How will I know ecological integrity when I see it?

Preserving ecological integrity is a priority for all of us here at Ontario Parks. But just what does ecological integrity look like? Algonquin Provincial Park Naturalist David LeGros explains…

When I start many of my evening programs at Algonquin, I often ask the audience if they like nature.

Usually I get a lot of hands up in the air, but there are always a few that don’t put their hands up. I tell those people, “You might be in the wrong place, because Algonquin is crawling with nature.” I know these folks may have not been paying attention to what I was saying or chose not to participate in my survey, but it always gets a laugh from the crowd.

However, this did get me thinking about why we go to parks over staying home or visiting a big city…

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Dynamic dunes at Pinery

Today’s post comes from Alistair MacKenzie, our Supervisor of Natural Heritage Education and Resource Management at Pinery Provincial Park.

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

We can thank a simple fact of nature for the creation of Pinery Provincial Park and its rare dunes: namely, that differences in temperature between the air over Lake Huron and the adjacent landmass create an on-shore breeze.

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Forever protected

We all know Ontario’s provincial parks aim to protect our natural landscapes and species.

But did you know that each individual park is protected for its own (often very specific) reasons?

Our parks work together as a network of biodiversity and protection. Whether an immense wilderness or a small urban nature reserve, every park plays a critical role in the protection of our biodiversity, including representative ecosystems, species, and cultural heritage.

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Keeping up with the Canada Jay

Today’s blog post comes from bird researchers Alex Sutton and Koley Freeman, PhD candidates at the University of Guelph.

In the world of Canada Jays, winter means one thing: it’s breeding season!

Canada Jays are common in Algonquin Provincial Park. Continuing a 55 year-old tradition, a dedicated team of researchers is monitoring breeding pairs. This is the longest study of its kind in the world!

With each passing year, more is learned about the breeding behaviour and life history of these remarkable birds.

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Low-impact backcountry camping

Today’s post was written by Brooke Michell, a Park Biologist at Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park.

“The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need.” – Edward Abbey

Some of our most treasured moments occur off the beaten path. In the backcountry of Ontario Parks, the avid hiker, canoe tripper, angler, and outdoors person seeks solitude. Although anyone who has backcountry camped knows it’s not always a walk in the park.

Physical limits are often pushed while portaging through rugged terrain, and paddling across windswept water bodies. At this expense, why is backcountry camping one of our most beloved past times?

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A naturalist’s letter to Santa Claus

One of our naturalists left his letter to Santa out on his desk, and we wanted to share a copy, in case anyone out there wants to lend Mr. Claus a hand this year.

Dear Santa,

I don’t really need a lot this year as I have the privilege of working in one of our great provincial parks: Presqu’ile. Perhaps you’ve visited or seen it as you fly over?

It is pretty easy to pick out from the air, sticking into Lake Ontario like it does. We get lots of birds landing here on migration to rest, which many people like to come and see. You’d be welcome to have a break here too.

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OP125 stewardship projects: Bye bye, Buckthorn!

Today’s post comes from Natural Heritage Education Leader David Bree at Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

“EI” is a term we use a lot at Ontario Parks.

EI stands for ecological integrity, or the biodiversity and naturalness of an ecosystem. Protecting and restoring the ecological integrity of our provincial parks is vitally important to us.

2018 marks Ontario Parks’ 125th anniversary. To help celebrate this milestone, the public will be invited to give back, learn, and participate in a series of stewardship programs to help protect biodiversity in provincial parks. Stewardship programs include BioBlitz events, invasive species removal, and native species planting to name a few.

At Presqu’ile Provincial Park, our money went towards removal of a nasty invasive species: Buckthorn.

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Ecosystems and music

Not sure exactly what “ecological integrity” means? Today’s post from Park Biologist Shannon McGaffey explains how ecological integrity is like music.

Synergy: the creation of a whole that is bigger than the sum of the individual parts

If you are listening to a symphony, you are not listening to two violins, one piano, three flutes, etc. You are listening to music, an art that breaches the realms of spirituality. Music naturally generates measurable energy, but also produces energy beyond that, an energy that humans can feel, but just can’t quite grasp and understand.

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What’s in a weir?

Neys Provincial Park recently removed an obsolete weir as part of its work to restore and maintain ecological integrity. Superintendent Allison Dennis has the story…

The term “weir” piqued my curiosity following my first review of the Neys Provincial Park Management Plan.

Turns out that a weir is a barrier constructed across the width of a river or stream which raises the water level on the upstream side to a specified height. Unlike a dam, which redirects excess water using spillways, a weir allows excess water to flow over the top of the structure and continue downstream.

So what does this have to do with a provincial park?

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