CLI LAND CAPABILITY OF THE PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND MAP SHEET AREA

 

The Canada Land Inventory provides one of the most comprehensive digital map source for resource planning and management in Canada. The area covered by the CLI is indicated in the index map. For each of the map sheets areas land capability is mapped at 1:250'000 scale and usually at a 1:50'000 scale. This is an example for Prince Edward Island. The index map on the right shows the areas mapped for land capability under the CLI. The left image shows an example of a number of overlays displayed on Google Earth.

Each of the 1.250'000 scale maps has an extensive description of the landscape ecosystem and capability perspectives. Below is an example for the Prince Edward Island map area.



Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION
CLIMATE
SETTLEMENT AND LAND USE
MAIN SOIL CHARACTERISTICS
AGRICULTURE
ECOLOGY
WETLAND CLASSIFICATION
LAND CAPABILITY FOR FORESTRY


INTRODUCTION

Prince Edward Island is the smallest of Canada's Atlantic Provinces. Its protected position in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, its long shoreline with extensive beaches and lend-locked bays, its subdued topography, and its pastoral landscapes place it in a unique position among Canada's recreation areas.

Most of the Island has a gently undulating surface, generally below 200 feet above sea level. There are two hilly districts, one in western Queen's County (where elevations rise to 450 feet) and the other along the Queens-Kings County border.

The underlying bedrock, composed largely of soft red sandstones and shales. seldom appears on the surface through the overlying deep mantle of glacial deposits on which soils have developed, but it is exposed in the low cliffs that occur along much of the shoreline. These cliffs have eroded rapidly. especially along the northern coast, and eroded rand from the northern headlands has been shaped by longshore currents into a spectacular series of off-shore and boy-mouth bars. Shifting sends in the tidal inlets through the bars make navigation treacherous for larger craft on the north coast, although a few good harbors ore found there. In some sections of the north coast sand dunes are migrating slowly inland.

In contrast, the southern coast is more protected, and has fewer spits and bars and more safe anchorages. Erosion is less evident, the average annual shoreline retreat being several inches; more than a foot per year is normal on the north coast and up to 13 feet has been recorded.

The central portion of Prince Edward Island supports fairly open forests of tolerant hardwoods on upland sites, and coniferous forests on the steep slopes of narrow volleys and on the bottom of broad valleys. White and black spruce, balsam fir, and red maple are characteristic species found in the western third of the Island and on the north and east coasts. The sand dunes referred to above provide excellent examples of coastal vegetative evolution, and in the same area severe winds deform and retard tree growth. These dunes can be regarded as recreational attractions.

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CLIMATE

The surrounding waters have a marked effect on the island temperatures although its climate is largely under the influence of the weather systems moving eastward off the continent, and is continental rather than maritime. Winters are long and fairly cold and summers are cool, the mean daily temperatures at Charlottetown ranging from 17.60 in February to 66.60F in July. But the moderating effect of the surrounding waters keeps island temperatures at least 5 degrees above those in the central Maritimes in late summer to early winter, and consequently the frost-free period, which exceeds 140 days over most of the Island, is unusually long for the Atlantic Provinces. Precipitation is normally abundant (the mean annual total at Charlottetown is 43. 13 inches), 26 percent falling as snow. Precipitation is fairly uniformly distributed throughout the year but is somewhat lighter during the summer months. There is a rapid alternation of sunny, cloudy, and rainy or snowy weather. Prevailing winds are southerly and southwesterly in summer and westerly in winter; wind speeds are normal for the Maritime Provinces with an average speed of 11.9 over the year at Charlottetown. Frequent thaws and thin snow cover are typical during the winter.

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SETTLEMENT AND LAND USE

In 1534; when Jacques Cartier set foot on the Island it was known to its Micmac Indian residents as Abegweit -- "The Home Cradled on the Waves." Although Cartier described it as "the fairest land that may possibly be seen." it was not until the eighteenth century that permanent settlement began, first by French and Acadians, later by Scottish, English, and Irish settlers, the descendents of whom are engaged in farming and fishing in a largely rural setting.

About 54 percent of the land surface is cleared for agriculture, and with over 75 percent classified as occupied farmland, the Island has a much larger portion of its territory devoted to agriculture than any other Canadian province. A number of forms lie abandoned. The larger tracts of woodland are found in Kings County and western Prince County.

With the exception of Borden, a transportation center, communities have developed to serve the two principal industries, agriculture and fisheries. The cultural patterns blend with the natural landscape to form the present picturesque and pastoral environment, and give the Island considerable recreational appeal.

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MAIN SOIL CHARACTERISTICS

The mineral soils ore developed from glacial till, glaciofluvial materials, and marine, aeolian, and lacustrine sediments, derived mainly from the underlying sedimentary rocks. A red to reddish-brown glacial till, ranging in texture from randy loam to clay loam, covers the greater part of the Island. It is finer textured in the western port of Prince County, where shale forms the bedrock. Most of the sandy loam soils have good drainage, but the clay loams restricts moisture movement and are imperfectly to poorly drained. Aeolian deposits, such as dune rand, and much of the glaciofluvial and marine materials have a moderate to low water-holding capacity. A few organic deposits, ranging from well humified to poorly decomposed plant materials, occur in the area.

