description of the life around us and the explanation of how it came to be.

View also submenu items including Forest Vegetation, Conservation, NSDNR Old Forest Policy, and Conservation Links, Birds, Amphibians, Reps & Mammals, Sounds & Sights

The Acadian Forest, the story so far
Sounds and views of Acadian forest, and of recent clearcuts by Mark Brennan. Also see (listen to) Mark’s Wild Earth Voices which include four albums in forest wilderness settings in Nova Scotia.

A field guide to forest biodiversity stewardship
Peter Neily and Glen J. Parsons. NSDNR 2017. The 126 page guidebook contains a lot of useful information primarily at “the forest stand level”, encourages managers to retain legacy trees, patches of old growth etc. and for some specific situations or wildlife such as as nesting colonies of great blue heron offers very specific instructions on how to protect them. The Eco Notes in each section provide interesting, relevant and practical information about forest biodiversity that will be welcomed all people who have an active interest in our forests regardless of whether they actually manage any forest.

Natural History of Nova Scotia: H6 INTRODUCTION TO FORESTS
A good overview.

Old Growth Forests
A Fact Sheet on the State of Old Growth Forests in Nova Scotia by Nova Scotia Nature Trust, Spring 2000

Becoming a naturalist
On what a naturalist does and how one learns natural history with special reference to Nova Scotia. David P. in The Halifax Field Naturalist No 160 (Fall, 2015)

Nova Scotia Bird News by Date
A page on the American Birding Association website recording posts to a listserv, with often 10 or more posts daily. It’s not restricted to birds and includes many natural history observations as they unfold seasonally in Nova Scotia. Every now and then, there are informative discussions of current issues relating to natural history and conservation.

MTRI’s Forest Program
MTRI is the Mersey Tibeatic Research Institute whose mandate is “to promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and beyond through research, education, and the operation of a field station”. This set of web pages describes their work and volunteer programs and provides links to relevant resources.

Wildland Writers: NaturallyNS
Links to articles by the Wildland Writers published in the Chronicle Herald under the column Naturally Nova Scotia, many of which are about life in Nova Scotia forests.

ns wild flora societyLinks: Conservation/Species at Risk
Five pages of links on the website of the NS Wild Flora Society under the headings Nova Scotia, Federal/Other Atlantic Provinces/U.S., International, Invasive Species, Naturalization/Native Plant Gardening.

Halifax Field Naturalist Archived Newsletters
The Halifax Field Naturalist has been published 4x/year since 1975. Past issues provide for some good browsing and you can search the archives, e.g. for spruce budworm, longhorn beetle. Included are descriptions of invited talks, field trips that cover the province and topical reports of the times.

Celebrating Yellow Birch
Post on this website. “Yellow birch is chuncky, slow growing, a tree of damp, shady ravines, of swamps and rocky hillsides. It grows slow and dies old. For company it prefers other shade lovers like sugar maple, hemlock. Red spruce and beech – that club of elites we call the Acadian forest. Its bark is so rough and gnarly, especially on older trees, people hardly know it’s a birch.” – Gary Saunders in My Life with Trees, Gaspereau Press, 2015

Nova Scotia Environmental Assessments
The published EAs are an invaluable source of information on the occurrence of species and habitats in different parts of the province. The site provides access to EAs going back to the year 2000.

Dr. Elena Ponomarenko shows participants in the MTRI Old Forest Conference (Oct 19-21, 2016) how to read the forest floor to uncover past disturbances and forest types

Dr. Elena Ponomarenko shows participants in the MTRI Old Forest Conference (Oct 19-21, 2016) how to read the forest floor to uncover past disturbances and forest types

Pit and Mound Topography

Patterns of pedoturbation by tree uprooting in forest soils
Bobrovsky M.V., Loyko S.V. Russian Journal of Ecosystem Ecology Vol. 1 (1). 2016. A descriptive article with photos. It references classic research by E.V. Ponomarenko who has been working in Nova Scotia recently.

Night Gliders
Article by Bob Bancroft about flying squirrels. In Saltscapes magazine

EDMUND S. TELFER: Continuing Environmental Change -An Example from Nova Scotia
Canadian Field-Naturalist 118(1): 39-44.
ABSTRACT: Information from personal experience, from community elders and published literature served as a basis for evaluating environmental changes in the District of North Queens and adjacent areas of Southwestern Nova Scotia over the past century. Major events included disappearance of the Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), the arrival of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the severe reduction of Canada Yew (Taxus canadensis), disappearance of Lynx (Lynx canadensis), a major dieoff of Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis), decline of American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), the loss of mature birch (Betula spp.), the severe reduction of Moose (Alces alces), the arrival of the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) and Coyotes (Canis latrans), and the restoration of Beaver (Castor canadensis). The proximate cause of many of those changes were plant and animal disease, while the ultimate causes were naturally occurring animal range expansion and human impacts. The warming of the climate over the past 150 years probably played a role. The nature and timing of the events could not have been predicted.

Beetle Diversity Associated with Forest Structure including Deadwood in Softwood and Hardwood Stands in Nova Scotia
Kehler, Daniel et al. Proceedings of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science 2004 “Associations between beetles and forest stand characteristics, as well as beetle diversity, were investigated for 41 forest stands in Nova Scotia, Canada. Over 200 morphospecies from 45 Families of beetles were caught using window flight-intercept traps…”

lichens NY Botanical GardenCurious about lichens? See McMullin, T. and Anderson, F. 2014. Common Lichens of Northeastern North America. A Field Guide. New York Botanical Garden.
View An Interview with Dr. Troy McMullin, Author of Common Lichens of Northeastern North America.
Join Nova Scotians’ love affair with lichens and the forests in which they thrive!

Saproxylic beetle (Coleoptera) communities and forest management practices in coniferous stands in southwest Nova Scotia, Canada
Philana E. Dollin, Christopher G. Majka & Peter N. Duinker, ZooKeys 2(2) · September 2008 pp291-336.
Old-growth forest in Nova Scotia typically exhibits an uneven-aged, multi-layered stand structure and contains significant amounts of coarse woody debris. Many forest species, including invertebrates, depend in various ways on deadwood substrates. The objective of this study was to investigate relationships between forest stand age, silvicultural treatment, dead wood, and invertebrate biodiversity, using saproxylic beetles as an indicator group. Saproxylic beetle communities were also compared in the context of other studies in Nova Scotia. Beetles were gathered using four collection techniques: pitfall traps, funnel traps, sweep-netting, and manual searching. Results show that both stand age and harvest treatment had an effect on species richness and species composition. Younger stands had lower species richness and hosted a significantly different suite of species than medium-aged or older ones. Similarly, harvested stands had lower species richness and were host to a significantly different suite of species than unharvested stands. The results from the investigation of stand age are of particular interest. Forest management that disregards the dependence of different suites of beetles on forest stands of various ages and compositions, emphasizing even-aged single-species stands, may be harmful to the species diversity of Nova Scotia’s forest ecosystems

Saproxylic beetle (Coleoptera) communities and forest management practices in coniferous stands in southwest Nova Scotia, Canada. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26628876_Saproxylic_beetle_Coleoptera_communities_and_forest_management_practices_in_coniferous_stands_in_southwest_Nova_Scotia_Canada [accessed Jul 21, 2017].

Resources for Identifying the Plants of Nova Scotia
Comprehensive list of floras, field guides and major online resources to plants, lichens and bryophytes (mosses and the like).