Ontario Nature Reserves

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Ontario Nature envisions a province-wide system of nature reserves that will:
Boreal Forest Boreal Forest

By: Location:Canada Date:2015-04-10

Ontario Nature - Nature Preserves Program

Protection Priorities

Ontario Nature envisions a province-wide system of nature reserves that will:

- safeguard habitat for endangered plant  and animal species,
- protect biological diversity,
- set benchmarks for scientific research,
- and create opportunities for recreation  and nature appreciation.

The main focus of Ontario Nature's nature reserve system is to protect the provinces best remaining examples of imperiled and vulnerable habitats. The staff and volunteers that run the system pride themselves on seeking out lands that would otherwise not be protected. For example, Ontario Nature was a leader in acquiring wetlands before provincial policies existed. The habitat types we are currently focused on include:

Heritage Woodlands:

A world of cool green under a hundred-foot high forest canopy, teeming with birds of every colour. This scene was once common in Ontario, but since European settlement, roughly 80% of the province's original woodland cover has been lost.

Along with forest cover, the number of migrant birds in Ontario is falling as their cool green habitats disappear.

To conserve what once was southern Ontario's predominant ecosystem and combat an alarming decline in our migrant bird populations Ontario Nature is targeting remaining large woodlots in Southern Ontario for protection.

Experience the lush vegetation and majestic trees of a heritage woodland yourself at the Kinghurst Forest and the Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary nature reserves.

Lyal Island

Great Lakes Shorelines:

The shores of the Great Lakes, with their forests, dunes, and wetlands, are unique in the world. Plants such as the Dwarf Lake Iris are dependent on the shoreline habitat conditions of the Great Lakes, and occur no where else! Cottagers, industry and residential housing, however, are also common along Ontario's shorelines.

Having jump-started the nature reserve system with the Dorcas Bay nature reserve, a unique section of Great Lakes shoreline on the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario Nature has continued to act on a keen interest in preserving this disappearing habitat.

Some of the best examples of Great Lakes shoreline in the nature reserve system include the Petrel Point, Lyal IslandBaptist Harbour  and Hay Marsh nature reserves.


Visiting the reserves


Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve


North American scientists are just beginning to realize the ecological importance of these arid limestone plains. They contain an amazing diversity of life, much of it rare plant and invertebrate species largely confined to this habitat. Ontario has 80-90% of North America's alvars, and Ontario Nature has been proud to be part of a partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, The Nature Conservancy (US) and Ontario Parks to acquire approximately 15,000 acres of the alvar rich south shore of Manitoulin Island. The Quarry Bay nature reserve was formed as a result of this purchase.

Other nature reserves which protect alvar habitats include the Bruce Alvar and Stone Road Alvar nature reserves.

Girls at Cawthra Mulock Nature Reserve

The overriding priority of Ontario Nature's nature reserves is to protect habitat. This means that many reserves have no trails and remain largely inaccessible. There are no washrooms, snack bars, campgrounds or roads - nature comes first. As a result, the reserves are a great place to see Ontario as it once was. Some reserves have trails and/or interpretive signs to allow the public to experience and learn about Ontario's natural heritage.

Other opportunities to learn about nature and visit a reserve may be found by contacting your local naturalist club.

See interactive Map of Naturist Clubs


Over the last 150 years, the landscape of Ontario has been fundamentally altered. In the regions surrounding the Great Lakes, where vast expanses of pine and hardwood forests once flourished, factories, shopping malls and endless rows of houses stand. This change has been at the expense of our wildlife, wetlands and woodlands. The loss of natural areas, wildlife habitat and overall biodiversity is so widespread that it has become a matter of great concern. Ontario Nature works to protect and restore the species, spaces and landscapes that represent the full diversity of nature in Ontario.

Ontario Nature's conservation work is accomplished through:

Habitat protection

Species protection


Donate to Ontario Nature


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