Building a forest from the ground up at Rattray Marsh

Building a forest from the ground up at Rattray Marsh

If you’ve taken a trip to Rattray Marsh Conservation Area lately you’ll immediately notice the poor state of the lowland forest on the property. This was caused by the now well-documented invasive insect, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

The damage at Rattray Marsh is not unique. Many areas across southern Ontario and into Quebec have been attacked by the same deadly invasive pest. This is also the case in most of the northeastern United States. Typically, within six years of EAB moving into a woodlot, more than 99 per cent of the ash trees are killed.

What remains in the floodplain at Rattray Marsh is a heavily impacted ash forest.  Dead and declining trees are a safety risk to visitors and do little to help native wildlife when such a large portion of the forest is affected.

We’ve heard a lot of concern from neighbours and visitors to Rattray Marsh about conditions there. Many people are outraged at the state of the natural forests. And so are we.

It’s tough to see a once-thriving forest so heavily impacted by a tiny bug. Unfortunately, the damage is done. Now, with the loss of the ash trees all that remains is a host of invasive shrubs that have taken over the forest floor. This means poor quality habitat and little support for native wildlife.

While we couldn’t stop the wrath of EAB, we can work smartly and do our part to restore good health and biodiversity to Rattray Marsh. Our staff is committed to doing the right thing and providing support for Mother Nature to create a thriving forest once again.

Staff experts have developed a staged management and restoration plan for the property. Now that all the trails and boundaries have been managed for hazard ash trees, we’ve identified five key areas that need the most assistance and carefully planned activities that, over time, will give a healthy new forest the best chance for success.

We began our work this past winter. We’ve cut down invasive plants and dead ash trees, at this time when it is least disruptive for nature.  In winter, plants are dormant, soil is frozen so there’s little compaction, reptiles are hibernating, and migratory birds have left.

When was your last visit to Rattray Marsh?

Have you noticed the piles of ash tree brush on the forest floor? These piles will help provide shelter for animals and flatten and decompose over time, providing nutrients for the soil and food for many.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to see the Great Horned Owl nesting this spring in one of the areas we removed the invasive species and dead ash trees from. It was great to see such a beautiful bird take up residence in the marsh.

So, while we can’t change the past of this forest, we can help re-write its future. Together, our staff will continue to work with volunteers and neighbours to help rebuild biodiversity at Rattray Marsh again. And who know what else we might see taking up residence at the marsh as biodiversity is restored to the area!

To learn more about the EAB work taking place on our properties, visit EAB.

To find out how you can get involved to support nature, check out our volunteer opportunities.

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