November 7, 2013
Landscape Design to Benefit Us and Nature
By Cathy Keddy
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) 2013-2014 public lecture series, Knowing and Caring Connect Us to Nature, continues November 21 with the 3rd presentation, “Landscape Design: Long-term Benefits for Us and Nature.” Anyone who possesses a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature will enjoy these lectures. Cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists and seasoned field naturalists alike will find something to interest them as we explore what lives in Lanark County and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.
Photos: From dry to wet, Lanark County is home to a diverse array of natural areas. Top to Bottom: lichen-covered granite rock barrens in Drummond/North Elmsley Township, deciduous woodland near Mississippi Lake (photo courtesy Dan Brunton), kettle bogs east of Flower Station (note turtle tracks across mud), the racing Mississippi River with hackberry-studded bluffs below Carleton Place.
Picture our landscape—hubs of human activity in towns and cities linked to one another by roads, set in a matrix of agricultural and natural land. Hubs are where most of us obtain food, shelter and water, and where we socialize, raise families, and retire. Just like us, wildlife (plants and animals) also relies on hubs for food, water, shelter, and places to reproduce. For wildlife, these hubs include provincial parks, nature reserves, and other large natural areas. Wildlife hubs are called core natural areas. Just like us, animals need to travel in search of food, mates, and resources. By connecting core natural areas with strips of natural habitat (linkages), animals can move between core areas, giving them more living space. So, we can say that natural cores and linkages are like cities and highways for nature.
But that is only part of the story. Natural areas in our landscape not only benefit wildlife— they increase our well-being too! Stop and think about it… Where does the oxygen we breathe come from? Where is water stored on the landscape, and where does our clean drinking water come from? Where do our wild game, fish, maple syrup, and timber come from? Where are the popular places in our area for canoeing, hiking, hunting, skiing, or horseback riding? Downtown Almonte or Perth?
Natural areas also provide us with less tangible cultural, spiritual, inspirational, and educational benefits. What other benefits (goods/services) can you think of that natural areas provide? A list of 5 is good, 10 fantastic.
Continuing to reap these benefits requires that we understand and acknowledge their magnitude and diversity. We must see natural areas as our natural capital stock and give them the weight they deserve in our decision-making processes.
How do we ensure that all these benefits of our natural areas are passed on to our grandchildren and their grandchildren? You must have guessed. We need to maintain the health of the ecosystems they contain that provide these benefits. We need to maintain all the components and interconnecting processes that naturally occur in these ecosystems. We need to maintain (designate and protect from detrimental human activities) a network of linked natural core areas. This is simply part of logical, practical landscape planning to ensure our survival.
Networks of natural areas are being identified and protected in many regions across the province including the Oak Ridges Moraine north and east of Toronto, the Niagara Escarpment, Halton County and, in our neighbourhood, the City of Ottawa. Thus MVFN invited Dr. Nick Stow, ecologist and Senior Planner for Ottawa, to speak about how the City designed its natural heritage system for long term nature conservation.
Joni Mitchell reminds us not to take our natural areas and their benefits for granted, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Learn how they enhance our well-being and understand how we can ensure a harmonious, long-term connection with them. The path forward will be illustrated in MVFN’s next lecture “Landscape Design: Long-term Benefits for Us and Nature” presented by Dr. Stow, Thursday, November 21 at 7:30pm at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.