Featuring new format enhancements and a robust lineup of presentations, the 2023 Long Point Biosphere Region Research and Conservation Conference garnered enthusiastic praise from its 120-plus attendees. Many labeled it the “best ever” in the event’s eleven-year history.
Taking place on Friday, November 3, 2023 at the Port Dover Community Centre, the annual conference showcased recent discoveries and conservation efforts within the Biosphere. For the first time, poster presentations, exhibits, and displays enjoyed dedicated space in a separate room, providing participants with more flexibility to explore information and discuss issues outside the main program schedule during breaks. Organizations like Birds Canada, the St. Williams Conservation Reserve Community Council, ALUS, McMaster University, and many others had displays.
Amid the UN decade of Ecological Restoration, which aims to both prevent and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, the conference main stage research presentations shed light on numerous restoration projects and research within the Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Place. Papers such as the Southern Seed Strategy, Recovering Tallgrass Butterfly Communities, and Insect Biomass Trends were among the highlights.
The conference commenced on a positive note with the Long Point Biosphere Region’s heartfelt Land Acknowledgment, followed by an opening ceremony from Elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations. Keynote speaker Peter Zuzek presented a concerning overview of geomorphology issues impacting the Long Point sand spit. Reviewing recent data and geological history, Zuzek highlighted how changes in habitat size and condition affect the broader natural environment. Structures along the Lake Erie coast, such as retaining walls and armoring, were noted for impacting the Long Point sand spit, causing it to shrink as sand is transported into deeper waters.
Zuzek emphasized that while sand spits typically grow over time in the natural environment, Long Point has lost over 300 hectares to erosion in the past 50 years. Collaborating with communities and other stakeholders, Zuzek and his colleagues are actively working to find solutions.
Cynthia Brink, Biosphere program manager and conference organizer, noted, “This provided an excellent opportunity for people to share information and plan research collaborations. It also served as a great opportunity to connect the community and students from a local high school with the amazing work being accomplished right here in their county.”
The annual Biosphere Conference, open to anyone interested in the region, its natural environment, and development, has proven to be a valuable platform for fostering collaborations. Organizers are excited to build on this year’s success in 2024. The conference is supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in the context of the Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Place project.