I’ve lived in Southern Ontario all of my life. I grew up on a family run dairy farm in the middle of rural Haldimand-Norfolk. I consider myself privileged to have had the freedom of the woods, fields, and streams as a child and I think it was this freedom to wander and discover that lit a life long passion for Ontario wildlife and nature in my heart.
My interests in the outdoors range from foraging for wild food to fishing, hiking, camping, rock collecting, beach combing, bird watching, and photography. However in the last couple of years I have become actively involved in helping conserve what is left of the Carolinian Forest and its flora and fauna in Norfolk County. Many Canadians are unaware of the vital importance of this biosphere. The Carolinian zone is home to various types of habitats such as forests, tallgrass prairie and savannah, wetlands, streams, and shorelines.
It is not difficult to see that the wild places in Southern Ontario face a perilous future. The area from Toronto to Windsor is known as the Carolinian Life Zone and it is home to much of Canada’s biodiversity. Yet this is also the most densely populated part of Canada and already an estimated 90% of the Carolinian zone has been destroyed to make room for human habitation and agriculture. The remaining 10% is fragmented and only 2% of that is in public hands, such as conservation areas and provincial parks.
The Carolinian zone is an area of mixed hardwood forest that features certain species that set it apart from other areas of Canada. This part of Southern Ontario is often referred to as “Canada’s Deep South” or “the Banana Belt” due to the mild winters and tropical summers the area is known for. The Great Lakes provide a moderating effect on the climate, allowing species such as the American Opossum and the Tulip Tree to be found here, outside of their normal range. These, along with Fowler’s Toad, Northern Mockingbird, Queen Snake, and Grass Pike, are known as indicator species. They are only found in Carolinian Canada.
Since the remainder of the Carolinian zone is at risk, so too are all the flora and fauna that call it home. There are over 2,200 types of herbaceous plants growing here, along with 110 species of grasses, 64 ferns, and 70 species of trees. White tailed deer, American Badger, Hooded Warbler, Grey Fox, and even the very rare Southern Flying Squirrel reside in this relatively small corner of Canada. When we lose the rest of the forest, we lose them too. They have no where left to go.
Many small grass roots organizations are fighting to keep what remains of the forests, prairies, savannahs, dunes, and wetlands safe from further human encroachment. Members of the public are encouraged to learn more about these organizations and the vital work they do by clicking the links below.