The habitat improvement work that began at the Spring Garden Natural Area early in 2016 will continue this winter.
“This work continues the implementation of the comprehensive restoration plan that was drafted by a team of professional biologists and gives significant consideration to the protective measures to be taken for each of the species that inhabit this sensitive area,” explains Kevin Money, Director of Conservation Services for the Essex Region Conservation Authority and project lead. “Work is continuing to selectively remove invasive, woody shrubs and trees which are threatening the biological integrity of this area.”
This work is expected to take place from January to early April, with a target of achieving approximately 30% tree and shrub cover in order to allow the prairie and savannah habitats to regenerate. “Restoration will focus on creating more open habitats and movement corridors,” Money goes on to say. “This will create natural linkages and allow snakes free movement between currently isolated habitat units.” Additionally, the proposed restoration activities will subsequently benefit other indigenous flora and fauna that exist within Spring Garden.
“Spring Garden has been identified as provincially, regionally, and locally significant because it is an outstanding example of remnant prairie, savannah and oak woodland vegetation,” explains Karen Cedar, City of Windsor Park Naturalist. “It offers very rare and important habitat values, but these values are presently at risk due to invasive species such as the Autumn Olive, which is threatening the area’s biodiversity.” Cedar notes that this invasive, woody shrub can negatively impact the many provincially rare flora and fauna species, including a number of species at risk.
As part of permits received for construction of the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway, MTO is required to restore habitat for species at risk. Upon completion of this work, over 130 hectares of land will have been restored or enhanced for both Eastern Foxsnake and Butler’s Gartersnake, as well a host of other prairie and savannah species.
A prescribed burn is also being considered to further regenerate the prairie and savannah habitats. Additional information will be circulated on these phases of the project. “We are most excited about the ultimate impact this restoration project will have for these endangered ecosystems,” Cedar concludes.