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2 new provincial parks on Manitoulin Island feature unique ecology

Two new parks on Manitoulin Island are set to open with the objective of protecting some unique local ecology.
An aerial view of Queen Mother Mnidoo Mnising Provincial Park, one Ontario's five new provincial parks. (Courtesy Ryan Gardner of Ontario Parks)

Two new parks on Manitoulin Island are set to open with the objective of protecting some unique local ecology.

The province of Ontario, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, will open five new provincial parks and expand three others.

Two of those, located on or near Manitoulin — Strawberry Island and The Queen Mother Mnidoo Mnising — share a rare ecological feature in common — alvar, according to Ryan Gardner, superintendent with Ontario Parks.

Alvars are rare, harsh environments of open, bare limestone with little to no soil.

Strawberry Island, one of the new parks, has a large slow shrub alvar - a hard limestone surface with little to no soil. (Courtesy Ryan Gardner of Ontario Parks)

“They're subject to extremes, from very, very cold in the winter to intense heat of 43 C in the summertime,” said Gardner.

“And they also have seasonal flooding in the spring and because of those extreme conditions, they're home to some pretty unusual plants from southern to arctic to prairie type vegetation."

Alvars are mainly present in the Great Lakes basin as well as in the Baltic Seas in Europe.

"One of the species that grows on alvars is Manitoulin Gold, which is a little yellow daisy-like flower,” he said. “It actually has the highest concentration of Manitoulin Gold in those parks anywhere in the world."

Gardner added that the two parks are not going to see any significant development but rather remain mostly untouched.

"They'll be no campsites or visitor facilities, but they really do offer some outstanding opportunities for low-impact hiking and a chance to explore some pretty rare and unique natural environments on Manitoulin Island."

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