As we watch the devastating wildfires in California rage on, it’s hard to believe that I’m writing a blog about how we started a fire on purpose. But that’s exactly what we did this past September on Ontario Nature’s Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve.
Fire at Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve
Our Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve is a very special property that is home to a truly outstanding array of rare habitats and species. Located on Pelee Island, the reserve is a 42-hectare property comprised of important, rare grassland alvar habitat that supports several species at risk in Ontario and all of Canada.
the name suggests, the Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve protects a large amount
of alvar habitat, specifically grassland and savannah alvar that consist of
mainly grasses with few trees.
Why we burn
We have developed comprehensive management plans for each of our 26 nature reserves in order to effectively and responsibly manage each property. A controlled burn was a key part of our management plan for Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve.
Grassland and savannah alvars require little to no canopy and depend on naturally occurring fire cycles in order to thrive. By reintroducing fire through a controlled burn, we’re trying to help restore the alvar habitat and benefit the rare flora and fauna that reside on the nature reserve.
Measuring the impact of the fire
Ontario Nature has partnered with academic institutions and other conservation organizations to monitor the following populations of organisms and evaluate their responses to the prescribed burn.
Birds – We are working with expert birder, Larry Cornelis, to monitor at risk bird species and evaluate the quality of habitat after the prescribed burn.
Invertebrates – We have partnered with University of Toronto, University of Rennes 1, and butterfly expert, James Kamstra, to monitor at risk bee species, gastropods, and butterflies.
– We have partnered with the Canadian Museum of Nature to conduct lichen
surveys and monitor after the burn.
– We have partnered with Trent University to monitor small mammals (e.g., mice,
voles, shrews) and Gray Fox. This work includes evaluating habitat use and availability
before and after burn.
– We have partnered with University of Toronto to monitor species at risk vascular
plants and assess quality of habitat after the burn.
– We have partnered with Natural Resource Solutions Inc. and University of
Toronto to monitor snake species and their habitats on Stone Road Alvar and
other conservation lands on the island.
Thank you to the Governments of Ontario and Canada, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation for making this project possible.
Stephanie Muckle was Ontario Nature’s Nature Reserves Coordinator.