How Islanders can soon learn about at-risk species on P.E.I.

·3 min read
Harriet Laver recently graduated from UPEI in biology and she is the lead for a new Nature P.E.I. project aimed at raising awareness about at-risk species on the Island. (Nature P.E.I. - image credit)
Harriet Laver recently graduated from UPEI in biology and she is the lead for a new Nature P.E.I. project aimed at raising awareness about at-risk species on the Island. (Nature P.E.I. - image credit)

Nature P.E.I. is taking its message about species at risk on Prince Edward Island to kids' camps this summer.

P.E.I. is the only province in Atlantic Canada without a standalone law to protect species at risk. A report this spring from East Coast Environmental Law called Simply Not Protected is also how the group describes species at risk and their habitat on Prince Edward Island.

"When people don't know about species at risk, people don't know what they can do to help," project co-ordinator Harriet Laver told CBC's Island Morning.

"By educating people about the species at risk on P.E.I., it means that we can get the public more involved in ways that they can help bring these species populations back up and overall, just project them."

Laver recently graduated from UPEI in biology and will be going to day camps this summer to talk to children about  species at risk, as well as holding educational workshops for adults.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

The project is something Nature P.E.I. has been wanting to do for a long time says president Rosemary Curley.

"The amount of public information about our species at risk that is available publicly is infinitesimal. There's nothing much out there except for a few birds which are kind of poster child for species at risk, like the piping plover," Curley said.

"Most people as we say, they couldn't name five species at risk if they tried."

Simple things to help at-risk species

Laver agrees there are many other at-risk species of which Islanders should be more aware.

That's why the project will touch on a wide range of species, Laver said, from plants like the Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster and beach pinweed to lichens including the blue felt lichen, frosted glass whiskers, white rim shingle lichen and wrinkled shingle lichen.

"A lot of people don't even know what a lichen is," she said. "And there's three bumblebee species that are at risk, including the yellow-banded bumblebee — those are really important pollinators."

Laver is working on brochures with a list of these species that will be available in museums and Tourism P.E.I. locations across P.E.I. She's also putting together an online guidebook that provides an in-depth look at species at risk on the Island and why they're in trouble.

One of the main reasons species become at risk is habitat loss — something that has significantly impacted lichens, Laver said.

"These lichens in particular, they tend to like old-growth forests. And so we've lost a lot of that on P.E.I. over quite a number of years. Conserving those forests would really help them, or what's left of them anyway."

Laver hopes the project will help Islanders realize they can take action right at home to support at-risk species, she said.

"People can do really simple things, such as for the pollinators, planting native species and pollinator gardens. And then there's also other things like leaving dead trees because that's good for birds, it's good for bats, it's good for lichens and other species as well.

"Avoid using pesticides on your gardens because that doesn't help the pollinators. And providing habitat when habitat is lost — so in some cases, bird boxes or bat boxes."

Submitted by Harriet Laver
Submitted by Harriet Laver

Laver has also met with landowners to discuss what they can do to support at-risk species.

P.E.I. is 90 per cent privately owned, so property owners can have a huge impact in helping to conserve these species' habitats, Laver said.

"Really it's the landowners who we're looking for help from because they have the most weight in this situation because they can do things that will actually help these animals."