Significance for conservation of biological diversity: habitats and characteristic species

List main habitat types (e.g. humid tropical forest, savanna woodland, alpine tundra, coral reef, seagrass beds) and land cover (e.g. residential areas, agricultural land, grazing land).

[Note: Information for this section was drawn from a detailed natural areas inventory for the region (Gartshore and others 1987) and from an Environmental Folio (Nelson and Wilcox 1996)].

Type of habitat: The Long Point complex, including Big Creek marsh.

This is an area of about 8,260 ha consisting of diverse habitat mosaics noted above (under "Topography). It includes the core area and components of the buffer zones of the biosphere reserve that consist of major marshes. The extent of the Long Point marshes is related to periodic fluctuations in the water levels of Lake Erie. High levels combined with storms sometimes breach the barrier beaches of the point and flood the marshes. Along with the geomorphological processes of erosion and deposition, this results in a dynamic and unstable ecological complex which has discernable changes in its configurations over periods of several decades.

Main species: The dynamics of this ecological complex maintain the mosaic of habitat types, including various successional stages in dune, marsh and woodland formations. Over 660 species of vascular plants have been found in the complex. The main plant communities include: (i) earlier successional habitats consisting of dune grasses and eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), dry sand dune and sedge-rush swales, and dry eastern cottonwood with eastern red cedar (Juniperis virginiana); (ii) middle stage successional vegetation consisting of tamarack (Larix laricina) and white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) sloughs, white pine (Pinus strobus) and white cedar forest, and white birch (Betula papyrifera) and red oak( Quercus rubra) savanna; (iii) extensive deep water cattail (Typhus spp.) marshes occurring in the lee of the spit, as well as grass and sedge marshes and wet meadows along the base of the point; and (iv) upland dry ridges interspersed with ponds, swales, and sloughs.

Main human impacts: Much of the forest on Long Point had been logged and/or burned from about 1850 to 1870. There is an intensive cottage development and seasonal recreational use with associated facilities along a 10 km stretch of the point between the Big Creek marsh and the Long Point National Wildlife Area.

Relevant habitat management practices: Public access to Long Point is restricted to the cottage area and associated Long Point Provincial Park and Crown marsh within the same area. Public access to the outermost 22 km of Long Point is prohibited, or allowed only by special permit, e.g. for seasonal studies of bird migration. Water levels are artificially controlled in parts of the Big Creek marsh.

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