Island Nature Trust
Addressing Threats to Piping Plover and Other Coast Wildlife
The Maritimes' melodus subspecies of the endangered Piping Plover is described as being a management-dependent species at risk. In recent years there have been fewer than 60 Piping Plover nesting in PEI. With numbers so low, each individual, and each nest is critical to the population.
Island Nature Trust Species-at-Risk staff conducted 316 beach surveys on close to 60 beaches during the 2019 Piping Plover (PIPL) breeding season. Staff surveyed all known potential PIPL habitat in early June as part of the annual Index Count, and then continued to monitor potential breeding beaches throughout the season. We had twenty-three breeding pairs of PIPL that were monitored throughout the nesting season. Volunteers contributed over 875 hours toward the conservation of Piping Plover in PEI in 2018, and this project would not be possible without them.
Island Nature Trust staff and volunteer Plover Guardians worked to address threats to plovers on PEI beaches. These threats include beach walkers unaware of wildlife cues, garbage on beaches, off-leash pets, and vehicles on beaches. Threats were addressed by installing symbolic fencing around nesting areas, conducting beach cleanups and by talking to beach users about how they can minimize disturbance to plovers while on the beach. By reducing threats to piping plovers, INT staff and volunteers also help to protect other coastal wildlife species (e.g. migratory shorebirds, common terns) and PEI’s sensitive coastal dune ecosystems.
Changing peoples’ use patterns can be an inter-generational challenge and sharing fragile beach – dune ecosystems with wildlife has not been top-of-mind for many Island beach users, young or old. Our grade 7 science curriculum project addresses changing attitudes through education and culminates in a May field trip each year. This year students at ME Callaghan, Hernewood, Gulf Shore and Kensington Intermediate Schools were immersed in activities that demonstrated the diversity and fragility of these important ecosystems in their back yards. Their future and the future of Island coastal ecosystems are intertwined.