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Federal ecozones: Atlantic Maritime, Boreal Shield (Newfoundland)
Area: 221,801 km2
Natural cover: 212,073 km2
Per cent natural: 96%
Protected area: 17,387 km2
Per cent protected: 8%
Number of NCC projects (all): 482
Number of species of birds: 258
Number of species of trees: 62
Number of species of mammals: 82
Number of species of amphibians: 17
Estimated human population: 2,393,652


The East Coast includes all of the island of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the majority of New Brunswick. Canada’s East Coast evokes rich images of natural and cultural features along the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the landscape is characterized by second-growth Acadian forests that are dominated by sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch and red spruce. Boreal forests of white and black spruce and balsam fir occur in Newfoundland.

Small lakes and wetlands are common throughout this region. The East Coast also has rich coastal habitats, including estuaries and salt marshes, open rocky barrens, bogs, islands and eel-grass beds. The marine habitats are renowned for their richness and abundance of seabirds, marine mammals and fishes.

East Coast Landscape

Conservation Values

Despite significant human development in the area, this region remains dominated by forests, particularly in the more rugged uplands. Most of the agriculture and settlement in this region occurs within the coastal lowlands and long river valleys. Acadian forests have a long history of human use, and forestry is important for many local economies. Most of the forests have been harvested several times, and less than one per cent of original old-growth remains today.

The East Coast is a rich ecosystem where land and sea are integrated. It is one of the most productive marine systems in the world. Each year millions of shorebirds migrate through the East Coast, and several rare species, including piping plover and roseate tern, nest along the coast.

Common large land mammals are white-tailed deer, black bear, moose and, on Newfoundland, woodland caribou. This region is a key area for many species of seabirds, including petrel, murre, razorbill, northern gannet and puffin.


Land use in the East Coast is dominated by resources industries, such as forestry and mining. Agriculture is concentrated in the rich lowlands of Prince Edward Island, northeastern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

Roads and other barriers threaten to isolate some species. Migration for fishes has been cut off by dams and other barriers. The lands and waters of the East Coast are impacted by invasive plants, animals and tree diseases. These include green crab, common reed and hemlock woolly adelgid. Increasing storm intensity and changing habitat conditions are resulting in shifts in species and vegetation communities.

Incompatible recreation and development in some habitats can disrupt sensitive species and habitats. Coastal areas and migrating shorebirds are particularly sensitive.

What NCC is doing

NCC is working in a number of priority natural areas in this region, including:

  • Acadian Peninsula
  • Avalon Peninsula
  • Eastern Shore Forest and Coast
  • Lower Bay of Fundy
  • New Brunswick Northumberland Strait
  • Nova Scotia Northumberland Strait
  • PEI Coast and Forest
  • Southwest Newfoundland
  • Upper Bay of Fundy
  • Upper Saint John River

NCC’s conservation work in the East Coast has protected important forest, salt marsh, Atlantic salmon river, wetland and beach habitats. NCC is also working to protect and manage forests for old-growth, which is very rare in the region, and is connecting core habitats for species, such as moose and Canada lynx.

Species at risk protected by NCC in the East Coast include piping plover, American marten Newfoundland population and mountain avens. NCC also leads important science and planning initiatives, such as measuring estuary health, and provides interpretive opportunities at the Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre.

Did you know?

  • The East Coast features world-renowned Atlantic salmon rivers.
  • The Bay of Fundy boasts the highest tides in the world.
  • Nova Scotia has a unique and rare group of plants that are mainly restricted in Canada to the lowlands along the Atlantic coast.
  • The East Coast is the most easterly coastal fringe of North America, providing habitat for millions of nesting seabirds.
  • During the summer, there are about as many seabirds in Newfoundland as there are Canadians.
  • The East Coast has over 20 species that are found nowhere else in the world. Key areas for these species include Sable Island, off Nova Scotia, and the limestone barrens of northwestern Newfoundland.

Photo Credits (Top to bottom): All images iStock.

Destinations in this Landscape