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This project has helped to increase awareness in the school’s staff, students and parents, park users and the broader community around a variety of environmental issues: including biodiversity, conservation, climate change, energy conservation and wildlife enhancement.
So much of the Island’s forests have been degraded over the years, and the school is dominated by bricks and grass, and regularly faces strong winds. And the importance of getting people involved in taking positive environmental action continues to grow – this is one area where people can help their community and see the results of their actions over a long period of time.
The City of Charlottetown contracted with the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project late in 2011 to write a management plant for 13.7 hectares (35 acres) of woodland surrounding an old landfill in East Royalty. The restoration plan has been completed and we have begun working with the City of Charlottetown and the PEI Cycling Association to redraw the trail system and carry out some initial work. The woodland, which contains significant sections of red oak and yellow birch, is within easy walking distance of the École François-Buote, a Grades 1-12 French school.The school itself occupies a very windy site. We have combined restoration work in the woodlands with schoolyard naturalization at the school. The woodland silvicultural work was aimed at creating spaces where we’ve now planted native species improving forest health and biodiversity. Plantings at the school have dramatically improved wildlife habitat in the short term and will eventually create shaded play areas as well as lessen the effects of wind on such an exposed site.
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Native plants are usually very reliable – they have adapted to the climatic conditions of the area and serve a variety of functions within the ecosystem. More important they are proven performers – hardy, fitting into a wide variety of habitats, valuable to wildlife, useful for stabilizing streambanks and/or controlling soil erosion. Instead of looking for exotic species, many of which cause serious disturbances in our areas or need winter protection, look at the beauty of native plants all year long. Many native species have colourful twigs, buds and fruit, showy flowers and an exotic structure.
The Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre (ACCDC) in Sackville, N.B. has been a great asset for determining what is a native plant and its rarity. They have a ranking system for plants found in each individual province (S1 to S5). Some of the species which we will be planting, such as white spruce, wild raisin and red osier dogwood, have a ranking of S5 – “widespread, abundant, and secure under present conditions”. Though common, these are still very useful plants and can be planted in a wide variety of open sites, such as in the school plantings where there is full sun.
The ACCDC rankings for rare plants are:
- S1 – Extremely rare: May be especially vulnerable to extirpation (typically 5 or fewer occurrences or very few remaining individuals)
- S2 – Rare: May be vulnerable to extirpation due to rarity or other factors (6 to 20 occurrences or few remaining individuals).
Over the past few years we have made great progress in increasing our numbers and varieties of rarer Island plants that can be used in a variety of landscape and restoration projects. The witch hazel we have been planting out is one of our rarest native shrubs and listed as an S1. It has been producing seed starting at about three years old. Hobblebush is one of our showiest plants throughout the year, although these shrubs are so rare that few Islanders have had the chance to see them. It is an S2 plant we will be using in the forested areas.
Some of the rare plants we will be using in our plantings include:
Complete Species List:
Since we are looking at restoring a variety of habitats – from the edges of fields to forested riparian zones – we have used a wide mix of native species in our efforts to stop pollutants from entering the waterways and restore the biological diversity of each site. Some of the species we’ve used include:
IMPROVING WILDLIFE HABITAT:
Here is just a partial list of some of the plants we’ve used and how they will impact wildlife:
- White spruce – excellent plant to make an open area bird friendly, providing protection, then nesting habitat, and finally a great winter food sources for white-winged and red crossbills, purple finches, red squirrels.
- Eastern hemlock – a preferred food source for American goldfinch, boreal chickadee, ruffed grouse, pine siskin and red-winged and white-winged crossbills. Many other species of birds and mammals also eat the seeds, and snowshoe hare browse young shoots. Hemlocks will also offer great cover and protection for both small and large birds. Large, old hemlock are used by raccoon for dens and provide cavities and nesting sites for a wide variety of birds.
- White pine – pine seeds are a prime winter food for the squirrel family due to their high protein content. The crossbills, purple finches and pine siskins also make good use of this tree as a food source and eventually it will become one of our more important nesting trees, especially for large birds such as bald eagles.
- Eastern white cedar – the seeds are a preferred food for pine siskins and are eaten by a grosbeaks, redpolls, crossbills, and other species of birds and small mammals. But it is as protection and cover that cedar excels, since smaller birds can find solace from both winter winds and predators within the dense branches.
- Red oak – Snowshoe hare love to browse oak and all members of the squirrel family feast on the acorns. As well, blue jays, grackles, woodpeckers, ruffed grouse and many other birds and small mammals favour acorns, making red oak one of our most important wildlife trees.
- Yellow birch – birch seed is an important food source for many winter birds, including American goldfinch, pine siskin, northern junco, blue jay, and the chickadees and sparrows. Birches regularly produce heavy crops of seed and larger trees can be quite important to local populations. While the seed is important for wildlife (including small mammals), the trees are used in many other ways. Ruffed grouse can often be found in birch trees during the winter eating the buds, and snowshoe hares browse the twigs. In spring, birch flowers attract many insects, which in turn attract large numbers of migrating warblers.
- Striped maple – the young twigs are browsed by snowshoe hare, while red squirrels, chipmunks and ruffed grouse eat the seeds. Striped maple are also very useful to wildlife in that they help diversify the vertical profile of a forest, adding to the dense layers in a woodland that are attractive to many wildlife species for nesting, feeding and perching.
- White ash – the seeds are an important food source for red-winged blackbird, evening grosbeak, pine grosbeak, purple finch and other birds.
- Chokecherry – fruits are a preferred food for ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, eastern kingbird, common crow, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, Swainson’s thrush, gray-cheeked thrush, eastern bluebird, cedar waxwing, rose-breasted grosbeak and evening grosbeak. Dozens of other bird species utilize the fruit to a lesser degree, as do many small mammals.