With turtles starting to cross the road and the first flowers of spring, the Georgian Bay Biosphere team is gearing up for a very busy summer. As one of Canada’s 19 UNESCO biosphere sites, we are coordinating a number of projects to support species biodiversity. With over 60 species at risk, including monarch butterfly, Blanding’s turtle, and Canada warbler, our field biologists are in conversation with area municipalities, First Nations, and ratepayer associations to coordinate surveys that directly lead to the design of better wildlife fencing and eco-passages under roads. How well they work for target species and for Public Works departments is part of the research happening this summer.
Over the past three years, Biosphere staff have worked alongside road construction crews to rescue turtle eggs on site where road maintenance is happening. With permits to operate a turtle incubation lab, over 7,000 eggs from Blanding’s, Snapping, Painted, and Map Turtles have been raised and released back to the roadside wetlands where they were collected. All turtles in Ontario are at risk making this stewardship work especially important to their survival.
Native Plants & Pollinators
Equally important are the native plants required for pollinators, and the avoidance of chemicals that devastate insect life. Globally, there has been a collapse in bird populations that rely on insects for food (avian insectivores) due to a variety of threats including pesticides and habitat loss. GBB plants hundreds of native species each year, and volunteers are needed to help weed and mulch the 17 “pollinator patch” gardens in the region. New plants can be added, including: wild strawberry, bloodroot, milkweed varieties, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod and asters. Native shrubs are also important for butterflies and moths – from hosting their eggs and larvae (caterpillars) to feeding them nectar from flowers. Over 400 species of native bees that have co-evolved with particular plants rely on native species to thrive and are important pollinators for biodiversity, along with the European honeybee as pollinators of our food system. Native plants can be ordered at gbbr.ca/plant-order-form.
State of the Bay
This summer will mark the 15th anniversary of our ‘State of the Bay’ ecosystem health report program. Every five years, a new magazine about the environment is created to share scientific findings and trends in water quality, lower food web, fish communities, wetlands, and landscape biodiversity, along with climate change. Studies from Lake Huron and Georgian Bay from dozens of sources are summarized and the work of conservation partners is showcased, including: First Nations fish and wildlife protection, government fish tagging programs, university research studies, and many others. Public reporting of flora and fauna on the free iNaturalist app also help GBB staff and other scientists identify species distribution, especially those at risk.
Our State of the Bay report will show the shocking decline of phosphorus in Lake Huron (a key nutrient in the food web) and some of the potential impacts on the lower food web and fish populations. The legacy of invasive zebra and quagga mussels as filter feeders is still being felt within the ecosystem. Each new invasive species has its own complex effects on the ecosystem that are still being understood.
Every part of the environment is affected to some extent by weather and climate change. Fifty years of data shows us that summer “surface water temperatures” continue to warm. Decades of records also show reduced ice cover – like we saw this past winter – which leads to questions about how to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More frequent and more severe storms ask us to start adapting to unpredictable periods of drought, fire, precipitation, and flooding. Understanding the State of the Bay so that we can turn science into action is more important than ever.
Celebrate Earth Week With Us
Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere is a unique part of the planet. It is in our backyard and we can all do something to keep it healthy for future generations. Celebrate Earth Week with us on Friday, April 21st at 4:00 pm. at Waubuno Park for a Beach Party with free pizza, games, and activities for all ages! Join in the shoreline clean-up and learn more about the Biosphere.
In honour of Earth Day, your donation to the GBB will be matched by local businesses from April 17 – April 30! Donations qualify for a charitable tax receipt and have double the impact!