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ON Nature Spring 2017
Magazines | Environment & Ecology 2017-03-14 10:31:09
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    THE GREAT INVASION An army of foreign pests, from emerald ash borers to Asian longhorned beetles, is attacking Ontario’s trees. The latest incursion, by an insect that kills hemlocks, could devastate entire ecosystems that depend on these trees – unless a defense is mounted quickly. By Mike Henry This spring, visitors to the Rattray Marsh Conservation Area in Mississauga may come across a young man with a shaved head launching balls into treetops with a slingshot. He is not an angry homeowner shooting at squirrels that were digging in his garden. Chances are he’s Kevin De Mille, an invasive species management technician with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), who added this unlikely activity to his job description last year. He sends balls covered with hooked Velcro material ricocheting through the canopies of eastern hemlock trees and then retrieves and examines the balls for traces of a new invader threatening Ontario forests. CVC is the first conservation authority in the province to launch a monitoring program for the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), an invasive sucking insect from Japan that has been killing hemlocks in the United States for decades. The HWA has been detected four times in Ontario in the past five years, and experts believe it is only a matter of time before this species makes deeper inroads into the province. The insects embed themselves at the base of hemlock needles to feed, and develop their namesake woolly covering over the winter. Once established, adelgids can number in the millions on a single tree, but initial infestations are small and may spread for years in treetops before being detected at ground level. The Velcro hooks on De Mille’s projectiles pick up bits of the woolly covering, alerting scientists to the presence of these insects. The HWA is just the latest addition to Canada’s long history of tree pest and ,Eye of the storm: Since arriving in southern Ontario in 2002, the emerald ash borer has left a trail of destruction. SPRING 2017 ON NATURE 31

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    ,Hardwood killer: The Asian longhorned beetle has been especially devastating to maple trees. pathogen invasions. Among the first was larch sawfly, which was spotted in Quebec in 1882 and within decades eliminated most of Canada’s once-common upland tamarack (eastern larch) trees. Beech bark disease, caused by a scale insect that operates in concert with a fungus, killed and deformed most beech trees in Nova Scotia starting in the late 1800s before eventually working its way south and west into Ontario. In the last century, Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight almost eliminated major tree species from the province’s forests. More recently, butternut canker has made butternut a provincially and federally endangered species, while the Asian longhorned beetle attacked many hardwood trees, especially maple, in two outbreaks around Toronto. The onslaught shows no sign of abating. The list of potential future invaders is long, and the adelgid is among the most imminent threats. Many are already in North America. Each is a little different, but the various insects and fungi share similar methods of arrival and patterns of spread. They also share the agents who enable their global travels: humans. So far, De Mille and his colleagues have not detected the HWA in the Rattray Marsh Conservation Area, and the insect may not arrive there for years. But they are vigilant. “We’re making sure we deal with it as it comes in,” he says, “versus waiting until it arrives and reacting.” last fall, walking with De Mille along Rattray Marsh trails near Lake Ontario, I quickly see why CVC is taking a potential new pest invasion seriously. “This was mostly ash in here,” De Mille says, pointing to young saplings freshly planted among ash stumps, backed by a forest of dead standing ash trees. Parts of the conservation area had once been as much as 80 percent ash forest. Then, in 2002, the emerald ash borer arrived in southern Ontario. The destruction this insect wrought has left CVC with huge costs for clearing out dead trees, and a largely deforested conservation area. “We don’t want the hemlocks to disappear,” says De Mille, “because then the whole property will be deforested.” For conservation authorities around the province, tracking the known pests is only half the battle. Dave Nisbet, partnership and science manager at the Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, believes that, aside from the HWA, two large threats are oak wilt, a fungal disease that causes mostly red oaks to suddenly wilt and often die, and thousand cankers disease, caused by an invasive fungus carried by the walnut PHOTOS CHANGHUA COAST CONSERVATION ACTION CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; (PREVIOUS SPREAD) MACROSCOPIC SOLUTIONS CC BY-NC 2.0 32 ON NATURE SPRING 2017 ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM

