Ontario’s Biodiversity Gems: Exploring Key Biodiversity Areas Across the Province
By: Peter Soroye, KBA Assessment and Outreach Coordinator, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada
In the last few years, we’ve written to BEAN’s readers about what Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are and how we are identifying them across Canada. These KBAs are the sites across our country (and the rest of the world!) that are most important for the maintenance of biodiversity. Whether on land, sea, or underground, and whether important for rare species, threatened ecosystems, or incredible gatherings of wildlife, each KBA is highlighting some exceptional piece of nature that Canadians are responsible for. Building from the existing Important Bird and Biodiversity Area program, and working with a broad network of experts and knowledge-holders, Indigenous partners, NGOs, federal, provincial and municipal governments, and other stakeholders, we’ve identified over 1000 potential Key Biodiversity Areas across the country, with over 130 in Ontario.
By compiling information on sites that are critical for conservation across Ontario and Canada, KBAs highlight Canada’s unique and spectacular biodiversity, celebrate the stewardship activities that have helped many of these areas to persist, and bring national and international recognition to these places. KBAs will help Canada and other countries to monitor and achieve their progress toward international biodiversity conservation targets. As Canada works to protect 30% of its lands and seas by 2030 for example, KBAs will help identify the priority areas for conservation. In fact, Canada’s KBA program will take the stage during an event at the upcoming UNCBD Conference of the Parties (COP) in Montreal, showcasing the work done to date on identifying KBAs.
As expected, the KBA program affirms the importance of many well known sites for biodiversity in Ontario. Places like Long Point Peninsula and Marshes, Bruce Peninsula, or Algonquin Park will all be KBAs. However, the KBA program is also recognizing less well-know biodiversity gems across the province as well. Read on for a glimpse of some of the less-talked about conservation hotspots in Ontario.
Bickford Oak Woods
Within the fragmented, intensively managed landscape of southern Ontario, lies a small patch of wetland and forest making up the Bickford Oak Woods KBA. This KBA contains 215 hectares of interior forest – making it one of the most important remnant habitat areas in the Carolinian Zone. It also happens to contain the only known stand of Swamp Cottonwood (Populus heterophylla) in Canada. Much of the site is already protected as a provincial nature reserve.
On the far western edge of Ontario, about 50 km from the Manitoba border, a small island holds a big secret. The south-facing slopes of the southeast corner of Dufresne Island are the only known place in Canada where the threatened Pale Showy Goldenrod (Solidago pallida) and Slick-seed Wild Bean (Strophostyles leiosperma) can be found. Nestled in the shallow soil within the open Bur Oak and Jack Pine forest on these slopes, these two threatened species are holding their ground in this KBA.
Only a short drive from Kingston or Ottawa, the Puzzle Lake KBA is notable for its startling geological diversity and high number of provincially rare species. Of particular interest to the KBA program, this is the only site where the threatened Great Lakes Plains population of the Toothcup plant (Rotala ramosior pop. 1) can be found. Blanding's Turtle, Five-lined Skink, Northern Ribbonsnake and Prairie Warbler are just some of the other rare species that can be found here.
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