Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Our “Forever Protected” series shares why each and every one of us belongs in Ontario’s parks. In today’s post, Alistair MacKenzie tells us the story of Pinery.

It wasn’t until I started working for Ontario Parks that I realized that our large protected area system is based on a model of representation. Each park is different and critical to the success of our overall protected area system.

I am the natural heritage education and resource management supervisor for Pinery Provincial Park and I would like to tell you why Pinery belongs in our provincial system.

Representative Pinery Ecosystems

A common trend about Pinery is rarity: there are rare creatures and ecosystems found throughout the park, but perhaps most importantly, Pinery landform in itself is strange.

coastal sand dunesFreshwater coastal dunes. Photo: Alistair MacKenzie

The Pinery landmass was created over the past 6,000 years by sand dune formations, resulting in an impressive coastal sand dune complex that extends along 9.5 km of the Lake Huron shoreline.

In a province dominated by the rock of the Canadian Shield, sand is scarce. If we combined all of Ontario’s coastal sand dunes, they would only represent less than 0.5% of our province’s land area.

In addition to the coastal sand dunes, Pinery is perhaps most famous for its Oak Savanna forest communities.

open canopyPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

Unlike much of the deciduous forests of the Great Lakes forest region, the Pinery forests have open forest canopies dominated by seven species of oak, interspersed with shrubs, tallgrass prairies, and wildflowers that bloom from April to October. .

seven leaves of oak speciesTop row. From left to right: Black oak (Quercus velutina), Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), White oak (Quercus alba) Bottom row, left to right: Dwarf Chinquapin oak (Quercus prinoides), Red oak (Quercus rubra), Chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor).

See also  How six species in Ontario parks survive the winter

Pinery contains several other ecological communities, each providing habitat for associated species that have evolved and adapted over eons to sustain each other. The park is located within the Carolina Zone, Canada’s southernmost ecoregion, and many southern species are found here.

The park also contains rare wet grassland communities, where the water table moistens the interdunal depression between the dune ridges; tall grass meadows and natural red pine (Pinus resinosa) it’s found.

Representative species: the rich biodiversity of Pinery

Thousands (if not millions) of life forms call the Pinery home.

The park has more than 320 species of birds, more than 850 species of plants and trees, a diversity of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and an unknown number of insect species.

In fact, a research partner discovered a species of moth previously unknown to science in Pinery in 2018!

It is impossible to fully share the enormous diversity of species found in the park, but here are just ten highlights:

1. Butterfly milkweed (tuberous milkweed)

You may not recognize this member of the milkweed family, but butterflies and many other insects know it well as a source of nectar and vibrant color in mid-summer.

butterfly milkweedPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

2. Eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangle)

The nonvenomous eastern milk snake is secretive and spends much of its time seeking shelter under logs.

Eastern milk snakePhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

3. Grass rose (Tuberous Calopogon)

Watching a Grasspink bloom for a few moments will reward you with views of countless pollinators, from butterflies to robber flies, spiders and more.

grass rosePhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

4. Dwarf hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia)

This species-at-risk shrub is very common in Pinery, but has a very limited range in Ontario, making its continued protection in Pinery even more important.

See also  How to Go on a Low Waste Day Trip

dwarf hackberryPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

5. Great blue heron (Ardea Herodias)

The Great Blue Heron quickly reveals its prowess as a stealthy hunter; Fish, tadpoles, frogs and even chipmunks risk disappearing if they get too close.

great blue heronPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

6. Tufted Tit (Baeolophus bicolor)

The tufted tit’s playful nature makes it easy to understand why bird watchers are delighted to spot one.

tufted titPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

7. Caster thistle (Pitcher of cherries)

Pinery protects the southernmost population of Pitcher’s Thistle in Ontario, and efforts are underway to help restore the population size.

Caster ThistlePhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

8. Northern Barrens tiger beetle (cousin of cincindela)

While there may be other populations that have not yet been found, Pinery is currently the only known location for this species in Canada.

Northern Barrens tiger beetle Photo: M. Runtz

9. Tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus)

Every spring, tundra swans repeat a 6,000-kilometre migration dating back to the last ice age, a journey that takes them north to their summer breeding grounds.

tundra swansPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

10. Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Unchanged over eons of time, dragonflies are obviously a successful design, as seemingly exact copies can be found in the fossil record.

Halloween pennantPhoto: Alistair MacKenzie

Representative heritage

It is very difficult to tell the story of Pinery because many of the threads are interconnected.

In a complex landscape with many moving pieces, actions that affect one species can result in a cascade of consequences for others.

Our scientific research is affected by our prescribed burning program, which in turn is affected by our deer management work.

It’s about balance, something we strive to find through partnerships, monitoring and research.

Stay tuned for more “Protected Forever” posts about the incredible natural spaces that make up our network of provincial parks.