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    PHOTO MIKE HENRY twig beetle, which attacks the bark of black walnut trees and can kill them within a few years. These invaders are more or less at Ontario’s border. But what most worries Nisbet are the pests that may be coming, that may not have been seen or identified yet in North America. “There’s always the chance something could show up that nobody’s expecting,” he says. That was the case with the emerald ash borer: it had arrived years before researchers noticed it, and by the time they did, says Nisbet, “it had spread so far that there wasn’t much you could do to eradicate it.” Tree-killing invasive species arrive in North America by two main pathways: live plant imports and wood packaging material. The former is the main route for plant pathogens and the latter is for wood-boring insects. Many of these foreign species alight in Ontario, since 64 percent of shipping containers that come to Canada are opened in the Greater Toronto Area. The Asian longhorned beetle was first found near industrial areas of Toronto and Mississauga after it had hitched a ride in the wood of shipping palettes or boxes. Everybody hoped the problem of infested wood packaging had been solved when an international standard for heating or fumigating solid wood packaging material, called ISPM 15, was implemented in 2002. However, the new regulations have cut the infestation rate by only half. “Fifty percent is not that good,” says Gary Lovett, a forest ecologist with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., “especially when you think about the increasing use of wood packing material for all the container shipping, and the increased volume of global trade.” In response, the Cary Institute is promoting what it calls Tree-SMART Trade, an initiative that would dramatically tighten regulations for both live plant imports and wood packaging, and improve detection and eradication of invasive pests. Tree-SMART recommends switching to packaging made from engineered wood or other materials such as plastic, and increasing penalties for non-compliance. “These policy measures make sense for us in Ontario, too,” says Anne Bell, director of conservation and education at Ontario Nature. In fact, when the provincial invasive species act was being drafted, Ontario Nature called for a “white list” approach for plant imports like the one used in New Zealand, where all new species and organisms are banned until they are assessed for risks. Such tighter regulations would require high-level policy changes and international cooperation, and implementing them would be costly. However, Lovett argues that the net result would be a financial gain. Additionally, the shift in focus from responding to invasive species – measures largely paid for by municipalities, conservation authorities, home owners and taxpayers – to preventing their arrival would put a “The real costs of invasive species are often underestimated because they accumulate over decades and do not seem as urgent as other priorities. ” greater onus on the companies that profit from importing goods. Canadian municipalities are expected to spend more than half a billion dollars in the coming decades on managing emerald ash borer in urban areas alone (mostly through cutting and planting trees). If the Asian longhorned beetle establishes itself, its impact could be even more costly, and since it attacks maple trees and other hardwoods, the forestry sector, maple syrup producers and tourism operators will also pay a heavy price. The real costs of invasive species are often underestimated because they accumulate over decades and do not seem as urgent as other priorities. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), for example, has no invasive species policy, viewing it as a regional concern. “As we have limited resources, we tend to focus on issues that impact the whole province,” ,Taking aim: Kevin De Mille uses a slingshot to test for hemlock wooly adelgid. ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM SPRING 2017 ON NATURE 33

