Nature Conservancy Canada Pelee Island Wetlands
Photo by Nature Conservancy of Canada

In our blog last fall, we updated you on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Wetland Restoration Project on Pelee Island (read here) and we shared that we had a special announcement this spring.

Last week we kicked off our campaign in support of this NCC project to create a massive 25-hectare (62-acre) wetland and trail on their Florian Diamante Nature Reserve on Pelee Island. Taking place in the area of Browns and Henderson roads near the middle of the island, the trail system will connect with the existing Brown’s Road trail. Originally a marsh that was drained and kept dry with clay tile for farming and is now being restored to its original state.

2021 To Do List

“We are excited to head into 2021 with the project underway,” shares Jill Crosthwaite NCC Coordinator, Conservation Biology, Southwestern Ontario subregion. Last year, most of the construction work was completed, including a 1.5 km berm that will eventually hold water to create the wetland. The field surrounding the wetland was planted with over 20 kilograms of seed from more than 30 species of native wildflowers and grasses, all collected locally on the island.

Nature Conservancy Canada Pelee Island Wetlands
Photo by Nature Conservancy of Canada

Although not always the most aesthetically beautiful at first glance, the progress of restoration encompasses multitudes of hidden beauty.

“This year will be about getting everything ready to flourish. Some finishing touches are being completed on the construction, and the clay berm needs to hold back a lot of water. In order to do that, we need to let it settle and allow vegetation to establish to prevent erosion. While we can’t wait to see it full of water, we need to be patient and leave the water control structure open until fall. The clay berm created to hold back the water, harbours a symphony of growth as vegetation establishes itself to create a strong barrier,” says Crosthwaite.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to restoration. Seeds take time to germinate, grow, flower and spread. In the first year or two of a restoration project, gaps are often filled by “weedy” species – some we like (such as goldenrods) and some we don’t (such as invasive creeping thistle). We keep an eye out for species that can become a problem for us or our neighbours and remove those.

As much as we, as humans, want to see it looking beautiful right away, we need to remember that nature operates on a different time scale. The trees we plant as seedlings or acorns won’t be a forest for decades.

Nature Conservancy Canada Pelee Island Wetlands turtle
Photo by Nature Conservancy of Canada

Even the wetland and meadow species take time to establish, find their niche and develop a natural community and structure. That’s part of the joy of it too – starting from bare soil, every season and every year will bring new species and changes for us to watch and appreciate.

This year, native plants will be planted around the salamander ponds, kilograms of seeds which were planted in the uplands last fall will be monitored and tended to and preparation steps will occur as the individual ponds grow to connect to one.

“We are also excited to begin the final stage of the project – planning the trails and boardwalks that will allow visitors to explore the wetland,” says Crosthwaite.

Never Stop Learning

The more we know, the more we care. A great resource for learning is the app “iNaturalist”.

iNaturalist is a social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.

NCC & Pelee Mix & Match is Pelee Island Winery joining with the Nature Conservancy of Canada through sales of our VQA Coreline Series of Pelee Island Wine. Funds raised with benefit the Pelee Island wetland project.

Join Us in Supporting the Pelee Island Wetlands

When purchasing a Pelee Island Winery VQA Core Line Mix & Match package from March 1st to April 5th, you will be supporting the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work to create wetland habitat on their Florian Diamante Nature Reserve on Pelee Island. You will be helping to provide important nesting and feeding ground to Pelee’s migrant and resident bird populations, and supporting turtles, salamanders and a multitude of other species. Wetlands are also critical for providing ecological services such as water retention, filtration and flood mitigation to nearby communities.