Natural Heritage

Painting by Mary Celestino

Pelee Island is situated in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, Canada’s southernmost lake. Just above the Canadian-American border at a latitude of 41 degrees, Pelee Island is located 800km south of Vancouver, BC. The climate of the Lake Erie Islands Archipelago boasts the highest heat units in the country, and the longest frost-free season in Ontario.

A dozen and more factors made the islands a place of wildlife diversity, a place which has become home to a myriad of species rare to Canada. Almost one third of the vascular plant diversity of all of Ontario is represented on Middle and Pelee Island. Carolinian Canada at its richest is found here. Rare insects, snails, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have come to comprise a neighbourhood of outstanding natural heritage. Glaciation left a variety of habitats for wildlife: wetlands, sand dunes, alvars (areas of limestone with a shallow overburden), and deep soils suitable to the trees of the Eastern Deciduous Forest zone. The shallow waters of Lake Erie reach relatively high temperatures in the summer months, giving the islands a micro-climate typical of more southern locations, and a two-week longer growing season than the adjacent mainland.

Black capped chickadeePhoto By Ethan Meleg

Pelee Island is at the confluence of two migration routes – the Atlantic Flyway and the Mississippi flyway. The Island is a significant stopover site for many species and is designated as a globally Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Canadian partners of BirdLife International – the Canadian Nature Federation (CNF) and Bird Studies Canada (BSC). IBAs are described as “truly outstanding sites of significance nationally or internationally and sites that are exceptionally important for birds”.

Birds and waves have delivered a great variety of seeds over the years, and with the establishment of diverse plant communities have come a myriad of insects, amphibians, mammals and more birds.

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