St. John River: The Sand and the Fury
The complex ecology of the Fundy tides
Twice a day, the Saint John River loses a struggle with the incoming tide.
The river flow is forced to flow backwards through a narrow gorge known as the
The Bay of Fundy tides are the world's highest, rising as much as 16 metres. The funnel
shape, volume, and depth of the Bay is responsible for the unusually powerful tides. The
falls are evidence of the powerful push that forces the river to change its direction.
Scientists have determined that the powerful movement of water circulates nutrients and
promotes high biological productivity. The Bay of Fundy is a vast web of delicate biological
connections regulated by the tides.
At high tide, seabirds by the hundreds of thousands swoop down to fatten themselves on fish.
When the tide goes out, it exposes fresh mudflats which teem with life. The birds turn their
attention to tiny, squirming mud shrimp.
Whales and porpoises gather in the bay in summer to feast on herring. Biologists are worried
by the number of whales that show propeller-damage to their tails. They have seen some whales
suffer a slow, painful death from collisions with boat traffic.
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