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June 2010 issue




Marine Biodiversity: Ecosystems



In the Corridor of Marine Power  

Six years ago, an ecologically rich wedge of ocean in the northern Gulf of Maine became Canada’s first marine biodiversity showcase. Has it lived up to its promise?


By John DeMont
In what was thought to be a lifeless, sediment-filled sea-floor depression, a collection of rocky outcrops were found to be teeming with life.
Photo: iStockphoto.com/Shaun Lowe
Video Chart the reaches of the Jordan Basin, Canada’s first marine biodiversity showcase.

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Multimedia Discover videos, interactive features and photos on the ideas, science and communities behind our biodiversity issue.
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FEATURE STORIES & EXTRAS
  • What is Biodiversity?

    The word invokes the splendour of our world. In 2010 we celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity, yet many living things are in imminent danger of going extinct. Read more »
  • Clayoquot Sound

    Biosphere Reserves such as Clayoquot Sound aim to prove that rich natural environments go hand-in-hand with vibrant economies. Read more »
  • Citizen Science

    From studying slugs to searching for swans and monitoring pine martens, citizen scientists keep watch over our changing world. Read more »
  • 50 Million Trees

    Ontario has an ambitious plan to reforest the most populated part of Canada. But first it must grapple with landowners and fragmented landscapes. Read more »
  • Goodbye Tallgrass Prairie

    Once covering 6,000 square kilometres in Manitoba’s Red River Valley, the tallgrass prairie has all but vanished from the Canadian landscape.
    Read more »
  • Invasive Species

    Are “invasive” species hitching rides to new habitats all that bad for our ecosystems?
    Read more »
  • Freegan Living

    Gerard Daechsel lives as a freegan, an anti-consumerist who forages necessities from what others throw away.
    Read more »
  • The Jordan Basin

    Six years ago, an ecologically rich wedge of ocean in the northern Gulf of Maine became Canada’s first marine biodiversity showcase. Has it lived up to its promise? Read more »
  • Multimedia

    Discover videos, interactive features and photo essays mapping the ideas, science and communities behind our biodiversity issue.
    View now »

It has been six years since an ecologically rich wedge of ocean in the northern Gulf of Maine was designated as Canada’s first marine biodiversity showcase. The idea originated with a group of government and university scientists, who hoped that the Gulf of Maine Biodiversity Discovery Corridor would focus both research and popular attention on the intricate webs of life found in a variety of marine habitats. The initiative has lived up to its promise.

The Jordan Basin
See the extent of the Jordan Basin.

Shaped like a thin slice of pie, the corridor begins near the Fundy Isles region of the lower Bay of Fundy, then fans out into the North Atlantic Ocean. Spanning 800 kilometres from end to end, the corridor’s underwater terrain ranges from coastal areas and offshore banks to submarine canyons and seamounts.

The area’s ocean bottom and water column have inspired some 1,600 citations in scientific journals.
Given its location, the corridor is not exactly a scientific mystery, since the area’s ocean bottom and water column have inspired some 1,600 citations in scientific journals. But it turns out the Gulf of Maine has some surprises left.

In what was thought to be a lifeless, sediment-filled sea-floor depression known as the Jordan Basin, a collection of rocky outcrops that break the otherwise featureless terrain were found to be teeming with life: marine worms, clams, sea anemones, sponges and other filter-feeders that strain suspended food from water. The biodiversity hot spot was dubbed the “hanging gardens.”


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“The Jordan Basin surprised us,” says Peter Lawton, research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick and executive director of the Centre for Marine Biodiversity Society. “It turned out to be way richer and more diverse than anyone imagined.”

Some discoveries were not quite as exciting. The scarce sightings of northern right whales that feed in the corridor, for example, confirmed what scientists feared: the whales are, indeed, an endangered species. Marine researchers also found startlingly low numbers of cusk — slow-moving codlike fish that may be going the way of their Atlantic cousin.

Initiatives such as the Discovery Corridor highlight what still needs to be known about marine ecosystems; it is believed that only one percent of marine species have been documented. Canada has an important stake in understanding the biodiversity in these underwater worlds. Bordering on three oceans, it has the longest coastline in the world and jurisdiction over 7.1 million square kilometres of seascape. It will try to fill in those blanks one “discovery corridor” at a time.



