17 June 2009

N.B. scientists scour Jacquet River Gorge for species in protected area

CBC News

Scientists are scouring the Jacquet River Gorge in northern New Brunswick to catalogue as many species as they can in the protected area.

A crew of researchers, including biologists, botanists and zoologists, said these expeditions are critical so scientists will know if any species are lost because of future development.

For the next two weeks, the team of experts will try to document as many different plant, animal and insect varieties as possible.

Don McAlpine, curator of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, said there have already been some unusual finds in the area.

McAlpine said the museum's botanist has found some rare lichens.

"Some of them haven't been found in North America before, some of them are probably undescribed species," he said.

Scratching the Surface

The Jacquet River Gorge is one of 60 protected areas in New Brunswick. It covers roughly 26,000 hectares in northern New Brunswick.

The vast territory included in the gorge area means that the experts will only scratch the surface over the next two weeks. But McAlpine said it's important to start compiling a list.

"[Provincial] legislation requires that management plans be developed to protect these sites. But it's difficult to develop a management plan if you don't know what's there," he said.

McAlpine said he hopes this summer's initiative will be the first of many that will log the species in protected areas.

"This is the first year of what we hope will be multi-year programs to try to learn as much as we can about the protected natural areas in the province. There are 60 of them at the moment, 10 of which are quite large," he said.

The scientists are scheduled to perform the same exercise in Jacquet River next summer.