Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Ecological integrity in southeastern parks

In today’s post, Katelyn Vardy, Protected Areas Intern, highlights some of the projects staff have completed to improve and maintain ecological integrity in South East parks.

When you’re standing in a favorite natural spot or inside a park, it’s easy to embrace the beauty and tranquility that surrounds you.

While campers and hikers enjoy everything the parks have to offer, behind the scenes are teams of staff working incredibly hard. Your work helps protect these areas so they can be enjoyed for years to come.

Here’s a look at some of the projects we’ve completed to support the ecological integrity of Southeast parks.

Reduce the spread of invasive species

Invasive species are difficult to manage because they are capable of competing with and overthrowing native vegetation.

Removing invasive woody shrubs such as buckthorn, black locust and honeysuckle restores habitats by increasing light in the understory of natural environments and creating space for native plants to flourish.

Sea buckthorn bagSea buckthorn bags used as an alternative method of managing sea buckthorn in Voyageur Provincial Park.

Park staff work diligently to manage invasive species populations by focusing on patches that can be managed, species that have the greatest impact, or those that threaten a significant portion of the ecosystem.

Staff physically remove the plants and remove them or use tactics such as placing bags on European buckthorn stumps after cutting them to prevent them from growing back.

There are many ways you can support these efforts to slow the spread of invasive species! Try using boot brushes at trailheads and cleaning plant matter from clothing and equipment to prevent seed dispersal within or outside the species’ existing range.

boot brushBoot brush to be installed at trailhead in Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park

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The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) and iNaturalist are useful applications for visitors and communities to identify, report and assist in the monitoring of exotic species.

Together we can protect the ecosystems within Ontario’s parks.

Planting trees

Planting trees of native species is a great way to help restore and improve the ecological integrity of our parks.

They increase local biodiversity, naturalize spaces, and can be used as a restoration tool where an invader has wreaked havoc, such as in areas that have been heavily impacted by the invasive emerald ash borer.

Small green fly-like insect on a green leafEmerald ash borer

These trees also provide new habitat for wildlife, shade and cover for visitors, and contribute to the beauty of fall colors in the park.

Park biologists carefully choose a variety of native species to plant in our parks based on ecosystem needs.

Species such as Butternut and Pitch Pine were chosen in hopes of restoring populations that have been affected by disease and/or habitat loss.

Red maple, common spruce, larch, white spruce, blue beech, black cherry, hackberry, and black maple were chosen to aid forest resilience, diversity, and overall ecosystem health for the future.

An open area in the forest with small trees planted.  There is a sign asking visitors not to walk there to allow the trees to grow.Planting native trees, including red maple, larch and white spruce, to renature and replace areas where ash trees have succumbed to the emerald ash borer in Fitzroy Provincial Park.

Our dedicated staff planted more than 150 trees within our parks and 350 seedlings are being grown and stored in park tree nurseries for three seasons until they can be incorporated into the landscape.

We encourage you to naturalize your own garden with native plants in any way you choose, from planting trees to diversify your neighborhood to a welcoming pollinator garden with a variety of flowers.

Build nest boxes for wildlife occupation

Wildlife have found ways to use natural and man-made structures, such as houses, sheds, decks, or even log piles, to provide a cozy place to stay, and these spaces within Ontario parks are no exception!

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swallow cups on boardSwallow nest cups for installation in a nesting structure in Frontenac Provincial Park

Several parks have created new artificial nesting opportunities for birds and alternative roosting sites for bats.

Bird species that feed on flying insects are in decline partly due to a lack of food and habitat.

Swallows and swallows enjoy parks that provide good foraging opportunities and healthy ecosystems to support all those insects.

staff installing nest boxInstalling a nest box to support local bird populations in Sibbald Point Provincial Park

Last year, we provided nest boxes or nesting structures in the hopes that our feathered friends would return to nest year after year and raise their young before our eyes.

Most bat species in Ontario are at risk, often due to habitat loss. Staff place bat houses in areas where bats already spend time.

Ideally, these bats will feast on the local mosquito population, which is a big plus for campers!

If you stumble across one of these alternative wildlife homes, you might even catch a glimpse of the current tenants!

How you can contribute to Ontario’s ecosystems

Ecosystems have high ecological integrity when they have a mixture of living and non-living parts and the interactions between these parts are not disturbed (by human activity).

In each provincial park we do everything we can to keep ecosystems intact to support ecological integrity.

By performing seemingly small acts of stewardship, we hope to maintain the park’s natural spaces for all to enjoy.

black eyed susanPlant pollinator-friendly species like black-eyed Susan to support our native pollinators!

We encourage visitors to discover what each natural space and park has to offer.

If you are looking for ways to give back, there are many opportunities to achieve habitat restoration, revitalization and management.

It is profitable and rewarding to plant a small sapling in your garden and watch it grow, or hang a birdhouse, box or nest for birds to raise their young.

Thank you to our Southeast staff for all your hard work!