Ontario Nature’s 25th nature reserve
The Sydenham River had flooded its banks, but that didn’t
stop more than one hundred nature enthusiasts from gathering
to celebrate the opening of Ontario Nature’s 25th
On Sunday, May 7, Ontario Nature members travelled from
near and far to join the reserve’s neighbours, local nature clubs and
contributing partners to learn about the unique ecology of the area
and the species that inhabit the river and surrounding woodlands.
The area around the Sydenham River is widely recognized as a
conservation priority due to the number of at-risk species recorded
there and its forests in a landscape where only 8 percent of the
natural cover remains.
Larry Cornelis, local naturalist and head of the newly formed
Sydenham River Nature Reserve Stewardship Committee, led the
group on an interpretive hike through the parts of the property that
weren’t flooded by recent torrential rain. A ridge dominates the
southern section of the reserve and in spring provides unobstructed
views of the large sycamore trees that grow near the river. This ridge,
Cornelis explained, allows for the formation of vernal pools—critical
habitat for many species of amphibians.
The group was treated to a demonstration about freshwater
mussels,led by Erin Carroll, a biologist with the St. Clair Region
Conservation Authority, and Todd Morris, research scientist at
Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Morris noted that the Sydenham
River hosts the richest collection of freshwater mussels in Canada
and functions as an important refuge for numerous species at risk.
An aquatic survey last fall confirmed the presence of 15 species of
,Permanently protected: Celebrating the opening
of the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.
freshwater mussels, including seven endangered species (round
pigtoe, round hickorynut, salamander mussel, rayed bean, kidneyshell,
northern riffleshell and snuffbox).
Next spring and summer, Ontario Nature staff, local naturalists
and experts will conduct further inventories and map the reserve.
This information will be used to develop an ecological restoration
plan and ensure that habitat requirements for species at risk are
Together with local member nature organizations, the local
conservation authority and committed community members, Ontario
Nature will protect this spectacular natural area in perpetuity as part
of the broader plan for conserving the biodiversity of the Sydenham
,Pollinator progress: Stratford is now more bee friendly.
Straford joins Bee City program
Thanks to the efforts of Ethan Elliott, a Grade 10 student and
energetic member of Ontario Nature’s Youth Council,
Stratford has become Ontario’s second Bee City, joining
the ranks of only five other communities in Canada. The designation
means an increased commitment from the city for pollinator
protection and awareness efforts.
“I’ve always had a passion for nature and how we can protect
it,” says Elliott. Living in an agricultural community, he has come to
understand the importance of biodiversity in farming. “The risks
of pollinator decline are so huge and they are not taken seriously
enough,” he says.
Bee City Canada, a charitable organization established in 2016,
urges communities and schools across the country to enact
resolutions to promote healthy, sustainable habitats for bees and
other vital wild pollinators. As part of the Youth Council’s ongoing
campaign to protect pollinators, members have been approaching
their schools and municipalities about Bee City Canada’s declaration
Elliott began work on making his hometown a Bee City in the
summer of 2016. “Connections and getting people involved [were]
the most important part[s] of this project,” he says. He collaborated
with the Stratford Field Naturalists, and his position on Stratford’s
Environment and Energy Committee was also useful in garnering
support. “I didn’t foresee just how many committees and staff
analyses the resolution had to pass through,” he says. “It was a
great learning experience about the civic process for me.”
The efforts Elliott has made, at just 16 years old, have sparked a
conversation about pollinators in his community. “Bee City allowed
me to make meaningful change and feel as if my opinions mattered,”
More information about the Youth Council’s pollinator campaign
is available at ontarionature.org/pollinators.
PHOTOS (PREVIOUS SPREAD) DON JOHNSTON; (TOP LEFT) JAKLYNN NIMEC;
(BOTTOM LEFT) DON JOHNSTON
ON NATURE SUMMER 2017