Ecological Corridors Report Heralds Hope for Gatineau Park’s Biodiversity


In mid-December, the National Capital Commission released its final report on ecological corridors that could potentially link Gatineau Park’s most valuable natural ecosystems with similar habitats around its borders.

A PDF version of the report may be read online Here.

It contains a detailed analysis of 12 of the 13 potential corridors. (The Wakefield one is already located within Gatineau Park, and so does not require special analysis.)

A look at but two of these corridors provides a glimpse into the whole. Together they are representative of the biodiversity to be found in and around the Park and of the potential benefits of practicing more careful stewardship of its natural heritage.

North Corridor

Extending northwest from Gatineau Park in a roughly 7x17 km swathe, the North Corridor is the largest of the set, at nearly 12,000 hectares. Although there is some sand and gravel extraction, and forestry operations, the human footprint is low.



The corridor contains a few abandoned fields, streams and small lakes, but is more than 90% woodland. The mix includes reasonably mature hardwood forests as well as moist forests of cedar, tamarack or spruce, bordering bogs, marshes and creeks.



Because of its size, ecological diversity, minimal human disturbance and linkages to similar habitats extending north towards the Mont O’Brien reserve, this corridor is the most valuable of the set from the standpoint of animals needing large home ranges, such as bear, moose, lynx, white-tailed deer and the Eastern wolf.

 

Although the North Corridor passes through the territory of 5 municipalities, a few parcels of land have already been acquired by Nature Conservancy Canada. As of autumn 2012, other lots on the far side of the Lac des Loups road are also sign-posted as being within the Park. Hopefully, private land in and near the corridor will continue to be acquired for wildlife conservation purposes as the opportunity arises.

 

Breckenridge Creek Corridor

Breckenridge Creek winds its way from the base of the Eardley Escarpment to the Ottawa River, passing through a rich mosaic of fields, forests, and swamps. Some of this 882-hectare corridor is used for agriculture or private residences, but most of it has been left in, or is returning to, its natural state, for conservation/recreation use.



The corridor’s high ecological diversity provides habitat for at least 18 threatened species of birds. Among them are a significant number of raptors (bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcons, red-shouldered hawks and short-eared owls), as well as rare species of field and forest (grasshopper sparrows, sedge wrens, loggerhead shrikes, whip-poor-wills, red-headed woodpeckers, Canada and Cerulean warblers). At the river’s edge, other at-risk species (horned grebes and Caspian terns) are seen.


Recognizing the value of this avifauna habitat, Bird Protection Quebec and Nature Conservancy Canada have already begun cooperating with other provincial and federal agencies to acquire and manage the moist woodland surrounding the outlet of Breckenridge Creek, along with several hectares of Ottawa River frontage.
 



The next step is for landowners and conservation-minded entities to adopt some of the action strategies listed in the Corridors report, and build on these initiatives.

Written by Lorna McCrea

Photos by Lorna McCrea