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    Jessica Schmidt, policy advisor at the AMO, explains in an email. A particular pest may, indeed, be someone else’s problem – but that is true only until it spreads to a specific neighbourhood. Residents of Thunder Bay probably were not worrying about the emerald ash borer until it showed up in the city last year. Now, the municipality expects to spend more than $6 million on cutting and replacing trees. when (as it almost certainly will) the HWA establishes itself in Ontario, the related economic costs may be lower than those for some other invasives, but its ecological costs could be greater. Hemlock is a so-called late successional species that grows in, and creates, deep shade. According to Jeff Fidgen, a researcher with the Canadian Forest Service, “its loss from an ecosystem will have a far greater impact than the loss of an early succession species.” This is primarily due to numbers: there are many early successional species, including birches, poplars, oaks and ashes, but few late successional ones. In Ontario, only beech is as tolerant of growing in shade as hemlock, and What you can do • Download the EDDMapS app, which tracks occurrences of invasive species, to get photos and information, and to report invasive species from your phone. eddmaps.org/ontario • Join the Early Detection & Rapid Response Network Ontario to get involved in citizen monitoring. edrrontario.ca • Contact your politicians and ask for implementation of Tree- SMART Trade in Canada. caryinstitute.org/scienceprogram/research-projects/tree-smart-trade • Become an informal steward of your local hemlock forests. When you’re in hemlock stands, particularly along lakeshores and creeks where birds tend to land, flip over a few branches and look for the telltale woolly signs that indicate the presence of adelgids. ancientforest.org/hemlock • Don’t move firewood; invasive pests and pathogens often arrive in new areas on firewood. dontmovefirewood.org —Mike Henry ,Rattray Marsh: The wetland site’s ecological integrity is being monitored. ,Mugshot: The larch sawfly wiped out most of Canada’s upland tamarack forests. beech is already in sharp decline due to beech bark disease. Hemlock is often labelled a foundation species because its presence profoundly influences the ecosystems in which it grows. Brook trout inhabit the cool streams in the deep shade of hemlock forests. Blackburnian and black-throated green warblers flit through hemlock canopies, and the plants that grow in the acidic soil below are sometimes more typical of the Canadian Shield than southern Ontario. All this could disappear because of a millimetre-long insect species. The United States offers ample opportunity to see what happens when the HWA kills hemlock forests – from the sudden warming of streams to the invasion of exotic plant species. The prognosis, however, may be better here, thanks to lessons learned in the United States. Fidgen believes the best hope for combatting the HWA long term is probably biocontrol – specifically, a beetle and a fly that have coevolved with the adelgids and prey on them exclusively. “Biocontrol hasn’t necessarily had a great track record,” he admits. “But what I’ve seen in the States is that these biocontrol agents have a capacity to really lower adelgid populations.” Combined with Ontario’s colder climate and strategic use of insecticides, biocontrol could save many of the province’s hemlocks, Fidgen believes. But not without up-front effort: the Ontario government needs to plan, register insecticides and do other preparation. “People need to be talking to their politicians to make sure we have a good toolbox for when this thing shows up,” says Fidgen. Demille and other land managers are not waiting for the government to take action, however. He chose to monitor Rattray Marsh Conservation Area because it is an important rest stop for birds. He will be out there with his slingshot again this spring, checking for adelgids that may have hitched a ride across the border. Mike Henry is an ecologist with Ancient Forest Exploration and lead author of Ontario’s Old Growth Forests. PHOTOS (BOTTOM LEFT) DAVID FIBINGR; (TOP RIGHT) INZILBETH CC BY-SA 2.0 34 ON NATURE SPRING 2017 ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM

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    Our Member Groups A GOLDEN JUBILEE By Lisa Richardson C ollaboration has been integral to Nature Guelph’s many successes. From the annual Christmas Bird Counts to the Nature in the City lecture series, the club’s activities have been strengthened by the relationships its members have fostered within their community. So it’s not surprising that when the club marked its 50th anniversary last October with a special event, local naturalists and members of partner organizations came out to celebrate the milestone. Among Nature Guelph’s many partners is the University of Guelph Arboretum, where the group holds its monthly meetings and speaker sessions. This year, the arboretum will also host several events for the club’s Young Naturalists and Naturalists in Training programs, including a spring “frog frolic” and a workshop on fairy shrimp. The Young Naturalists program introduces children aged 6 to 10 to nature through outdoor activities and field trips, while the Naturalists in Training program provides youth aged 11 to 16 with hands-on opportunities to learn about the environment. Both programs are run in partnership with the Guelph Lake Nature Centre. Nature Guelph was established in 1966 as the Guelph Field Naturalists. The club officially changed its name to Nature Guelph in 2013. In January 2015, the Waterloo- Wellington Wildflower Society joined the club as a distinct part of its membership. The society works to protect native plants and incorporate them into local parks and gardens. To that end, its members create native wildflower gardens and host an annual native plant sale at the Guelph Farmers’ Market. Nature Guelph’s 50th-anniversary celebration featured a retrospective of the club’s achievements over the years, such as the construction of a boardwalk at Hanlon Creek and the completion of a wildlife survey along Highway 7. The event, attended by representatives from the Grand River Conservation Authority, rare Charitable Research Reserve and Wild Ontario, a live-animal environmental education program based at the University of Guelph, also included a silent auction and a performance by singer-songwriter James Gordon. “It was great to celebrate everything our group has accomplished over the years,” says past president and Ontario Nature board director Peter Kelly. “But it’s our future that we’re most excited about.” More information about Nature Guelph’s programs and activities is available at natureguelph.ca. r ,Fifty years strong: Nature Guelph celebrated their anniversary in 2016. Nature cn mFA Guelph OU Celebrating 5o iears 1966-2016 PHOTO RANDALL VAN GERWEN ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM SPRING 2017 ON NATURE 35

