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The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, with support from the PEI 2014 Fund, the Island Nature Trust and Environment and Climate Change Canada EcoAction Community Fund has created a new 2.7 hectare (6.6 acre) Acadian forest.
Since 2014, Macphail Staff, the Island Nature Trust and volunteers have been planting native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns such as red oak, white ash, witch hazel, wild rose and blue flag iris. Community involvement has helped to not only create a new forest but also provided opportunities for environmental education, carbon offsetting, and improving wildlife habitat along the shore of the Bedeque Bay.
In 2012, the donation of the property (from the estate of Island artist Elaine Harrison, who named it “Windswept”) was directed by Executors Betty and Everett Howatt to the Island Nature Trust, who are now responsible for the management of the property. Under the Natural Areas Protection Act, it has been designated as a Natural Area.
This 2.7 hectare (6.6 acre) property is located in Fernwood and known as the Seacow Head Cliffs Natural Area as well as “Windswept”. The land is quite flat, reflecting its past history of agriculture. The northern and western boundaries of the abandoned farmland are the Northumberland Strait, and are made up of high sandstone cliffs. This area is suitable for colonial nesting birds such as Double-crested and Great Cormorants, hence the designation as a Natural Area by the province of Prince Edward Island. Over the past four decades, cliff-nesting birds have been observed using these cliffs.
In the past, plantings of native and non-native species of trees and shrubs were carried out on the property. The most recent were by the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association and the Sea Cadets.
As of 2017, approximately 600 trees, shrubs, flowers and ferns have been planted on site using 30 different native species. These are all flora well suited to the varying conditions of the site as well as the climate of the region as they were grown from local seed stock. The plants chosen for plantings were of varying heights and ages to help develop a mixed-aged forest in the future, creating local seed sources and sizeable trees for wildlife, as well as changing habitat conditions for future plantings. This Confederation Forest site limited the number of species due to its sea-side locale, the prevailing winds and salt spray. Hardy native plants were chosen to being transitioning the property into a more protected site for future plantings. As the conditions on the site change, a larger variety of species will be planted enhancing biodiversity and food sources for wildlife.