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Conserving Great Lakes Alvars

Final Technical Report of the International Alvar Conservation Initiative (PDF) (251 pp, 4.5 MB EPA's PDF page) March, 1999
compiled by Carol Reschke, Ron Reid,Judith Jones, Tom Feeneyand Heather Potter on behalf of the Alvar Working Group

Executive Summary

Alvar ecosystems are grassland, savanna and sparsely vegetated rock barrens that develop on flat limestone or dolostone bedrock where soils are very shallow. Almost all of North America’s alvars occur within the Great Lakes basin, primarily in an arc from northern Lake Michigan across northern Lake Huron and along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield to include eastern Ontario and northwestern New York state. Most types of alvar communities are globally imperiled, and they support several globally rare species as well.

The International Alvar Conservation Initiative is a collaborative effort aimed at providing a unified, consistent approach to understanding and conserving this rare and vulnerable Great Lakes ecosystem. The Alvar Initiative has been coordinated by the Great Lakes Program of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Individual projects related to the Initiative were coordinated through annual meetings and ongoing discussions of the Alvar Working Group, a forum involving over 50 collaborators from government and non-government organizations and universities.

Highlights of Results

Project Results

1. An accurate range-wide assessment of alvar distribution and conservation status

2. Documentation of priority sites for long-term protection.

Bass Cove
Garden SE Glade
Huron Bay
Maxton Plains
Thunder Bay Island
New York:
Chaumont Barrens
Limerick Cedars
Lucky Star
Three Mile Barrens
Marblehead (Lakeside)
Burnt Lands
Carden #1
Carden #5
Dyers Bay/Brinkman’s Corner
Foxy Prairie
LaCloche Area
Pendall Lake
Tree Harbor
Scugog Lake
West of South Baymouth
Belanger Bay
Cape Croker
Carden #3a
Clapperton Island
East Side Quarry Bay
George Lake
Misery Bay
Pike Bay Pine
Salmon River
Stone Road
West of Lynn Point

3. A working knowledge of how alvar ecosystems function.

4. Conservation strategies for the protection and stewardship of alvar ecosystems.

Approximately 100 participants took part in the June 1998 Alvar Conservation Workshop in Tobermory, Ontario. Seven types of conservation activity were noted as already underway for alvars within the Great Lakes basin:

Priority actions recommended for alvar conservation include:

5. Increased awareness of the uniqueness and value of Great Lakes alvars.

6. A mechanism for monitoring the status of alvar elements and ecosystems.

A structure to support future monitoring and assessment is part of the responsibilities of a proposed joint alvar conservation steering committee. This follow-up will be included in the duties of an Alvar Specialist, through reports on progress to bi-national conferences or through biennial update reports, and through a twice-annual electronic newsletter.

7. A replicable model for regional collaboration in the conservation of biodiversity.

An analysis of the model provided by the International Alvar Conservation Initiative includes an outline of the process steps, a discussion of key ingredients for success, and criteria to identify other ecosystem types which might benefit most from such a collaborative approach.

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