The Northern Bruce Peninsula has a rich mosaic of landforms creating a variety of habitats. The result: a biodiversity hotspot recognized for its abundance of rare and endangered species and natural communities. It has the largest tract of connected forest in Southern Ontario, Great Lakes shorelines, and an archipelago of islands, wetlands, inland lakes, rivers, fields, and alvars.
Our majestic cliffs are home to an ancient vertical forest with 1200 year old trees. Diverse coastal ecosystems include talus slopes, cobble, boulders, bedrock shorelines, and sand beaches and dunes. The surrounding waters host aquatic systems from the depths to the nearshore reefs, shoals, and productive coastal wetlands. Intricate flowerpot formations were sculpted by millennia of relentless natural forces. Bat caves, including Ontario’s third largest, provide critical habitat. Threatened birds such as Bobolink and the Eastern Meadowlark live in our grasslands.
Plant life includes over forty orchid species, which is next to Florida for such diversity in North America. Alvars boast forty-seven globally or provincially rare species, and many are endemic. Eighteen species are at risk. We have some of the darkest skies in Southern Ontario which are increasingly recognized as important for ecological health.
All this, but NO CONSERVATION AUTHORITY. For over twenty years the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association has taken the lead in protecting this ecological treasure chest. The Association has led many projects to build community commitment and capacity for conservation and sustainable development.
Recent highlights include:
• Facilitated the creation of a Community Climate Plan, installed fifty Level Two EV chargers, developed a Climate Hub website, promoted heat pumps, produced videos, and organized a Climate Family Fun Fest.
• Improved the water quality of our streams by creating alternate watering systems powered by solar energy for over 5,000 cattle and installing over twenty-two km of fencing to keep them out of the streams (water quality is foundational to ecological health).
• Facilitated the replacement of over fifty septic systems polluting our watercourses by providing $200,000 in grants and offering workshops on good septic system practices.
• Commissioned research to better understand the critical importance and threats to karst springs, the source waters for our creeks.
• Worked with several university professors to demonstrate best management practices to control soil erosion such as “no till,” cover crops and Water and Sediment Control Basins(WASCoBs).
• Conducted research on how to reduce phosphorus, notably a recent field-based project to create the next–generation controlled tile drain which bio remediates phosphorus by automatically opening and closing drains, using field–specific soil hydrology models.
• Built public awareness of threats to wetlands posed by invasive species such as phragmites, mapping over 1,100 locations and mobilizing the public to remove literally tons of it.
• Educated over 12,000 people attending our Bayside Astronomy Program on the importance of Dark Skies for ecological health, and how to protect the skies with Dark Sky lighting practices.
• Conducted a major research project on the endangered Red-headed Woodpecker, and promoted public awareness.
• Increased the public’s understanding of the ecology and generated funds for conservation through a social enterprise: EcoAdventures guided tours.
— Elizabeth Thorn is volunteer chair of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association
Cell (519) 377-5166