Point Pelee (ON006)
Altitude 173 - 177m
Point Pelee National Park is located in southwestern Ontario near the town of Leamingtown. It is the most southerly mainland point in Canada, located on a sandspit that extends approximately 17 km southward into Lake Erie.
The majority of the park is marsh (approximately 11 km²) with deciduous forest being located on the higher sandy ground at the tip and along the west side of the peninsula. Within the drier areas, a variety of vegetative communities exist, all having been extensively modified by logging, housing, agriculture, and/or grazing prior to the establishment of the park. Of particular significance are the red cedar savannah and the hackberry forest communities which support several rare or threatened species of flora and fauna. Due to the parks southerly location a large number of provincially and nationally rare vascular plant species are present. Invasive plant species, however, are becoming an increasing problem and are out-competing many of these native species. Nationally threatened mammal species are also present, including the Eastern Mole and the reintroduced Southern Flying Squirrel.
Point Pelee National Park is most renowned for its concentrations of songbirds during both spring and fall migration. On some days the numbers of migrants are astounding. As an example, recent one-day peaks for several songbirds include: 5,000 Golden-crowned Kinglets, 3,000 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 400 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 620 Nashville Warblers, 280 Chestnut-sided Warblers, and 1,400 Baltimore Oriole. It is likely that several million songbirds migrate through the Park each year.
Numerous nationally threatened species are also present during migration (Prothonotary Warbler - 11 reported from May 6 to 26, 1997; Hooded Warbler - 53 reported from April 20 to May 21, 1995; Louisiana Waterthrush - 12 reported from April 18 to May 11; and Henslows Sparrow - 11 reported from April 20 to May 23, 1996). Henslows Sparrow is also identified as a globally near-threatened species. In addition to concentrations of threatened migrating species, over a third of eastern Canadas Yellow-breasted Chat population (as many as 32 pairs were reported in 1995) breed within the Park. Yellow-breasted Chats are identified as nationally vulnerable.
A number of waterbirds also occur at Point Pelee in significant numbers. At least two species (Red-breasted Mergansers, and Bonapartes Gull) are regularly present in globally significant numbers during migration (i.e., greater than 1% of their populations), and over the last five years three additional species have occasionally been recorded in globally significant numbers (Common Tern, Forsters Tern, and Black Tern). Double-crested Cormorant have also occurred in nationally significant numbers with as many as 8,600 birds being recorded in September of 1995.
Point Pelee was designated as a national park in 1918. It was the first to be created primarily on the merit of its biological value. In 1987, Point Pelee was designated as a Ramsar site because of its international importance as a staging area for waterfowl. It is also recognized as an international Monarch Butterfly Reserve.
The Point Pelee National Park Management Plan, last revised in 1995, outlines measures to maintain and enhance the ecological integrity of the park and identifies appropriate visitor-related use and facilities. Current conservation initiatives at the park include: the Red Cedar Savannah restoration project; White-Tailed deer population control; small mammal survey and monitoring; natural habitat restoration projects; organochlorine contaminant study; exotic plant management; and a groundwater quality study.
Human land use in southern Ontario and on Lake Erie has directly effected Point Pelee National Park. Prevailing westerly winds expose the park to airborne pollution from neighbouring industrial centres in the United States (Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland). Lake Eries poor water quality, due to industrial, urban and agricultural pollution, has altered the ecology of the marsh at the Park. The marsh flora and fauna has also been altered by introduced species from the Lake. High Lake Erie water levels have eroded and breached the eastern barrier ridge. Consequently, increased turbidity and wave action in the open ponds has resulted in the break-up of cattail mats and the movement of floating sections. The park is also threatened by oil and toxic chemical spills because of its location along the Great Lakes shipping channel. Extensive land clearing in the greater park ecosystem has isolated the park from other natural areas.
Potential or Ongoing Threats