Atlantic Ecosystems Initiatives


The Atlantic Ecosystems Initiatives (AEI) aims to improve the health, productivity and long-term sustainability of ecosystems in Atlantic Canada.  It supports projects that use an ecosystem-based approach that includes broad partnerships and collaborative action leading to positive environmental results. 

Any proposal submitted to other ECCC funding programs must be for activities that are different from those submitted under the AEI based on the “best fit” for the project.

Call for Proposals start date: January 19, 2021
Call for Proposals deadline: February 25, 2021


Projects must improve the assessment, monitoring, modeling and/or mitigation of multiple stressors and their cumulative effects on water quality in one of the priority ecosystems. Within this priority, projects are required to focus on specific stressors:

  • nutrients and/or
  • bacteria and/or
  • plastics

Eligible projects

Funding will be provided for projects that:

  • enhance integrated ecosystem planning and decision-making
  • increase ecosystem knowledge and science
  • undertake actions that impact priority ecosystems in Atlantic Canada to conserve, restore and enhance the health of ecosystems

Planning and decision-making

Projects will address complex water quality issues through integrated planning and collaborative decision-making that will lead to action and measureable environmental results. Eligible activities include:

  • expansion of existing and/or the development of new integrated strategies, plans, frameworks and action plans
  • adaptation planning
  • integration of data/information

Knowledge and science

Projects will increase knowledge to better understand and address issues that affect the health of Atlantic Canada’s priority ecosystems. Projects will involve the collection, interpretation, analysis and sharing of information to support informed decisions and action. Eligible activities include:

  • GIS mapping
  • vulnerability, risk, stressor, and/or threat assessments
  • measurement, analysis or modelling of ecosystem changes or trends
  • measurement, assessment, monitoring or modeling of multiple stressors and their cumulative effects
  • assessment of baseline environmental conditions
  • development of scientific tools, techniques, indicators and approaches


Projects will involve water quality conservation, restoration and enhancement as part of an overall strategic plan. Projects must demonstrate an ecosystem-based approach and show how the work is part of an overall strategic plan for the watershed. Eligible activities include:

  • best management practices to improve water quality (such as livestock fencing, riparian enhancement, erosion control)
  • reducing water quality stressors or impacts

Eligible applicants

Only Atlantic Canadian-based organizations are eligible to apply and include:

  • Indigenous governments and organizations
  • non-governmental organizations
  • coalitions and networks of organizations
  • research and academic institutions

Although business/industry, federal, provincial, and municipal governments are not eligible funding recipients, they are encouraged to partner with applicants on projects.

Eligible project costs

  • human resource costs, including salaries and benefits
  • contract and professional services (e.g., accounting, liability insurance costs, legal or other professional fees)
  • travel and field costs
  • material and supplies
  • printing, production, communication, distribution
  • equipment purchase or rental
  • vehicle rental and operation
  • translation
  • a reasonable share of overhead and/or administration costs directly attributed to the project (no more than 15% of ECCC funding)

Ineligible projects

The following types of projects will not be considered for funding:

  • monitoring and data collection as stand-alone projects (these projects must be part of an overall trend analysis, or integrated planning process);
  • projects that have a single issue ‘action’ focus such as stream clean-ups, attending conferences, training, workshops and meetings;
  • projects which extend beyond the coastal zone in priority ecosystems; ocean-based and fish-based ecosystem projects are not eligible; and
  • infrastructure projects are not eligible.

Geographic location

AEI will focus its support on eligible projects that address water quality issues in two large priority ecosystems in Atlantic Canada and take place in one of these two watersheds:

Wolastoq/Saint John River Watershed

As a priority river basin for ECCC, the Wolastoq/Saint John River is an international and interprovincial waterway that flows 673 km through Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec, with the watershed covering 55,000 square kilometers. The watershed falls within the traditional territory of the Maliseet people and was designated a Canadian Heritage Rivers System in 2013. 

The ecological health of the watershed is being affected by many cumulative factors. Water quality is being negatively affected by various land uses (agricultural, industrial and urban development) which can be further impacted by flow regulation from dams and climate change. Water quality issue of concern include:

  • localized high nutrient levels leading to eutrophication and toxic algae blooms
  • elevated coliform levels
  • oxygen depletion
  • wastewater
  • sediments
  • introduction of invasive species

Various federal, provincial, state and Indigenous organizations, as well as other non-government stakeholders are working on the river. With focused support for planning, science and action projects to improve water quality, AEI will work towards improving the health of this important ecosystem.

Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Watershed

As a priority ecosystem for ECCC, the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Watershed drains through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and northeastern Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton. It is an important ecological, economic and socio-cultural region of North America. Communities along the Gulf coast depend on its resources for income and their quality of life, and it supports key ecosystems such as salt marshes, beaches, estuaries and forests.

There are many stressors in the Southern Gulf region that affect its ecological health. Localized issues of concern include:

  • high nutrient and toxics levels
  • elevated coliform levels
  • sediments
  • wastewater contamination and coastal erosion

With focused support for planning, science and action projects to improve water quality, AEI will work towards improving the health of this important ecosystem with various federal, provincial, municipal and Indigenous organizations as well as non-government stakeholders working in the region

Eligible funding

The current request for proposals is for projects that will begin on or after April 1, 2021 and completed no later than March 31, 2024. Projects are eligible for funding up to a maximum of $200,000 per project and must be completed within 3 years. Funding for the project must be spent within Atlantic Canada. At least 30% of the total project funding must come from sources other than the Government of Canada, in the form of cash or in-kind contributions or a combination of both. In-kind support may include donations of:

  • equipment, materials and/or office space
  • volunteer time for project activities, coordination or professional services
  • expertise from consultants, elders or academics
  • any other donated goods or services that contribute to covering the costs of the project

Employment support programs within Employment and Social Development Canada and programs for Indigenous peoples within Indigenous Services Canada are exempt from this requirement.

Reporting Requirements

You are required to report on one or more of the targets / Key Performance Indicators listed below as they apply to your project in your progress reports:

  • area covered by the project activity in hectares
  • number of contributing partners or organizations
  • number of joint strategies, plans or frameworks completed/implemented
  • number of common scientific protocols developed or adopted
  • number of GIS maps
  • number of threats, stressors, risks identified in the project area
  • number of tools, techniques, indicators developed to assess ecosystem health
  • total number of samples collected
  • total number of sites where samples were collected
  • total number of recommended actions implemented from existing or new management plans
  • total area where measures to address threats, stressors or risks were implemented
  • number of best management plans developed/ implemented leading to environmental improvements

Applying for funding

When you are ready to apply, visit the Grants and Contributions Enterprise Management System (GCEMS) application instructions page.

The deadline for submitting a project is 4:00 pm Atlantic Standard Time (AST) on the date indicated.

Contact us

Funding Programs: Atlantic and Quebec Region
Environment and Climate Change Canada


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