Biodiversity loss has been of particular concern in southern Ontario where a growing population and increased urbanization has put stresses on our natural areas. If we are to preserve biodiversity, it is important to protect and enhance our remaining natural areas.
Ontario Nature member groups have responded by highlighting properties in their regions worthy of protection. The Huron Fringe Field Naturalists have drawn attention to the Blair’s Grove natural area in Bruce County. It lies within the community of Blair’s Grove close to the shore of Lake Huron. This 10 hectare property was donated by the owner to the Township of Huron-Kinloss with the intent that it be maintained as a natural area.
A nature trail loop has been established in Blair’s Grove by the township. Interpretive signs have been posted along the trail describing the natural features at each stopping point. Of particular interest is a parcel of oak savanna which has become rare in Ontario. Savannas are natural areas characterized as containing mostly grasses with scattered open trees. Of the 80,000 hectares of prairie grassland and savanna estimated to have existed in southern Ontario prior to European settlement, less than two percent remains today. Most has been lost to agriculture and development. Other sections of the Blair’s Grove property contain mixed forest, poplar grove, meadow, dune grassland and a small wetland.
Corridors that provide connectivity between fragmented natural areas are very important for biodiversity because they allow species to migrate and move safely. Although the property is encircled by houses and cottages, it lies on a strip of treed area that extends parallel to the Lake Huron shore. This natural strip is also connected inland through the riparian zone of the Pine River watershed. Jim Roberts of the Huron Fringe Field Naturalists explains “we regularly see many species passing through (including deer, fox, coyote, lots of turkeys, and the occasional bear). The strip is a natural pathway for migrating birds and monarch butterflies.”
Even smaller parcels of land such as the Blair’s Grove property make a valuable contribution to retaining biodiversity representative of local ecoregions.
Ron Corkum is a retired environmental chemist and Ontario Nature’s Carolinian East regional board director.