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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 31, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Week 3



I use this link to combine some notes from David Morris’ lecture, and my own notes pooling together the stuff on watershed attributes, and precipitation and temperature averages across the watershed, etc.

These lectures are meant to help create some sense of:

1. the kind of unique character of the vegetation and animals associated with this region – especially the bottom part of the GR region (the Carolinian Zone)

2. and the kinds of changes across this watershed region associated with aspects of the watershed, and with its distinct weather patterns. 

Carolinian Canadasome of my own notes, with a few links à your own notes may have been more complete!

David Morris (Ph.D.) spoke to you about unique vegetation & fauna associated with this part of southern Ontario -- the Carolinian Zone à a major point of the talk was how unique ecologically this area is, and ironically, how little of this unique ecological zone/region is left

Carolinian Canada is a popular name for the extreme southwest region of Ontario where the Eastern Deciduous Forest of North America has its northernmost limits. Many kinds of flora and fauna are found here but nowhere else in Canada [http://www.carolinian.org/]

Concerns about degradation of Carolinian zone associated with many other environmental issues, all tied to the kinds of economic & cultural perceptions & impacts that arose with the new European agrarian and the subsequent industrialized way of life that took hold – that shaped the landscape of this region.

Carolinian Canada Map

From his lecture file, I see that Dr. Morris took you through a bunch of ideas about how unique this southern part of the GR region is due to the presence of the Carolinian Zone, which is a very productive and biologically diverse region in southern Ontario.

“Carolinian Canada is the southernmost region of Canada and contains more rare and endangered species of plants and animals than any other part of Canada. Southwestern Ontario is also home to some of the most productive industry and agriculture in North America, and the large population that goes with it.” [http://www.carolinian.org/

He also showed a variety of Carolinian plants and animals in his slides. Local examples were of the tall-grass, oak-savanna (the Hill’s Oak species being found only in this area, and ‘perched-fen’ ecosystems that were unique to the Brantford area.

Some Example SPECIES (that I saw from his slides, and from my own readings): he is really into trees, and noted that there were something like 70 known tree species in this area
Paw-paw – ancient tropical relatives; interesting story of the tastier variety of paw-paw transplanted via natives on what was called the Navajo Trail annual journey from south-west U.S. up through Gt. Lakes north of L. Erie (trading for certain goods), & then down the coast of U.S. & back around to the south-west)
Cucumber tree – a Canadian Magnolia (very ancient)
Tulip Trees – does not set seeds very well
Kentucky Coffee Tree (their seeds dispersed by Mastodons)

American Chestnut

Magnolia
Blue Ash – likes sand environment
Redbud – “extirpated”: gone from this area, but now being reintroduced (I have on in my backyard)
Lots of different kinds of oaks, hickory species, chestnut trees -- e.g., Northern Pin-Oak – rare, only grows in this area; Dwarf Chinquapin Oak
Eastern Prickly-Pear Cactus – [gardeners having impact on wild remnants when they take bits of them]

Spring ephemerals – plants that come up in spring each year in forests before tree canopy of leaves is fully out (lots of examples like Mayapple, Trout Lillies, Trilliums, skunk cabbage, etc.)

Animals (though there are not Dr. Morris’ specialty):

Southern Flying Squirrel, Oppossum (arrived in 1980 or so via trucks, passageways across river etc.)

Eastern fox; American Badger, Elk, black bear, etc.

Birds:

Barn owl, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo – insect eater, Red-shouldered Hawk, Wild Turkey, Passenger Pigeon (billions and billions, but all gone now),  etc.
Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly – eat Carolinian species plants

Different kinds of snakes, turtles, toads, fish, etc. as well

Irony is that the unique climatic & soil characteristics of this area that gave rise to this unique zone, also were the things that Euro immigrants sought for settlement, agricultural production, & industry à very quick loss of forests and other Carolinian zone vegetation and animal habitat as Europeans cleared the area – fragmentation of the zone is how it is described à loss of genetic diversity as a result. Euro farming-orientation meant clearing of forests, draining of wetlands, killing off of much of wildlife & habitat destruction generally [animals like lynx, bear, wolves, moose, passenger pigeons, wild turkeys, etc.]

Some of the stats he shared about this zone:

2.5% of the area of Canada – unique climatic, vegetative zone
25% of the people of Canada located here

close to 50% of Canada’s species – very biologically diverse area
à quite fragmented now – ‘patchy’, irregular
à too much edge habitat – not enough interior habitat or spaces: he showed some schematics about how the shapes and sizes of forested areas had influences on what kinds of species could or could not live there

à 70 known native species of trees in Carolinian zone,

·         perhaps 100-120 tree species before European settlement

·         just 35 tree species in the Ontario boreal forest

Carolinian Zone Challenges:

untitled6.JPG

•         Land clearance/conversion to other uses

•         Fragmentation (not much interior forest space which many species need)

•         Misuse and overuse of remaining patches

•         Non-native species (he gave examples like purple loosestrife, garlic mustard, spruce, European Buckthorn, gypsy moth, emerald ash borer, and various other beetles, wasps, moths and blights, along with plant species coming in from elsewhere)

•         Young woodlands

•         Homogenization

•         Climate Change

Some of the effects of climate change on the Carolinian zone include:

·         Warmer climate and altered moisture regimes

·         Northward species migration

·         Altered species competitiveness (increased weediness)

·         Altered growth rates (lower or higher)

·         Increased disturbances (storms, fires, insects)

à 125 species at risk formally, though this could be more like 400 in reality

Note: the movement of invasive species into this area – quite devastating for Carolinian zone species – very little of what we see out there these days is ‘native’ to this area

Climate Change is also a reality that is creating many concerns about adaptability:

Some of the effects of climate change on the Carolinian zone include:

 Warmer climate and altered moisture regimes

 Northward species migration

 Altered species competitiveness (increased weediness)

 Altered growth rates (lower or higher)

 Increased disturbances (storms, fires, insects

Carolinian Web-Site

[go here for more in-depth look
at this Group's concerns and efforts]

WATERSHED ATTRIBUTES, AND WEATHER BASICS

untitled7.JPG

Watershed: defined as

“an area of land that drains precipitation through a particular river system or group of river systems. [Gt. Lakes watershed is one that drains a group of river systems, one of them being the GR watershed – which is a smaller version]

…  a region of interconnected waterways which functions as a single system.”

untitled8.JPG

Here are all the watersheds at the level of southern Ontario – Grand is notable in the middle there

Then I made some notes on how the glacial activities of past had given rise to the Huron and Georgian Bay lobe till plain area in the north end of the watershed, the Ontario and Erie lobe till plains in the centre of the GR watershed, and the Lake Plain in the bottom 1/3 of the watershed.

These notes included some stuff on mouth and source headwaters locations; on older names for the river; some stuff on main tributaries of Grand; of differences in altitude between the headwaters and mouth of the river; length of watershed and area; etc.

Then through some pictures and stories, sort of took you on a trip from the top of the watershed, to the bottom (and I repeated a bit of this on the Friday – last lecture)

Picture from the Heritage in Water signage across Lorne Bridge in Brantford.