The well-drained soils are Orthic Podzols. In forested areas they have a well-developed light-colored layer, or horizon, under the surface and yellowish red or reddish brown B horizons. The solum is usually about 20 inches thick. Under imperfect drainage conditions, the lower A and B horizons are mottled, forming Gleyed Podzols. The poorly drained soils have dull colors and prominent mottling in the solum. They are Orthic or Fera Gleysols. The soils developed on aeolian sands ore Orthic Regosols, while those developed on marine deposits ore generally low lying and imperfectly drained, forming Gleyed Regosols. The capability of all soils is reduced by one class because of the limitation of low natural fertility.

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AGRICULTURE

Prince Edward Island was first settled by the French about 1720. By 1763, when the island came under British rule, about 10,000 acres had been cleared. The acreage of improved land increased until 1911, then decreased. About 30 to 40 percent of the population is engaged in the main types of farming--livestock, dairy, and potato farming. Small acreages of canning crops and tobacco are grown also. There are about 390,000 acres of land under crops, of which about 46 percent is in hay, 40 percent in grain, and 10 percent in potatoes. The average farm is 130 acres in size, but 40 percent of the farms are 180 acres or larger. About 70 percent of the farms had more than 33 acres in crops in 1961. The growing of certified read potatoes is an important factor in the economy of the Island.

Capability classification by G.B. Whiteside, based on soil information contained in the Prince Edward island Soil Survey Report.

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ECOLOGY

Over half of the land is cleared for agriculture and 43 percent is forested. The woods of the area belong to the Acadian Forest Region, but more than two centuries of intensive human occupation have changed the original forest greatly. White spruce (Picea glauca) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) are now the main conifers; white birch (Betula papyrifera) and maples (Acer spp.) are common hardwoods. The woodlots are important to upland game and small animals because they supply much-needed edge. They also give the landscape a very distinct character.

Two main aquatic plant communities occur within the wetlands of the area. One community exists under the freshwater conditions of inland ponds, streams, and marshes. Plant species include cattails (Typha sop.), bulrushes (Scirpus sop.), rushes (Juncus spp.), duckweeds (Lemma spp.), and a wide variety of pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.). The other community lives in the brackish and salt waters of barrier beach ponds, estuaries, and other wetlands affected by tidal waters. Typical plants are bulrushes, rushes, sedges (Carer spp.), and pondweeds. Salt marshes and tidal flats have a less diversified community of cordgrasses (Spartina spp.), sedges, and black rush (Juncus gererdi). Eelgrass (Zostera marina) grows in shallow bays and estuaries. The degree of salinity, from slightly brackish to very saline, is reflected in the plant community present. The waterfowl species that commonly nest in the area are Black Duck, (Anas rubripes), Blue-winged Teal (Anes discors), Pintail (Anas acutor), Ringnecked Duck (Aythya collaris), American Widgeons (Mareca americana), and Green-winged Teal (Anas Carclinensis). Canada Geese (Branta Canadensis), Brant (Branta bernicla), and migrating ducks use the sheltered waters of the large bays as resting and feeding grounds.

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WETLANDS CLASSIFICATION

The Island has a very high capability for waterfowl production. Wetlands of classes 1, 2, and 3 are common, and are generally natural fresh water marshes, mill ponds, or brackish wetlands of the estuaries. In addition to these fertile, sheltered wetlands, there are the wide expanses of the bays where wildfowl can rest and feed, usually out of reach of man but well within his view. The bays are also important breeding locations for fish and shellfish and are popular haunts for wading birds and fish-eating birds such as gulls, eagles, and ospreys. Waterfowl are hunted on the shores as well as on the wetlands of the Island.

Capability classification by G. H. Watson, Canadian Wildlife Service.

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LAND CAPABILITY FOR FORESTRY

According to Rowe (Forest Regions of Canada, Forestry branch Bullentin 123, 1959), the Island falls within the Acadian Forestry Region characterized by red spruce, associated with hemlock, sugar maple, beech, and yellow birch About half of the island is forested and three-fifths of this area is classified as dense woodland, i.e., well-stocked stands at least 20 years of age. Loucks (A Forest Classification for the Maritime Provinces, 1962), recognized three ecoregions: the Hillsborough district which includes the best form land in the central part of the Island and is least affected by the desiccating winds off the Gulf of St. Lawrence; the Northumberland Strait from the west end of the Island to about Summerside, an area strongly effected by wind and including most of the heavy soils of the western part of the Island; the Prince Edward Shore district, characterized by well-drained sandy soils along the north shore of the Island, and influenced strongly by winds off the Gulf. The first is characterized by hemlock and tolerant hardwoods; the second by black spruce, jack pine, and red maple; and the last by white and black spruce, balsam fir, and red maple.

With reference to forest growth, a number of factors can be considered os limiting in Prince Edward Island. Of these, wind is probably the most important Whereas its effect is undoubtedly greatest close to the coast, i.e., in the Northumberland and Prince Edward shore districts, practically no part of the Island is free of this influence. As a result of exposure, no lands on the Island rated higher than capability Class 3 when white spruce was used as an indicator species. Excessive soil moisture is probably the second most important limiting factor. Its effect was greatest in the heavy soils of western Prince County, but was also important in the organic soils wherever they occurred. Drought, or excessive soil drainage was important on the light-textured soils of eastern Prince Edward Island, but, because of the presence of a water table at about 3 feet, was less limiting for deeprooted species such as red pine than for spruce. The soils of the Island are inherently low in fertility and effect the capability classification throughout.

Capability classification by N. I. Kissick of the Atlantic Forestry Institute, in cooperation with the Chief Forester, Department of Agriculture. Prince Edward island.

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