National Parks

Restoration Case Studies

Restoration of Ecological Linkages (Long Point World Biosphere Reserve)

Note: This project was led by the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation. Parks Canada is acting as host for presentation of this case study, but was not involved, either directly or indirectly, in the restoration project.

Project Lead: Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation

Key Partners: (see list below)

Location: Long Point World Biosphere Reserve, Norfolk County, Ontario

Natural Region: (not applicable; only applies to National Parks)

Ecozone: Mixedwood Plains (see map and description)

Timeframe: 2001 to 2009 and ongoing

Project Size: over 400 ha on 100 sites

Quick Links:
Project Overview - Natural and Cultural Heritage Values - Defining the Problem - Goals and Objectives - Project Activities - Monitoring - Lessons Learned - What’s Next? - For More Information - Contacts - Key Partners
Long Point World Biosphere Reserve in Lake Erie, Ontario Long Point World Biosphere Reserve in Lake Erie, Ontario
© Bridge Yachts Ltd.

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Project Overview

Biosphere reserves are sites recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme, which demonstrate innovative approaches to conservation and sustainable development. They consist of a ‘core area’, usually an existing provincial or national protected area, a ‘buffer zone’ surrounding the core area that is managed to support the conservation objectives of the core area, and an ‘area of cooperation’ adjacent to the other areas where most of the residents live and work.

The Long Point World Biosphere Reserve was designated in 1986. The core of the reserve is the protected Long Point National Wildlife Area, and a buffer area surrounding the core includes adjacent marshes, bays and shorelines. The Area of Cooperation is the largest part of the Biosphere Reserve and overlaps with much of Norfolk County.

In 1995, the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation (LPWBRF) began a forest restoration program in the Reserve’s Area of Cooperation. Its goal was to enlarge forest blocks and strengthen ecological linkages between blocks and along riparian areas (the banks of rivers or other water bodies) through forest restoration in protected areas and on private lands. In 2001, the LPWBRF partnered with Ontario Power Generation and Long Point Region Conservation Authority (LPRCA) to enhance biodiversity conservation throughout the Area of Cooperation. The project has restored over 400 hectares on 100 sites in Norfolk County.

The Long Point World Biosphere Reserve project shows that the best practice approach described in Principles and Guidelines for Ecological Restoration in Canada’s Protected Natural Areas can also be applied effectively to restoration projects outside protected areas. The process of ecological restoration, as described by this approach, adheres to three guiding principles. Restoration should be:

  • effective in restoring and maintaining ecological integrity,
  • efficient in using practical and economic methods to achieve functional success, and
  • engaging through implementing inclusive processes and by recognizing and embracing interrelationships between culture and nature.

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Natural and Cultural Heritage Values

World Biosphere Reserves are terrestrial or coastal ecosystems that are internationally recognized for promoting and demonstrating a balanced relationship between people and nature. Each biosphere reserve is intended to fulfill three functions, which are complementary and mutually reinforcing:

  1. conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation;
  2. development that is socially, culturally, and ecologically sustainable; and
  3. support for research, monitoring and education, as well as information sharing concerning issues of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Located in the southernmost region of Canada, the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve provides habitat for over 50 species at risk. The region is part of Carolinian Canada, and has been described as Canada’s most endangered major ecosystem. Many of its flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the nation, with the majority of these species depending on large blocks of forest to sustain viable breeding populations.

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Defining the Problem

The Reserve’s Area of Cooperation in Norfolk County is blessed with over 25 percent forest cover, and several large blocks of forest exceed 500 hectares. Nonetheless, these blocks have become isolated by agricultural land clearing and development. Studies in Ontario and worldwide have demonstrated that species requiring interior habitat or large tracts of intact habitat are unable to maintain viable populations in landscapes fragmented by urbanization, roads and agriculture. Therefore, conservation efforts needed to expand beyond protecting landscape fragments.