Related content and resources:
Photo Club
View a gallery of Eamon Mac Mahon’s photos of Canada’s forests and read a one-on-one interview with the photographer.
The International Year of Biodiversity
Learn more about the International Year of Biodiversity and what you can do to contribute to this U.N. initiative.
50 Million Trees
Get involved in your community with Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program. Donate or organize your own plant, because every tree counts.
Return to the Wild
Explore and learn more about the diversity of Canada’s wildlife in the Return to the Wild project.


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Comments on this articleView all comments (12) | Leave a comment

Citizen scientist can submit wildlife and plant sightings into community database at 'Wildlife & Plant Sightings' www.junponline.com

Sightings data are organized into basic reports and easily searchable.

Amateur to professional can contrinute their citizen science here.

Submitted by Paul Lindgreen on Monday, January 24, 2011


This story requires the eyes of an ornithologist on the water counting birds. Birds as indicators tell us about the world below. Having just returned from the Jordan Basin region I can attest to the rich Biodiversity that I saw as I counted birds. Dovekie, N. Fulmar, Greater Shearwater..... This Bioregion is important to both the United States and Canada. It behooves all of us to work together diligently to understand this region of the Ocean. Remember also that it is our RIVER Ecosystems connected to the Gulf of Maine that ultimately determine the biodiversity of the GOM.
Pollution in the GOM is a death sentence. Dioxins and mercury must be removed from the Penobscot River and all streams and culverts must be reconnected to the SEA-RUN FISH.. These are the Keystone Species of the GOM and determine the Health of both the United States and Canadian people.

Submitted by Michael J. Good, MS on Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Good article, but most professional foresters will recongnize that most of the photos do not depict an old growth forests, but a variety of second growth or fire-origin sites.

Submitted by collin on Sunday, June 20, 2010


With respect to the statistics Candace quotes from the Int'l Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Is it 12% of all birds or 12% of all species of birds. Quite a different number I would think.

Submitted by Collin on Sunday, June 20, 2010


The excellent article by Fraser Los entitled “50 million trees” is welcome. While the article focuses on Ontario Government plans to reforest Southern Ontario the author also mentions efforts being undertaken in Northern Ontario. To expand on these remarks…

The Forest Health and Silvicultural Section of the Ministry of Natural Resources advises “in 2008, approximately 92 million trees were planted in Ontario, with 49.8 million of these in the Northwest Region”. Survival rates for Pine Spruce are typically 80 to 85% in the Thunder Bay area and are affected by lack of rain, higher temperatures and frost. Tree plant numbers for 2009 will be available in March 2011.

As one flies or takes a survol by Google over the vast expanse of Northern Ontario, one can’t help but wonder about the sustainability of the Boreal Forest. For example, in some areas notably near the Ogoki reservoir, there are any number of 10,000 hectare clearcuts. Huge areas are unplanted and without sufficient seed trees left standing for natural regeneration. Considerable piles of over cut and uncollected wood lie north of Armstrong. As forest tenure is being renogiated, often with the same companies that have left this mess, Northerners can’t help but wonder if there will be any improvement?

Also, the deplorable conditions experienced by many tree planters, mosty Canadian students, needs examining. Migrant workers picking crops in Southern Ontario have much better accommodation, food and standards than experienced by northern tree planters who are often forced to work in cold rain and snow while sleeping in tents. Certainly miracle planters might attain 5,000 trees under ideal conditions, however most struggle to plant 1,000 or 2,000 trees to meet their camp costs, clothing, travel and to have meagre savings for education.

A article on the future of the Boreal Forest and sustainable forestry in Northern Ontario would be welcome.

Submitted by Paul Filteau on Friday, June 18, 2010


Evolution happens with or without our consent or assistance. Yet it's hard to see the good in some of the growing numbers of invasive plant species. Good article, thanks.

Submitted by Tina on Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Informative and well-written article. Nice to see attention being paid to this important, though sadly neglected, issue in Manitoba.

Submitted by Tom Penner on Friday, May 28, 2010


Here is a slideshow from this year's Guelph Rotary Forest tree planting at wich about 1,000 people helped plant trees:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-23quD0hMA

Submitted by Janet Baine on Thursday, May 27, 2010


We should cherish and protect the old-growth rain forests and what's left around us.

Submitted by james on Thursday, May 27, 2010


Stunning multimedia on the Freegan lifestyle. High quality work!

Submitted by Jack on Wednesday, May 26, 2010












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