Nearly 70% of the Bruce Peninsula is covered by forests ranging from dense deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests on the east side of the Bruce Peninsula to sparser coniferous forests on the west. Much of the forest has changed since European settlement in the mid-1800s as a result of historic logging, agricultural settlement and major forest fires that swept through the region. Despite these changes, the Bruce Peninsula has the largest remaining intact forested area in all of Southern Ontario, supporting a diverse suite of forest plants and animals.
Why are our forests important?
• Large, connected deciduous forests are critically important for the Bruce Peninsula’s unique Black Bears
• Deep, interior forests provide habitat for area-sensitive breeding birds while coastal forests provide stopover habitat for migratory songbirds and raptors
• Diverse forest types support diverse plants including ancient lichens and mosses, ferns, and a colourful array of wildflowers
• Ephemeral pools within or adjacent to forests provide important breeding habitat for amphibians
• Fallen logs and rocks provide habitat for insects and other invertebrates, fungi and bacteria, all providing the vital service of decomposition
• Forests help to maintain air and water quality, and provide many local goods such as timber, firewood and maple syrup
Flat, pastoral landscapes, such as the Eastnor and Lindsay Flats, are an important part of the Bruce Peninsula’s character and its biodiversity. Our agricultural landscapes include a mosaic of cultivated lands, hay lands, grazing lands and old fields, which are interspersed with other natural features such as woodlands, wetlands, rivers and streams, field margins and hedgerows. Although grasslands were historically not found on the Bruce Peninsula, our agricultural areas offer habitat for many wildlife species.
Why are our open lands important?
• Threatened grassland birds such as Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Upland Sandpiper nest and raise their young in hayfields, pastures and old fields
• Raptors and migrating songbirds, waterbirds, and shorebirds feed in open lands
• Several species of bats feed in these areas and control many pest species that affect crop production
• Dragonflies, bees, butterflies and many other insects find nourishment in pastures, old fields and field margins, and many are important pollinators for wildflowers and crops
• Soil organisms such as bacteria, fungi and worms are critical for soil fertility
• Open lands are a significant economic resource for the community, predominantly through livestock and crop production, and ensure local food security in the future
Alvars are among the rarest ecosystems in North America and are considered globally imperiled. The Bruce Peninsula has one of the greatest concentrations of alvars on the continent, which harbour an exceptional variety of globally and provincially rare species. These are harsh environments that are ice swept in the winter, flood in the spring, and face temperatures of up to 53oC and severe drought in the summer. Alvars have little or no soil and, in many cases, the only soil that persists is found in fissures and depressions in the bedrock surface. Despite these conditions, they are rich and irreplaceable habitats for rare plants and animals.
Why are our alvars important?
• Ancient white cedars more than 500 years old can be found in some alvars
• At least 47 alvar species are globally or provincially rare, and many are also endemic to the Great Lakes such as Dwarf Lake Iris, Hill’s Thistle and Lakeside Daisy
• Open bedrock areas are often encrusted with an array of rare lichens and mosses while grasses, sedges and wildflowers take root in the few areas with soil
• Unique assemblages of insects and snails take refuge among the sparse vegetation
• Perched table rocks provide important cover for female Massasauga Rattlesnakes during gestation and some grassland birds use alvars as nesting habitat
We are all connected by our water – from the upland headwaters to the nearshore of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Our inland waters are the life blood of the Bruce Peninsula, providing clean water for our community and important habitats for plants, fish and wildlife. There are thirteen local watersheds, each associated with a series of small, shallow inland lakes and wetlands that drain into Lake Huron and Georgian Bay through a network of cold and warm water streams and underground channels.
Why are our inland waters important?
• Most lakes and streams provide warm water habitat for basses, minnows, darters and Northern Pike, while some streams offer cold water habitat for native Brook Trout and recreational species such as Rainbow Trout
• Provide breeding habitat for marsh birds and stopover habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl
• Provide breeding and feeding habitat for several reptiles and amphibians
• Support many rare and endangered species, such as Hill’s Pondweed, Eastern Prairie-fringed Orchid and Black Tern
• Wetlands and riparian vegetation around lakes, rivers and streams help to moderate floods and drought, slow runoff and control erosion
Great Lakes Shorelines
As its name suggests, the Bruce Peninsula is nearly surrounded by water with hundreds of kilometres of Great Lakes shoreline including the mainland and its archipelago of islands. Influenced by the geology of the Niagara Escarpment and the relentless forces of the Great Lakes, the Bruce Peninsula offers a rich assemblage of bedrock shores, cobble beaches, cliffs and talus, and sand beaches and dunes – we have them all and each has its own unique community of plants and animals.
Why are our Great Lakes shorelines important?
• Lichens and mosses are abundant on exposed bedrock areas while wildflowers and ferns grow in pockets of soil in small cracks and crevices
• Ancient 1,000 year old white cedars cling to cliff faces
• Several shoreline caves provide critical habitat for hibernating bats, including Ontario’s third largest bat cave
• Many islands support unique plants and animals due to their isolation
• Undisturbed shoreline areas provide important stopover sites for migratory birds and nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds such as gulls, terns and herons
• Most people live on the shoreline, and recreational activities are often associated with these areas including hiking, boating, swimming and rock climbing
Coastal wetlands are the most productive areas in the Great Lakes with diverse plants, fish and wildlife concentrated in these areas. These wetlands are connected to and directly influenced by the waters of the Great Lakes. They are dynamic environments, adapted to natural fluctuations in water levels and storm events, and many plants require these natural cycles. Nearly 95 coastal wetlands have been identified on the Bruce Peninsula along the open shoreline, in protected bays or associated with the rivers.
Why are our coastal wetlands important?
• Coastal wetlands are critical areas for fish production in the Great Lakes, with a large percentage of species using these areas during some part of their life cycles
• Provide breeding and foraging habitat for a rich variety of amphibians and reptiles
• Provide important breeding habitats for marsh birds and stop-over sites for migratory birds that congregate to feast on the abundant food supplies
• Harbour several rare or endangered species such as Tuberous Indian Plantain, Spotted Turtle and Massasauga Rattlesnake
• Some coastal wetlands are fringed with coastal meadow marshes, a globally rare and imperiled habitat
• Improve water quality and reduce stormwater run-off, and prevent property damage by buffering Great Lakes storm activity
The nearshore represents the waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay from the shoreline to a 30 metres depth. The sloping topography of the Bruce Peninsula creates contrasting nearshore ecosystems with steep cliffs plunging into Georgian Bay and the sloping shallows of Lake Huron. The waters at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula encompass a transition zone where Georgian Bay meets the waters of the main Lake Huron basin. These waterscapes combine with winds, water currents, islands and reefs, as well as the inland waters from rivers and streams, to create diverse and productive aquatic habitats.
Why are our nearshore waters important?
• Aquatic vegetation in protected bays provides significant spawning, nursery and feeding habitat for many warm water fish species
• Several fish species spawn in nearshore gravel, sand and cobble habitats
• Reefs and shoals are critical habitat for spawning lake trout and lake whitefish, and the western shores are considered to be the most productive lake whitefish spawning shoals and nursery grounds in Lake Huron
• Continentally significant migratory congregations of Rednecked Grebes return to Dyers Bay each year
• Tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, swimming, boating and other activities provide opportunities to interact with the lake