Marsh Monitoring Program


Steve Timmermans

The Marsh Monitoring Program (MMP) contributes to the conservation and management of wetlands and related ecosystems through the collection of statistically reliable data on marsh birds and habitats at appropriate spatial scales.

Each of the programs, while unique to regional geography, is similarly designed to collect information about the presence and abundance of birds and, in some cases, amphibians in freshwater and/or coastal wetlands. The information improves our knowledge of species distribution and patterns of species occupancy in relation to habitat characteristics allowing us to better direct EHJV management and conservation efforts for wetlands, wetland-dependent species and human populations. Bird Studies Canada leads Marsh Monitoring Programs in Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies and the Maritimes in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Service and provincial partners. See the The State of Canada’s Secretive Marsh Birds by Bird Studies Canada’s Doug Tozer in BirdWatch Canada magazine.

The Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program

The Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program (GLMMP) was launched bi-nationally in 1995 by Bird Studies Canada in partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since then, more than 1,400 volunteers have collected data on birds, frogs and their habitats at over 5,000 locations. The outcomes include:

  • assessments of populations of marsh birds and frogs at scales ranging from individual marshes to the entire Great Lakes basin
  • investigations of associations between marsh birds, frogs and their habitats
  • contributions to conservation management and planning
  • increased public awareness regarding the importance of wetland conservation

The Quebec Marsh Monitoring Program


Steve Timmermans

The Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring program was expanded in 2004 to include the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Volunteers have been conducting bird surveys in Quebec marshes ever since.

The Quebec regional objectives, which echo those of the program’s national objectives, are to:

  • monitor the population status and long-term trends of wetland-associated bird species at various spatial scales across Quebec
  • investigate associations between marsh bird populations and habitat
  • inform wetland conservation and management planning through assessments of bird species occurrence, abundance and diversity
  • increase public awareness about the importance of wetland and marsh bird species conservation

Similar to the Great Lakes MMP, the Quebec protocol has been adapted to remain consistent with the North American Marsh Bird Monitoring Protocols. Since the start of the program, nearly 200 participants have collected data from over 360 individual locations. Due to population distribution and infrastructure, the majority of the survey sites are situated in Bird Conservation Regions 13 (the Lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Plain) and 14 (the Atlantic Northern Forest). The marshes surveyed vary in size from small, locally important wetlands, to large internationally important ones. Similarly to the situation in southern Ontario, the data collected, suggest that marsh birds in general are currently declining in Quebec.

The Maritimes Marsh Monitoring Program

Bird Studies Canada (BSC) began the Maritimes Marsh Monitoring Program (MMMP) in 2012 as a pilot project in New Brunswick in partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Departments of Natural Resources, Department of National Defense, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Nature Conservancy Canada, Nature Trusts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Acadia University. There are high hopes that this program will be expanded to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in future.


St. John River near Gagetown, New Brunswick/
Gabrielle Beaulieu

The long-term objectives of the MMMP include:

  • monitoring trends in wetland-dependent species population size, occupancy, distribution and abundance across ecological and jurisdictional boundaries
  • gaining better knowledge of wetland species-habitat associations (waterfowl as well as other marsh birds) and habitat features that influence occupancy, distribution and relative abundance at multiple spatial scales
  • evaluating the effectiveness of current management activities for wetland-associated species, including wetland restoration and protection schemes
  • assessing the success in achieving populations goals outlined in EHJV Implementation Plans
  • gathering information needed to evaluate and refine habitat objectives for retention, restoration and management, and monitor population trends to determine whether those goals are achieved
  • identifying high priority wetlands for conservation
  • engaging the public in wetland research and conservation
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