Atlantic Ecosystems Initiatives


The Atlantic Ecosystems Initiatives (AEI) Funding Program aims to improve the health, productivity and long-term sustainability of ecosystems in Atlantic Canada.  The program supports projects that use an ecosystem-based approach that includes broad partnerships and collaborative action that leads to positive environmental results.  Funding will be provided for projects that enhance integrated ecosystem planning and decision-making, increase ecosystem knowledge and science, and undertake actions impact priority ecosystems in Atlantic Canada to conserve, restore and enhance the health of ecosystems.

Funding date

Effective start date: 2018-11-15
Effective end date: 2019-01-11

Contact email


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, Bacteria, and/or Micro-plastics.

Expected results

You will be expected to report on these targets in project progress reports. One or more is required.  Select only those that apply to your project.


  • Area covered by the project (Total area (in hectares) that the project activity covers)
  • Number of partners or organizations participating/contributing to the project
  • Number  of joint strategies, plans,  or frameworks completed/ implemented
  • Number of common scientific protocols developed or adopted
  • Number of maps created using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • 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 at which samples were collected
  • Total number of recommended actions (from existing or new management plans) implemented
  • Total area where measures to address threats, stressors or risks were implemented
  • Number of Best Management Plans developed/ implemented leading to environmental improvements

Eligible applicants

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

  • Indigenous governments and organizations
  • non-government 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.

Geographic location

AEI will focus its support on addressing water quality issues in two large priority ecosystems in Atlantic Canada.   Eligible projects must take place in one of these two watersheds:

Saint John River Watershed

As a priority river basin for Environment and Climate Change Canada, the 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 (i.e. agricultural, industrial, and urban development) which can be further impacted by flow regulation like dams, and climate change.  Water quality issues of concern include localized high nutrient and toxics levels leading to eutrophication and toxic algae blooms; elevated coliform levels; oxygen depletion; wastewater; sediments; and the 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 Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Watershed drains an area through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and northeastern Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton. The Southern Gulf region 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. The Gulf region supports key ecosystems such as salt marshes, beaches, estuaries and forests. There are many stressors in the Southern Gulf region which affect its ecological health. Localized issues of concern include high nutrient and toxics levels; elevated coliform levels; sediments; wastewater contamination; and coastal erosion.  There are various federal, provincial, municipal, Indigenous organizations, as well as non-government stakeholders working within the Southern Gulf region.  With focused support for planning, science, and action projects to improve water quality, AEI will work towards improving the health of this important ecosystem.

Eligible projects

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 of concern impacting Atlantic Canada’s priority ecosystems health.  Projects will involve the collection, interpretation, analysis and sharing of information to support informed decisions and action.  Eligible activities include:

  • Geographic Information System (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 how the work is part of an overall strategic plan for the watershed. Eligible activities include:

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

Range of funding

Projects are eligible for funding up to a maximum of $200,000 per project and must be completed within 3 years.

The current request for proposals is for projects that will begin on or after April 1, 2019. Projects must be completed no later than March 31, 2022.

At least 30% of the total project funding must come from sources other than the Government of Canada.  Other sources of funding may be 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
Note that Environment and Climate Change Canada funding for the project must be spent within Atlantic Canada.
*Employment support programs within Service Canada and programs for people within Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada are exempt from this requirement.

Frequently asked questions

What eligible project costs are eligible?

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)

Points to consider

  1. Overlap with other Environment and Climate Change Canada funding programs

    Any proposal submitted to other Environment and Climate Change Canada funding programs must be for activities that are different from those submitted in this proposal. Organizations should review information from other Environment and Climate Change Canada funding programs and submit proposals to the one that represents the best fit for their project. 

  2. Ineligible projects

    The following types of projects will not be considered for funding under the Atlantic Ecosystems Initiatives:
  • 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
  • infrastructure projects are not eligible

Application instructions

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


Contact information

Funding Programs: Atlantic and Quebec Region
Environment and Climate Change Canada
45 Alderney Drive
16th Floor, Queen Square
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 2N6

Phone: 902-426-8521 or 1-800-663-5755 (toll-free)
Fax: 902-426-2062

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