GUEST COLUMN: Conservation key in climate-change fight
The Minesing Wetlands are home to a diverse array of habitats. The mix of fen, marsh and swamp wetlands provides habitat for sensitive plants and animals, including a number of rare species and species at risk. |
From BarrieToday, August 18, 2023
By Mike Bacon
Climate change is no longer a buzzword.
For decades, scientists from around the world have warned us about the effects of climate change. This warning started as a debate, and then turned into a buzzword and, in recent years, we have started to experience the real effects of climate change.
Heat records have been broken across the planet, extreme storm and weather events have increased in frequency and intensity, droughts and irregular weather patterns have put stress on water and agricultural production, smoke from unprecedented Canadian forest fires has travelled across the globe. Locally, the Nottawasaga watershed has become a breeding ground for Lyme disease-carrying ticks.
While it may seem doom and gloom, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) is striving to do its part through land conservation to help reduce the effects of a changing climate.
Since 1960, NVCA has secured 5,240 hectares of mostly environmentally sensitive land within the Nottawasaga watershed. Initially, the purpose was to limit soil erosion in rivers and streams, and to protect lives and properties against flood hazards. These historic actions are now proving to have long-term, wide-ranging benefits.
Land protected by NVCA provides important natural infrastructure, habitat for wildlife and has incredible recreational opportunities.
Wetlands filter water, trap sediments and retain excess nutrients and pollutants such as heavy metals. During large rainstorms and spring snow melts, wetlands act as large sponges by absorbing and slowing flood water.
One important wetland in the watershed is the internationally recognized Minesing Wetlands. It spans more than 6,000 hectares and can provide 66 million cubic metres of storm flood water storage capacity. In other words, it can hold up to 26,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools of flood water, releasing it slowly, providing significant flood control to the surrounding areas.
In the spring, the flooded Minesing Wetlands provide a rest stop for tens of thousands of birds as they head to their more northerly breeding grounds. As land use changes throughout the region, these places are integral to the long-term preservation of these species.
Though Minesing Wetlands is NVCA’s largest landholding, there are also many forested communities that are protected. Between NVCA’s properties and its partner agencies (including Ontario Parks, counties, and land trusts), more than 60,072 hectares of land is protected in the watershed.
Forests provide a wide range of benefits such as habitat for wildlife, carbon storage, and flood protection. We also look to forests to reduce air pollution and control local climates. Forests also provide ample recreational opportunities and can improve mental and physical health.
As the climate changes, habitat ranges for species are migrating either northward or upward in elevation to more suitable locations. Large, continuous ecosystems such as the Minesing Wetlands are more likely to have wider species diversity, which makes them more resilient to changes. These areas may also provide connectivity for species to move between one patch of habitat to another.
If you’re interested in experiencing these benefits first-hand, look no further than the green spaces in your neighbourhood or the 11 conservation areas in the Nottawasaga watershed. Each of these protected areas provides a different opportunity and experience.
More information about NVCA’s conservation areas can be found at nvca.on.ca.
Mike Bacon is the manager of lands and operations with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority.