Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Stromatolites Unknown

Submited by Sheila Edwards
December 20th 2005

Stromatolites Unknown

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During September’s MVFN meeting, Jim Bendell mentioned the stromatolites near Champlain Bridge. Chris Hume and I were intrigued, so after getting an idea of where they were, off we went. Not really knowing what to look for all we saw were concentric circles, slightly mounded, split by fissures, with odd little tuffs of grass. Not nearly as entrancing as watching a Great Blue Heron or having frogs leaping away while paddling, or spotting a salamander in the glare of a flashlight. The day was nice, the surroundings calm, we didn’t get lost, the picnic went well – just not as earth shattering as it could have been.

Back to the drawing board. What were we looking at? Why were they so important? There are some things one can appreciate without much knowledge, like the butterfly greenhouses at Carleton, or seeing a Great Grey Owl; not so the stromatolites. These odd mounds turned out to be heavily eroded, extremely old fossils; in fact, the oldest type of fossil known.

They are not the tiny fossils found on the shores of Lake Ontario, but a whole connected area of fossils. They were created by communities of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and other microbes, when this area was covered by warm salt water. The calcite produced by the cyanobacteria and the normal sedimentation of minerals becomes trapped within the sticky cyanobacteria, which then settle and start to harden each night.

Over time, a solid mound is formed, with a new cyanobacteria colony growing on top. Mounds form on top of mounds, which eventually fossilize. Glaciations and other erosion mechanisms resulted in our stromatolites becoming relatively flat. Looking at the stromatolites one sees concentric circles, indicative of the cycle of colony growth and sedimentation. The pattern of the rocks is reflective of the tides and currents.

There are other, smaller, examples of stromatolites along the Carp River near Fitzroy, along the Ottawa River near Dunrobin Shores, and along the Jock River. Today living stromatolites can be seen off the west coast of Australia and in the Bahamas.

Only by seeing the stromatolites were we led to further study, and through further study we understood and thus appreciated what we saw. Some things one need only see to appreciate but the circular pattern of learning and seeing results in a richer experience; an increasing appreciation of nature.

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Conservation: Community Forests

Community Forests Comunity Forests
When the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources downloaded management of County forests to County governments last year (2001), the County of Lanark decided to appoint a team of three experts (The Management Team)  to set up a Business Plan to manage the lands. Part of the team’s mandate was to involve the public in consultations throughout the process. Recently, the management team, produced a draft of the plan and sent it out to various groups for comments. Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) was one of those groups.MVFN has been involved with the process since the beginning. They attended public meetings and responded to survey questionnaires. MVFN member and Chair of the MVFN Natural Resources Issues Committee Dr. Jim Bendell, participated  on the plan’s advisory committee. Recently, a small group of interested MVFN members met to pour over the Draft Plan and submit it’s comments on behalf of MVFN.

Key to the response to the Draft Plan was an appeal for inventory of all of the natural aspects of the community forested lands, recognizing that good management of these resources cannot proceed in an orderly way without knowing what is there. In a call for a broadening of the vision for our community lands, MVFN also appealed to the County for more public input into the final document before it goes to County Council on Nov. 13, for approval.

Recognizing that our community forested lands contain more values that just timber production, values such as tourism, recreation, social and spiritual attributes,  MVFN recommends that these lands always remain within the public domain on behalf of the people of Lanark County.

MVFN welcomed  the opportunity to participate in this important challenge and offers to  help to advance the cause in anyway it can. Overall, MVFN congratulates the Management Team of Jim McCready, David Oliver and Chair and chief facilitator Gord Harrison for championing this project. Through their efforts and the process, the public is now aware that these lands exist.

Stand on guard for Canada!
(an open letter from Jim Bendell)Our lands and waters provide the nature we love and need ~ trees, birds, frogs, soil and much more. Should we not be concerned about the health and care of the provider?Twenty percent of the County of Lanark is land and water that is in Crown Land or our public lands. We are rich in natural resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources looks after our Lanark area forests and decides on their use. Considering the demands on our resources, are we and the Ministry doing the best job of resource care and management?Recently, the Province downloaded our Community Forests to the care of Lanark County. These lands and waters consist of some 43 properties totalling 12,000 acres and were essentially Crown Lands. A big difference now is we are locally and directly in control of this resource. The Council of Lanark County has established a team of consultants to examine and recommend what should be done with our forests. They are: Gordon Harrison, Jim McCready and David Oliver.

The team has held two public meetings and organized a steering committee to represent the views of the people. The committee includes a logger, trapper, hunter and fisher, snowmobiler, teacher and others, including me, for the Naturalists.

The team seems open to all kinds of suggestions and to want a best outcome for people and the land. Our Issues and Natural Resources Issues Committee have met with them, discussed the issues, and planned to visit some of the properties. All our welcome.

Where do we stand?  There is much interest in the properties from a number of users who make compelling arguments. A general view is that the forests must make money and not be a cost to the tax payer. We agree with the use of our resources, of course, but want to be sure that they are used well. Our history is replete with squandered natural wealth.

Good land use depends on good planning. For good planning there must be adequate inventory and evaluation of features as they are and might become. For example, where do we have an adequate and representative forest of old  growth Sugar Maple and how is it protected?  What will it return in tourism, recreation and knowledge? What helps in our management of Sugar Maple? We fear an adequate inventory of our resources has not been done. Yes, the trees have been mapped in standard forestry fashion(FRI maps) but there is much more to the forest than trees! What about ordinary, rare and uncommon features such as ecosystems like bogs, rocks and minerals, glacial effects, plants and animals scarcely looked for?

A second fundamental of good planning is to provide protected areas of representative and adequate natural features, especially those that are rare and uncommon. There are many reasons for this need but paramount are: to see, enjoy, and understand how nature works without the impact of humans and to obtain a base line to measure our progress in managing resources beyond our preserves. Give nature a chance!

We are convinced if nature in our Community Forests is adequately inventoried and protected we will derive the greatest benefits of all kinds. We produced a position paper as such which follows. We gave this to the consultants and members of the steering committee and hope it influences the outcome of their work. At present, their response is favourable but what action is taken remains to be seen.

What do you think should be done with our Community Forests? Will you help in our efforts? What should be done by the MVFN?

Please contact our President, Sandy Atack, at 256-6912 if you wish to talk about this important issue. It’s your environment.

Jim Bendell, Chair, Natural Resources Committee, MVFN.

MVFN’s position on our Community Forests
(Summary Approved by the Board of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists)

1. The Community Forests of Lanark County, as with associated Crown Lands, contain many features that are unique and uncommon globally. Included are: rocks, minerals, fossils, glacial features, soils, waters and wetlands, plants, animals and human history.

2. The Community Forests and Crown Lands are public lands and the public determines their stewardship.

3. Natural features have immense values, including economic, cultural, spiritual, ecologic, educational, scientific and recreational.

4. The inventory of natural features on our public lands is
inadequate and therefore careful planning for their use is severely compromised. Immediate attention must be given to an adequate inventory of our Community Forests.

5. We must have protected areas that are adequate and representative of all natural values. Protected areas are essential to obtain the greatest benefits from natural values and from the best use of areas beyond ­ that are managed.

6. The MVFN will help as much as possible in the identification and care of natural values. We welcome questions and comments.

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