Lake Huron: Itís All About the Caring

By Geoff Peach, Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation

Science

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When we think of Lake Huron we often conjure images of sand beaches and the serenity of gentle waves reaching the shore. Lake Huronís coastline is really a complex web of interacting features and processes working in a delicate balance, providing us with a rich diversity for all to enjoy. The Lake Huron coastline is made up of ecosystems unlike any others in the province. It is the result of 10,000 years of evolution, developing coastal features and life forms that have unique adaptations to the coastal environment.

Coastal bluffs have either developed from past lake levels, or are currently evolving. The evolving ones erode naturally and provide a vital source of sand for beaches downshore. Along other parts of the shoreline, relatively more stable bluffs tend to have tree cover established, and this vegetation helps to prevent erosion, including landslides. Maintaining this vegetation cover is important, despite the urge some people get to want a clear, unobstructed view of the lake.

Dune systems not only provide important habitat for some of the rarest plant and animal species in Ontario, but also contribute to maintaining good quality beaches, provide protection from storms, and capture blowing sand. Dune systems only make up about 1.5% of Ontarioís Great Lakes coastline, making them a rare landform. They are also one of the most vulnerable ecosystems, and are in decline, mainly because of human activities that damage the vegetation cover, or destroy the structure of the dunes. These declining ecosystems are leading to a decline in beach quality.

Coastal wetlands are different than their interior cousins. Coastal wetlands are linked to lake levels and they change with the changing water levels. These wetlands are not only important for purifying the water, but they provide habitat for over half of Lake Huronís native fish populations. Ontario has lost over 75% of its coastal wetlands due to development pressures.

Alvars are very special ecosystems that are located on the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island. They are characterized as limestone bedrock with a very shallow soil layer and specially adapted plants. Alvars are globally rare.

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Many of the special ecosystems along the shoreline (dunes, bluffs, wetlands, alvars) are at risk because of peopleís activities that damage fragile plants, or alter the processes that sustain these ecosystems. As a result, the quality of our coast is deteriorating. Most damage is not deliberate, but most is avoidable. Adopting practices that minimize our impacts and respects the needs of these remarkable ecosystems, will lead to a brighter future for our coast.
∑ Coastal vegetation can be rare, even globally rare. It protects against shore erosion. Donít disturb coastal vegetation.

  •  Landscape your cottage using plants that are native to the coast. Keep a natural, or naturalized, buffer between your property and the shore. It will not only help to filter polluted runoff, but will help prevent Ďcontaminationí by non-native plants (like turf grass, ornamental plants, or other non-native invasive plants.

  • Keep vehicles off the beach. They destroy beach habitat occupied by many plant and animal species that are important to the health of the beach. Vehicles also spread invasive plants that can overtake natural areas.

  • Learn more about Lake Huronís coastal environment. The more you know, the more youíll appreciate the wonders of our natural coastline.
    For more information go to the Coastal Centreís website at www.lakehuron.ca  or call the Centre at (519) 523-4478, or email:

coastalcentre@lakehuron.on.ca


 

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