Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

MVFN Burnt Lands Avar Walk

MVFN Burnt Lands Avar Walk

We are pleased to announce to MVFN members and friends a nature walk to Burnt Lands Alvar located just outside of Almonte. The walk will be led by international alvar expert Dr. Paul Catling.

Date: Saturday, May 9, 2009

We will meet at the parking lot of JR’s Restaurant in Almonte (385 Ottawa St. Almonte) at 9:30am for some instruction from Paul then proceed to the alvar as a group.

Bring lunch, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat. Rubber boots are advised. Wear long pants to protect against poison ivy. Also don’t forget binoculars, hand lens, observation journal & camera.

Alvars are rare ecosystems present in very few places on earth, so do take this opportunity to explore the Burnt Lands with Dr. Paul Catling.

For more info. and to register contact: Mike McPhail at 613-256-7211 or .

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Life at the Extremes: The Alvar Challenge



photos by Cathy Keddy

Rare snails, orchids and leafhoppers part of globally-rare alvar near Almonte and subject of next MVFN lecture

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Jan 5, 2009

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) lecture series continues January 15th with Botanist Dr. Paul Catlings presentation Life at the Extremes: The Alvar Challenge. The lecture is the fourth in MVFN’s series From the Ground, Up: Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ First 20 Years.

Alvars are rare ecosystems present in very few places on earth, in the European Baltic region and Great Lakes Basin of North America. They are under threat from urban development, quarry operations and fire suppression. These limestone pavement barrens with little soil may appear to have few prospects but they are actually biodiversity hotspots! Join MVFN and veteran alvar explorer Paul Catling for a virtual alvar tour to unravel this biodiversity riddle and learn about stewardship of these globally threatened ecosystems.

As Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada based at the Central Experimental Farm, Paul Catlings research focuses on taxonomic and ecological approaches to biodiversity protection, new crop species, alien species, and Canadian plant species in general. Since 1988 Dr. Catling has been Curator of Canada’s Vascular Plant Herbarium. This world class collection of over one million dried and pressed plant specimens is a working collection used for plant identification and classification.

The largest alvar in Europe, The Great Alvar, on the Swedish island of Öland, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another fine example however can be found closer to home just outside Almonte. The Burnt Lands Alvar is the most extensive alvar east of the Frontenac Axis and is an outstanding example of this globally significant habitat. It supports some 82 breeding bird species, 48 butterfly species and 98 owlet moths. It is home to globally rare species such as the Ram’s-head Lady’s slipper and a new owlet moth discovered there by naturalist Dan Brunton. Many of its invertebrate species, such as the snail species Vertigo hannai, have likely been isolated and survived in such remnants of a prairie-like community that previously covered a wide area of North America. Although the alvar is not a prairie, many prairie species are present such as prairie sawflies and a thriving population of wingless prairie leafhoppers whose nearest other known population is in the Bruce Peninsula.

Learn about the unique characteristics of alvars, the challenges alvar species face and stewardship of these special regions at Paul Catlings presentation 7:30 PM, January 15th at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St. in Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089 or visit


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