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Goals and Objectives

In 1995, the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation (LPWBRF) began a forest restoration program in the Reserve’s Area of Cooperation in Norfolk County. Its goal was to enlarge forest blocks and strengthen linkages between blocks and along riparian areas through forest restoration on protected areas and private lands. In 2001, the LPWBRF partnered with Ontario Power Generation and Long Point Region Conservation Authority to enhance biodiversity conservation throughout the Area of Cooperation.

The guiding principles for the forest restoration adhered to the Carolinian Canada Big Picture analysis. The analysis used conservation science and state-of-the-art information management technology to identify Carolinian core natural areas and other significant natural areas, as well as potential habitat corridors to link the natural areas together. This interconnected system of habitat cores and corridors was designed to facilitate dispersal of plants and animals to more favourable habitats and conserve biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.

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Project Activities

Effective in restoring and maintaining ecological integrity
Reforestation site Reforestation site
© B. Craig

Since 2000, Ontario Power Generation has provided resources to its conservation partners to plant more than 4.5 million native trees and shrubs matched to site conditions on more than 2600 hectares across southern Ontario. A significant portion of this funding was directed towards Norfolk County. In addition to the sequestering of greenhouse gases, their effort is an important adaptation strategy for reducing the adverse effects of climate change on southern Ontario’s forest wildlife.



Pit and mound restoration technique Pit and mound restoration technique
© B. Craig

Pits and mounds were used to reproduce the characteristic pattern of old-growth forests created by the decay of fallen trees, and were easily created with a small front-end loader. The pits have provided breeding areas for amphibians and insects, feeding and drinking holes for birds and mammals, and contributed to ground water recharge. The mounds, with well-drained and oxygenated soils, have allowed for rapid growth of red and white oaks, among other tree species.



The pod planting technique protects climax tree species The pod planting technique protects climax tree species
© B. Craig

Pod planting was used to create micro-habitat and suppress the growth of cool season grasses that provide habitat for tree-damaging rodents. Climax species such as red oak were planted in the centre, surrounded by earlier successional species. The technique has proven successful in protecting climax tree species.



Restoration site planted with tall grass prairie species Restoration site planted with tall grass prairie species
© B. Craig

Some landowners were interested in restoring grassland habitat for bird and insect conservation. These restoration sites were planted with native tall grass species.



Creation of a small oxbow lake in a former agricultural field Creation of a small oxbow lake in a former agricultural field
© B. Craig

Leveling of agricultural lands for planting had destroyed many small wetlands. In such cases, small oxbow lakes were re-created to retain water after spring flooding, provide habitat for amphibians, and to contribute to groundwater recharge in the drier season.



Efficient in using practical and economic methods to achieve functional success

Coarse and fine-scale spatial images created by the Carolinian Canada Big Picture analysis revealed existing natural cores and connections. Preferred areas for restoration and rehabilitation were identified based on conservation biology using a Geographic Information System. Ecological, social, cultural, and economic limitations were also recognized in site selection.

Fine scale vegetation map of Norfolk County shows core areas (dark green) and corridors (light green) Fine scale vegetation map of Norfolk County shows core areas (dark green) and corridors (light green)
© Carolinian Canada Coalition


The technical review committee checks restoration proposals The technical review committee checks restoration proposals
© B. Craig

A technical review committee ensured restoration proposals met the required conservation goals, and offered advice on site-specific landscape alteration and planting regimes.



Preparing to plant locally produced tree seedlings Preparing to plant locally produced tree seedlings
© B. Craig

Local genetic stock was used in reforestation because it is better adapted to local soil and climatic conditions than stock from another region. Purchasing stock locally also provided an economic benefit to the community and has proven effective in engaging the nurseries in discussions about planting regimes for specific sites.



A landowner prepares a site for planting A landowner prepares a site for planting
© B. Craig

Engaging the landowner in site preparation – in this case chopping corn stocks to facilitate efficient planting of a prairie grass mixture around pods of trees – reduced project costs.



