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
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
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
For more information go to the Coastal Centreís website at
www.lakehuron.ca or call
the Centre at (519) 523-4478, or email: