Newfoundland Highland forests

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This ecoregion lies entirely within the island of Newfoundland. It is distinguished from the Eastern Canadian Forests [NA0605] by higher elevational range and rugged topography.

This area has a mean annual temperature of 4°C, mean summer temperature ranges from 11.5°C to 12°C and the mean winter temperature from -3.5°C to -4°C. The mean annual precipitation varies between 1000-1400 mm. This region has a maritime high boreal ecoclimate, with cool summers and cold snowy winters (ESWG 1995).

Rugged, steep slopes are formed of acidic, crystalline Palaeozoic and Precambrian rocks, and range from sea level to 815 m asl, although most of the region falls in the 300-700 m range. Ridged to hummocky bare rock is common (ESWG 1995).

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    6,300 square miles
  • Status
    Relatively Stable/Intact
  • Habitats

Biological Distinctiveness
The boreal forest in this ecoregion is characterized by dwarf, open and sometimes closed cover patches of black spruce (Picea mariana) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) alternating with communities of dwarf kalmia (Kalmia polifolia) and mosses. Exposed sites support mixed evergreen and deciduous shrubs (ESWG 1995).

This ecoregion contains the northernmost extension of the Appalachian Mountain system in North America. Some arctic plant species occur as disjunct southern populations or extensions of their usual continental range. Similarly, arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) are at the southern limits of their continental range in the Newfoundland Highland Forests.

Conservation Status

Habitat Loss
It is estimated that 80-90 percent of the ecoregion remains as intact habitat. Most areas above the tree line have only been impacted as the result of a few transmission corridors, mineral exploration and extraction, and domestic wood harvesting at the middle and lower elevations.

Remaining Blocks of Intact Habitat
The ecoregion is naturally divided into three disjunct habitat blocks. All of these are relatively intact.

Degree of Fragmentation
Human induced fragmentation is relatively minor.

Degree of Protection

•Gros Morne National Park (upper elevations) - western Newfoundland - 1,942 km2
•Barachois Pond Provincial Park - southwestern Newfoundland - 34.97 km2
•King George IV Ecological Reserve - western Newfoundland - 19 km2
Types and Severity of Threats
The lower forested slopes of this ecoregion are under threat from increased domestic wood harvest and commercial pulp and paper harvest. Areas at higher elevation (most of the ecoregion) are principally threatened by granite quarries and a high level of mining potential and interest. All terrain vehicle traffic is extensive in some areas.

Suite of Priority Activities to Enhance Biodiversity Conservation

•A Protected Areas Strategy has been launched in Newfoundland/Labrador. This needs to be implemented by the year 2000 with appropriate representative protected areas established. In the interim, the Little Grand Lake proposed ecological reserve needs to be designated.
•Domestic wood cutting in Gros Morne National Park needs to be reduced and better regulated.
Conservation Partners

•Action: Environment
•Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
•Newfoundland/Labrador Environmental Association
•Protected Areas Association of Newfoundland and Labrador
•Tuckamore Wilderness Society
•World Wildlife Fund Canada
Relationship to other classification schemes
The Newfoundland Highland Forests in eastern Newfoundland are found across the Long Range Mountains (TEC 108, 110 and 111) (Ecological Stratification Working Group 1995). Within Rowe’s (1972) Boreal Forest Region, this area corresponds to Corner Brook and the Newfoundland-Labrador Barrens (28b and 31).

Prepared by: B. Meades, L. Gratton, A. Perera, L. Jackson, K. Kavanagh, M. Sims, G. Mann.