The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced that protected conservation lands in the limestone landscape of the Napanee Plain just got a bit bigger.
With the support of government partners and private donors, the NCC has now permanently protected a large natural property near Stoco Fen, a significant wetland located near Tweed, according to the NCC. This project expands the organization’s conservation efforts in eastern Ontario.
According to a media release from the NCC, the 81-hectare Stoco Karst Forest nature reserve is comprised of forest, wetland, and rocky habitat in the Napanee Plain, which lies in the Land Between corridor where the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence lowlands eco-regions transition to the Canadian Shield. This region is very high in biodiversity and provides some of the best habitat we have left in Ontario for many species at risk, the NCC stated.
The Napanee Plain is a unique landscape where limestone lies close to the surface and water slowly erodes limestone underground. The Nature Conservatory explained that the surface supports rare, sparsely vegetated habitats known as alvars. Below ground, the water creates caves, crevices, and unique landforms that are known as karst. The NCC said that due to these tough conditions, alvars are home to distinctive species that have adapted to life on these alvars. The new nature reserve protects both these types of features and builds on and creates a buffer for nearby Stoco Fen Provincial Park, a 350-hectare nature reserve class Provincial Park.
“Stoco Fen’s rocky limestone landscapes, wetlands, and forests make this unique habitat home to a diverse range of rare and wide-ranging species. The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work in conserving this area helps to protect these habitats from land use change, which also allows them to keep absorbing and storing carbon, regulate flooding, and purify water in nearby eastern Ontario communities,” said The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in a statement.
According to the release, the protection of the new NCC nature reserve provides habitat for interesting plant and wildlife species. It also connects with a large intact forested area, sustaining wide-ranging mammals such as black bear, moose and bobcat which require large expanses of habitat, as well as many species of birds.
“Private landowners approached NCC with a vision of having this property permanently protected and they worked with us to make this conservation project happen,” said Mark Stabb, Program Director for the Central Ontario-East, Ontario Region of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “We are grateful for their cooperation, and we are looking forward to caring for this beautiful property alongside the provincially protected Stoco Fen Provincial Park.”
Protected areas also provide important ecosystem services for communities, the NCC noted. The alvars, forests and wetlands within the Stoco Karst Forest nature reserve and the neighbouring provincial park provide flood regulation and water purification services for downstream communities such as Belleville, while the forests store carbon from the atmosphere and filter the air we breathe.
“Protecting natural areas, including this property that borders Stoco Fen Provincial Park, is a shared responsibility that we all play a role in supporting. I’m proud of the work we’ve done alongside the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners, including private landowners, to safeguard natural areas and protect our province’s vital resources,” said The Honourable David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Our collaborative efforts make it possible to preserve more ecologically important natural areas, conserve the province’s natural diversity and promote healthy spaces for generations to come.”
According to the release, this project was made possible by the Government of Ontario through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership program, and the Government of Canada through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. Numerous private donors across Ontario who support the work of NCC also contributed to the protection of this land.
The NCC expressed that this project showcases how the conservancy is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast, according to the release. Over the next few years, the organization said it will double its impact by mobilizing people and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation.
“With development pressures on the rise, it is critical to advance conservation in the areas where nature needs us most,” the NCC said.
“In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. When nature thrives, we all thrive.”