Sassafras seedling growing from root cutting Sassafras seedling growing from root cutting
© P. Gagnon

Direct seeding of nuts and the planting of stem and root cuttings were cost-effective methods that imitated the process of natural succession.



Engaging through implementing inclusive processes and by recognizing and embracing interrelationships between culture and nature
Consulting with a landowner on restoration goals Consulting with a landowner on restoration goals
© B. Craig

The Long Point Region Conservation Authority consulted with landowners on their preferred restoration goals to ensure landowners were committed to the long-term maintenance of the site and to engage them in the continued conservation of Carolinian Canada.



High school students prepare seedlings for planting High school students prepare seedlings for planting
© P. Gagnon

Local high schools were engaged in growing grasses and forbs for restoration sites. Initially, the restoration biologist provided presentations on the restoration projects to educate students on the rationales for restoration and specific techniques. Students then collected native prairie grass seed and prepared grasses and forbs for planting at restoration sites. In addition, some local schools restored areas of their school grounds.



McMaster University carbon sequestration research site McMaster University carbon sequestration research site
© B. Craig

Restoration projects have provided opportunities for research by universities. Several universities have engaged students and research teams in various aspects of the project including carbon sequestration, effective planting techniques, control of alien species (species not native to the habitats in which they live), and community engagement in restoration plantings.



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Monitoring

Results of restoration efforts are being monitored. The LPRCA has monitored the success rate of various planting techniques and employed adaptive management principles, modifying planting practices appropriately to ensure greater success rates and reduced tree mortality.

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Lessons Learned

  • Good site preparation and high quality local genetic stock were both essential for successful reforestation.
  • It was important to plant tree species that were suited for the hydrological conditions at the site. For example, white cedar, red maple and silver maple prefer moist conditions and black oak, red cedar and white pine are drought tolerant species.
  • Climax species, such as sugar maple and American beech, which will suffer if planted in open areas. To create a microclimate for them, use fast growing, early successional, colonial species such as aspen, poplar and sassafras to help ensure the survival of climax species seedlings.
  • Good weed and cool season grass management was essential for restoration sites. An abundance of cool season grasses can provide habitat for rodents that girdle trees. Weeds and cool season grasses were sprayed with an effective herbicide before planting to eliminate competition for water and nutrients.

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What’s Next?

Thanks to support received from Ontario Power Generation, Trees Ontario, and the Norfolk County Land Stewardship Committee’s Alternative Land Use Services initiative, among many others, restoration activities will continue on over 250 hectares over the next four years (2010 to 2014).

The technical services and restoration expertise provided by the Long Point Region Conservation Authority and the technical review committee will continue to ensure that restoration efforts are effective, efficient and engaging.

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For More Information

This case study is intended to provide general information about ecological restoration projects in Canada’s protected natural areas. For more detailed or technical information about this restoration project, please consult the following sources, or the contacts provided below.

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Contacts

Brian Craig
Technical Advisor, Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation
Project Manager, Southwestern Ontario Field Unit
Parks Canada
255 Indiana Road, West
Hagersville ON, N0A 1H0
Tel: 905-512-6760
brian.craig@pc.gc.ca

Paul Gagnon
Restoration Biologist and Lands and Waters Supervisor
Long Point Region Conservation Authority
R. R. #3, Simcoe ON, N3Y 4K2
Tel:519-428-4623 or 1-888-231-5408
Fax: 519-428-1520
watercare@lprca.on.ca
www.lprca.on.ca

Steve Hounsell
Program Coordinator, Sustainable Development Group
Ontario Power Generation
700 University Avenue
Toronto ON, M5G 1X6
Tel: 416-592-2766
Fax: 416-592-7097
steve.hounsell@opg.com

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Key Partners

If you wish to comment on this case study, please contact Parks Canada at restauration.restoration@pc.gc.ca