Wasaga Beach Provincial Park (WBPP) is a unique provincial park home to some of the most rare ecological attributes, including coastal sand dunes. Coastal sand dune systems are considered to be one of the most fragile ecosystems in Canada, making them of national significance. Not only does WBPP have some of the most ancient, rare and well protected parabolic dune systems in all of Canada, it is also a relict beach formed over 6000 years ago. Relict beaches are ancient beaches that contain nonrenewable sand; once the sand is swept away it is never replaced, disappearing from the system forever.
Beach vegetation is an essential component in sustaining our beaches, preventing erosion, forming and maintaining dunes, and providing significant habitat for many species. Sand dunes and beach vegetation are both extremely sensitive to human activities; even the slightest disturbance can expose them and lead to erosion. Natural processes such as wind, waves and the bay’s current also keep the sand in constant motion, creating frequent changes in the shape of the landscape. As sand moves around the beach, native beach plants such as Marram Grass, Ammophila spp., and Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, play a key role in capturing this sand, forming freshwater dunes and preventing sand from being swept away.
To maintain a sustainable and healthy beach ecosystem each year, WBPP staff and local community groups work together to restore freshwater dunes. During the summer shorelines of Wasaga Beach are assessed and areas deemed suitable for dune formations and beach vegetation are identified. Restoration takes place in autumn once the plants have become dormant, ensuring a higher chance of survival during transplantation. Marram Grass plugs are taken from areas of the beach where high densities of it exist and are then transplanted to the designated areas. Once planted, Marram Grass will begin to collect sand blown around its base, this in turn stimulates its growth upward and outward, making it well suited for the ever-changing dunes system to which it has adapted itself. As populations of Marram Grass establish and individuals begin to decay they release nutrients back into the sand, allowing other native species to establish in these areas. Each year as more sections of the beach undergo dune restoration projects we aide in our ability to promote native species diversity and provide habitat for a number of rare and endangered species on the shores of Wasaga Beach.
If you are interested in more information, or if your group would like to volunteer with a planting – this September, please contact the park office.