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    SYDENHAM RIVER JOINS ONTARIO NATURE’S NATURE RESERVE SYSTEM I t’s official! One of the most biodiverse waterways in Ontario is now permanently protected, thanks to the support of Ontario Nature’s members and member groups, the local community, foundations, corporate supporters and caring individuals. The new Sydenham River Nature Reserve, a 78-hectare property located in arguably the most biologically diverse ecological region in the country, is the 25th reserve in Ontario Nature’s reserve system. Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature’s executive director, is thrilled that what was a dream a few years ago is now a reality. “I hope this is just the beginning and that we’ll be able to work with our conservation partners to protect more land along the Sydenham River in the years to come,” she says. Many dedicated individuals and groups understood the importance of preserving the Sydenham ecosystem and offered to help. The river provides habitat for almost two dozen species at risk and 34 species of mussels – making it the freshwater mussel capital of Canada. Eleven of these mussel species are listed as at-risk provincially or nationally. In addition to protecting vulnerable habitats and species, the Sydenham property protects a vital part of one of the few remaining green corridors in southwestern Ontario. If climate change forces species to migrate north, the river and its nearby woodland will provide a vital ecological pathway. Larry Cornelis, a former president of Sydenham Field Naturalists (SFN) who helped spearhead the campaign, has long been involved in restoring natural habitats in the area. “But I firmly believe that protecting what we have left is critical,” he says, “especially such biologically rich sites as the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.” Mary Martin, president of Lambton Wildlife, is particularly grateful to Cornelis “for finding and recognizing the significance of this property and working toward its preservation.” The Sydenham reserve is the first riverine reserve in Ontario Nature’s province-wide network, which now protects more PHOTO TANYA PULFER 36 ON NATURE SPRING 2017 ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM

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    Our Community ,Biodiversity hot spot on the river: Accomplished naturalist Fred Schueler (left), American bullfrog (top right) and freshwater mussels. PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE) EMMA HORRIGAN; LARRY CORNELIS; EMMA HORRIGAN than 2,800 hectares of land. Ontario Nature will collaborate with SFN, Lambton Wildlife, the local conservation authority and conservation science experts on managing the property for the long term. Plans include creating more connected habitat for birds that need large tracts of forest, such as the cerulean warbler and the eastern wood-pewee. The partners also aim to develop turtle nesting habitat and stabilize the river bank to ensure a healthy and diverse mussel and fish community. In addition, they will work to curb invasive species and ensure sufficient habitat for species at risk. The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is now open to visitors. SFN president Dave Smith recalls falling in love with the area on his first visit. “It was autumn, leaves were falling and covering the ground. The walk we took was breathtaking.” There are plans to build trails for the public, but the best way to explore the property may be by canoeing down the Sydenham River itself. Ontario Nature is deeply grateful for the support of the following partners, which made protecting this spectacular natural area possible: The Gosling Foundation NATURE CONSERVANCY CANADA FCHO Sisters of St. Jorolo ACECIAI TD Friends of the Environment Foundation This project was undertaken with the financial support of: Ce projet a ete rdalise avec l'appui financier de : ESSEX COUNTY NATURE Essex County Field Naturabsts'Club Environment and Enyironnement et MI Climate Change Canada Changement climatidue Canada ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM SPRING 2017 ON NATURE 37

