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Thousand Islands National Park

Prescribed Fire at Thousand Islands National Park

The Thousand Islands are home to a number of unique and rare environments. Some of the distinctive flora of the area is the result of fire associated forest communities. For many years effective fire suppression has kept fire out of these forests. While this provides protection for values at risk in the area, it also has an impact on local forests. For example, red oak and pitch pine benefit from occasional fire that prepares seedbeds and removes competing vegetation.

Recognizing the negative effects of fire suppression on park ecosystems and species, and acknowledging the park’s role in ensuring values continue to be protected from wildfire , Parks Canada has instituted a program of prescribed fire to restore its’ forests. This program partially targets the emblematic pitch pine, an icon of the Thousand Islands landscape. Pitch pine is a rare species of tree in Canada, only found in Leeds County, Ontario and in a small area in Quebec.

Fires have been conducted at the following sites in Thousand Islands National Park:

  • Georgina Island, 2009. 2 hectares. This fire in a mature pitch pine stand prepared a suitable seedbed for a new generation of trees.
  • Gordon Island, 2010 and 2015. 5 hectares each time. This fire targeted vegetation that was suppressing the ability of oak seedlings to establish in a mature red oak stand. A Second fire was required to kill off competing vegetation.
  • Mallorytown Landing, 2011. 1 hectare. This fire was designed as an experiment to test the effectiveness of fire in regenerating pitch pine compared to other mechanical means of creating a seedbed.
  • Camelot Island, 2014. 2 hectares. Much like the Georgina Island fire this site was burned in order to stimulate regeneration in mature pitch pine.
A sign on Gordon Island instructing visitors on how they can get invloved
Gordon Island Prescribed Fire Monitoring
© Parks Canada

As result of this prescribed fire program, more pitch pine and red oak seedlings have been counted than since monitoring began in the early 1970s. In order to continue to re-establish a new cohort of these special pine and oak species more fires are being planned in the park over the next number of years.

Thousand Islands National Park’s fire initiatives are supported by the Parks Canada national fire management division and local municipal fire departments.

For more information on the Prescribed Fire program at Thousand Islands National Park please contact park staff at 613-923-5261.

A call for your assistance!

Thousand Islands National Park is recruiting help to monitor the effects of its most recent fire on Gordon Island. A photo-monitoring station has been set up so that park visitors can document the regeneration of this oak forest. Is simple; find the sign on the island, follow the instructions, and tweet the photo.

Flames along an island shoreline
Fire in the understory of mature Pitch Pine on Georgina Island in 2009
© Parks Canada

A park staff member using a drip torch to ignite a fire
Parks Canada firefighter using hand torch to ignite fire at Gordon Island in 2010
© Parks Canada

Smoke rises among the trees
Smouldering fire at the Mallorytown Landing Prescribed Fire
© Parks Canada

View of a fire on an island from the air
A prescribed fire burns on Camelot Island creating the space for a new generation of Pitch Pine, 2014
© Parks Canada