Carolinian Forest in Niagara - Short Hills Park

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Secord Significance

Carolinian Forests are scattered throughout the Niagara Peninsula. These ecosystems are emblematic of the ecological zones in Niagara, zones that Laura Secord would have passed through on her historic walk from Queenston to DeCew House.

General Information

Carolinian Forests in Niagara

The Carolinian forest is a life zone found in eastern North America mainly characterized by a predominance of deciduous, or broad-leaf trees. The term "Carolinian forest" is used primarily in Canada. This region is the northern continuation of the deciduous forest region of the eastern United States which extends south to the Carolinas. Carolinian forests are found in some sections of southern Ontario where the climate is moderated by the nearby Great Lakes, so it is able to support animal and plant species rarely found in other parts of Canada.

The Bruce Trail Conservancy's Guide to Exploring the Forests of the Niagara Escarpment states:

"These amazingly diverse deciduous forests are unique in Canada. Named for North and South Carolina, where similar forests are more common, only a small portion of this forest region reaches into Canada. Even though the Carolinian zone is small compared with other Canadian vegetation zones, it boasts more flora and fauna than any other ecosystem in Canada, including 70 species of trees, 64 species of ferns, and 400 species of birds. One-third of the rare, threatened, and endangered species found in all of Canada, including forest species like Tulip Tree, Paewpaw, Blue Ash,and Kentucky Coffee-tree."

In 2012 the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced that 73 acres of mature forested habitat within the Carolinian Life Zone had been conserved in southwestern Ontario. Although these habitats comprise less than one percent of Canada's total land area yet they are the zone with the greatest number of plants and animal species as well as 25% of the country's species at risk. The zone is easily influenced by human and animal activity. Since southern Ontario is so heavily populated there has been significant loss of wetlands and forested areas to urban areas and farms. It is estimated that 90 per cent of Canada's Carolinian forest has already been destroyed. The remaining portions, mostly scattered and disconnected, continue to be threatened by human development.

The tree species that are native to Carolinian Forests include various species of ash, birch, chestnut, hickory, oak, and walnut. Fruit trees include the pawpaw and the red mulberry. Raccoons, possums, and the relatively rare southern flying squirrel, as well as nuthatches and chickadees also favour Carolinian forests.

Historical

The term “Carolinian" was first used as a biological term in 1859 to describe a forest region along the Atlantic coast from southern Long Island to Georgia in the United States. Later the term grew in popularity. C.H. Merriam was one of the early researchers to publish a paper in 1898 describing the plants and animals that are typical of a Carolinian Forest region. Researchers continue to identify species and types of species that are specific to the Carolinian life zone.

Further Information

Bruce Trail Guide to Exploring the Forests of the Niagara Escarpment. See http://brucetrail.org/system/downloads/0000/0386/BTC_Forest_Guide_web_final.pdf

What is a Carolinian Forest? See http://www.carolinian.org/SpeciesHabitats_Forests.htm

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