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    Last Word HUNTING TURTLES IS A DANGEROUS GAME By David Seburn and Scott Gillingwater H unting and other human activities have decimated many wildlife species, but population declines are particularly hard to reverse among slow-growing, late-maturing creatures such as turtles. Back in 1620, Bermuda passed the first legislation to protect turtles after hunting caused green sea turtle numbers to crash. Yet, despite four centuries of conservation efforts, that population has not recovered. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry still has not learned this basic lesson: hunting turtles, especially when coupled with other threats, invariably leads to population declines. The snapping turtle, Ontario’s largest turtle species, is also the only one today that can be legally hunted in this province. After steady declines in its numbers, the turtle is now officially listed as a species at risk both provincially and federally. But rather than end the hunt, the provincial government has responded by merely shortening its seasonal duration and reducing the daily bag limit. The continued hunting is especially worrying because numerous other threats endanger snapping turtles. Like many species, they are losing habitat, notably through the draining of wetlands. Additionally, hundreds of snapping turtles die every year on roads, many of them adult females making their annual migrations to lay eggs. Others are killed by boat propellers or drown in commercial fishing nets. Snapping turtles also contend with another challenge: human persecution. They have been found shot, beaten and intentionally run over on the sides of roads. Research on turtle populations indicates that an increase in mortality of even a few percentage points can cause a decline in their numbers. This is partly because surviving adult females don’t lay more eggs to compensate for the decline. As well, turtles are not attentive parents: females dig a hole in the ground, lay their eggs, bury them and walk away. Many eggs are dug up and eaten by nest predators such as raccoons, coyotes and striped skunks, whose populations have been growing. The result is that, in some areas, predators eat more than 90 percent of turtle eggs. Some efforts are underway to protect snapping turtles; various concerned groups are working to reduce road deaths and protect turtle habitat. More must be done, however, to both reduce the number of adult turtle deaths and educate the public about threats to this species. The question remains, why further endanger its survival by removing adult turtles – the most important age class – through a legal hunt? The provinces of Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have already banned hunting of snapping turtles. The same has to happen in Ontario. As a species at risk that cannot sustain increases in adult losses, the snapping turtle should not be subjected to recreational killing by humans. David Seburn is an amphibian and reptile ecologist and chair of the Canadian Herpetological Society’s conservation committee. Scott Gillingwater is a species-at-risk biologist and past president of the Canadian Herpetological Society. PHOTO PETER FERGUSON 38 ON NATURE SPRING 2017 ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM

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    THE FORCE OF OPTICS PREMIUM optics INCREDIBLE value TOP TIER servic and VIP warran BINOCULARS - SPOTTING SCOPES - TRIPODS BINOCULARS Vortex Razor HD binoculars combine advanced optical technology and premium components to deliver astonishingly bright, high-definition images with true colour fidelity and edge-to-edge sharpness. Top quality optics at a competitive price provide a great investment in your outdoor life. photo by Jeremy Bensefte jeremybirder@gmail.com 1 866 343-0054 vortexcanada.net

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    Plan your nature explorations in Ontario with these informative guides Chris Earley & Tracy C. Read Ron Brown Cnris Earley and Tracy C. Head The Best Parks. Conservation Aims and Wild Places 0 elth Edit ion t • — Expanded and Updated Backroads of 224 pages in colour · $29.95 paperback 240 pages in colour · $29.95 paperback Each book is packed with history, photos, maps and directions. All will help you plan your trip, check your equipment — and enjoy Ron Brown all that Ontario has to offer — outdoors. STII-1 EDITION – REVISED & EXPANDED TOP 150 UNUSUAL THINGS TO SEE IN ONTARIO Kevin Callan TOP 50 CANOE ROUTES of ONTARIO George Fischer & Mark Harris WATERFALLS OF ONTARIO sornno Edition E.edurs and Expanded NV& ' 5th edition RON BROWN 320 pages in colour · $29.95 paperback 336 pages in colour · $29.95 paperback 2nd edition 240 pages in colour · $29.95 paperback Published by T!LeBOSTON MILLS PRESS and FIREFLY BOOKS www.fireflybooks.com At bookstores, outfi tters and online.

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