The Land Between is home to habitats that are both nationally and globally rare. Thus, this special region has numerous unique features that attract a diversity of organisms like no where else in Ontario. Read below to find out more!
Highest habitat diversity in Ontario
Ecotones, with their special geology, provide a great diversity of habitat for species. Our Land Between ecotone is a meeting of the St. Lawrence Lowlands from the south and the Canadian Shield from the north. This mixture means lots of unique habitat for species!
Highest percentange of shorelines in Ontario
The Land Between is called the Land of Lakes for a good reason! The region is also home to important headwaters that feed into the rest of southern Ontario. This means that we have an important responsibility to care for our lakes and shorelands!
Globally rare Alvars
The Land Between region has globally rare Alvars. These landscapes are SO rare that they are only found in around the Great Lakes and northern Europe! Alvars are special habitats that occur on limestone plains with very little soil. These harsh conditions mean that they have very little vegetation and are often home lichen and mosses & rare species of plants and animals!
Only rock barrens
Rock barrens are areas with large expanses of exposed rock. This harsh habitat supports the growth on particular tree species including :red oak (Quercus rubra), white pine (Pinus strobus), red maple (Acer rubrum) and large-toothed aspen (Populus grandidentata).
Globally rare Atlantic Coastal Plains species
Although the Land Between region is not located on the Atlantic Coast, it still has the rare habitat that allows Atlantic Coastal Plains species to flourish in great diversity! Such species are only found in the southern Georgian Bay region and in Nova Scotia (within Canada).
The Land Between has an abundance of wetlands that provide significant ecosystems services for southern Ontario (wetlands provide billions of dollars worth of ecosystem services PER YEAR). Wetlands (and the species the live in them) act as natural water filters that help to keep our fresh water clean. These habitats are irreplaceable in their importance to maintaining healthy environments for all species, including us!
Last place in southern Ontario to see the Milky Way
Brightly lit areas (like cities) create large amounts of light pollution with spreads up into the night sky making it impossible to see the stars. Darkness at night and the ability to see the stars is very important for many species such as moths and fireflies. In The Land Between we are lucky to still be able to witness twinkling night skies. Avoid using outdoor lighting and keep the Milk Way in view!
A rare region
When you travel heading east to west you will see habitats changing from rivers, to alvars, rock barrens, wetlands, forests, lakes, to grasslands, and so on. No where else in the province will you see so many habitats changing and dancing along the landscape, moving from high to low and wet to dry.
The Land Between has many areas that are protected such as Provincial Parks and Reserves which are kept in a natural state. Landowners that keep natural habitats in tact, and the protected areas here provide a natural corridor that support the movement of wildlife. In fact we have a wildlife corridor that is unequalled in Southern Ontario.
Within this corridor are rare habitats and species. This green-way provides important ecological services of water filtration, seed dispersal, and pollination, so that we, humans stay healthy and well into the future.
Highest habitat diversity in Ontario
Highest % of shorelines in Ontario
Only rock barrens in Ontario
Unique habitats of the Land Between
Night Skies - witness the Milky Way
Often overlooked as an important ecological feature, the dark night sky is an essential habitat for migrating birds, pollinators of bats and insects, for regulation of plant cycles, and are also important for our human health: Dark skies support our metabolism and immune system functions by providing proper REM sleep. The Land Between is the first place heading north where you can see the milky way, and it is home to the First Night Sky Preserve in Canada, the Torrance Barrens, near Gravenhurst. Gravenhurst is also the first municipality in Ontario to adopting Night Lighting bylaws.
Lakes and Fisheries
With the incredibly high density of lakes, rivers and wetlands, The Land Between is an important sport fishery. Populations of trout, bass, and muskeye draw hundreds of fishermen to the area. The Land Between was also important for the American Eel as it sits within the northernmost range for the serpentine fish. The Eel swims all the way from the Sargasso Sea, part of the North Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda and the Bermuda triangle, to reach this region. Now extirpated from the area, the American Eel was an historic and abundant food source providing unequalled sustenance as well as tools for First Nations and early European settlers.
Atlantic Coastal Plains communities
Although the Land Between region is not located on the Atlantic coast, it still has the special habitat required to support Atlantic Coastal Plains species! These globally rare marsh communities with sandy or gravely shorelines, have relic species that persisted here for over 10,000 years and have adapted to fluctuating water levels. In the fall, these shorelines stand out in shimmers of purple and auburn as the flowers of the Virginia Meadow Beauty emerge. Bass Island, Cold Water Lake, Eilean Gowan Island, Big Chute, and Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park are just a few of the Crown Land sites that host Atlantic Coastal Plain species.
Alvars - nature’s rock gardens
Globally rare habitats found only around the Great Lakes in North America, and in Sweden at the Baltic Sea. Here in Ontario, the majority of alvars are found within The Land Between! Seemingly desolate, alvars are open and flat areas, with exposed limestone bedrock and very shallow soils. Sparse vegetation such as lichens, mosses, herbs and shrubs predominate, and very few trees take hold. However, in early summer, scores of unique grassland and rare birds arrive. Throughout the summer alvars are buzzing with incredibly diverse insect communities including butterflies, and in the fall, these bare areas alight with an array of colours from flowering wildflowers and prairie species.
Wetlands - vital water filtration
(Marshes, Swamps, Fens, and Bogs) as well as small lakes are abundant across The Land Between. Situated between rock ridges, these habitats often persist because of the ingenuity and work of the beaver population. Wetlands contain specially adapted water-loving plants, and organic sponge-like soils. Together these elements regulate water levels and are Nature’s water filters (providing over a billion dollars in ecosystem services every year). The wetlands and lakes in The Land Between are mostly connected to one another and surrounding lands have thin soils, making pollution a migrating cumulative issue.
Barrens, Plains, Scrublands and Savannahs:
Areas of exposed bedrock or which contain a very thin layer of soil. Early succession species of lichens and mosses, grasses and sometimes junipers, hawthorns, red oaks and poplars are found here. The Land Between is also home to Savannahs, where trees and unique grasses have grown on shallow soils, proliferated by fire, by First Nations for medicine and hunting management, and through seed and acorn dispersal. The Land Between is home to the few White Oak Savannahs in Ontario. The exposed rock and shallow soils are perfect basking spots for many insects and reptiles, making them essential habitats for birds, bats, the rare Five-lined Skink, snakes, and turtles.