Polar bear provincial park, Ontario

Polar bear provincial park, Ontario

147 Conservation Around the Worm the drills would be piped back to the sea, the drilling gang, just before vacating the island, released several hund...

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Conservation Around the Worm the drills would be piped back to the sea, the drilling gang, just before vacating the island, released several hundred gallons of sea water from three holding tanks on the drill site near the summit. Almost all plant life, including canopy trees, was killed in an area of some 3,000 sq ft (279 sq m) which extended approximately 150 ft (46 m) down the forested slope. Soil analysis showed that soluble salt contents in the damaged area were some 10-17 times normal for the general area (0.374-1.284 per cent as compared with 0.0280.076 per cent over nine pairs of samples). Abnormally high foliar chlorine levels were recorded from dead or damaged plants. One of the few tolerant species, the fern Phymatodes diversifolium, had 4.5 per cent of CI as compared with 1.8 per cent in unaffected forest (dry-weight analyses). The damaged area is not large, but there should have been no damage at all beyond the actual working sites. The lesson to be learned is that there is not complete safety in prospecting, despite the early promises and subsequent claims. Responsible companies can make all the agreements in the world with Governments who have appreciated the wishes of, and consulted with, nature conservation councils and scientists. But in the end it is the unskilled labourer or a heedless contractor's foreman on the job who can, and did in this instance, seriously breach the agreement. The same 'couldn't-care-less' attitude that led to avoidable saltwater damage could equally well have caused a devastating fire. In other words, there should be constant 'on the spot' supervision--preferably by an ecologist of wide interests and alertness. A New Zealand Herald editorial of 26 March 1969 said: 'Had the Government not allowed careful exploration to proceed, the future of an unspoiled island group as a wildlife refuge would have always remained in jeopardy. A certain relief must be felt by the Cabinet itself in the knowledge that it would have been confronted with hard decisions had the prospectors confirmed the first glittering reports.' The fact remains, however, that official decisions were prompted more by economic considerations than by recognition of the less tangible values of the islands as biological sanctuaries. Recognition of the need for conservation is growing noticeably, but there should be no slackening of the efforts of biologists to persuade Governments that there are some things in man's environment which have more than a purely monetary value. F. J. NEWHOOK, Professor of Plant Pathology, Department of Botany, University of Auckland, P.O. Box 2175, Auckland, New Zealand.


Much concern is being expressed about the serious effects of major exploration and subsequent development of northern resources on the biological and physical environment particularly in tundra and permafrost areas of North America. The construction of very large oil pipelines is the major immediate concern. The Arctic Institute of North America has now formed a Subcommittee to its Research Committee to deal with the subject of the Environment and the Effects of Development. The Institute plans to take a leading part in this question, working from the premise that conservation in the true sense is not only the conservation of the environment (and living creatures in it) but also includes the wise use of resources. It will be the Institute's aim to assist in arriving at proper solutions which will permit full development and yet avoid serious damage. Closely allied to this matter is the intention of the Canadian Committee for the International Biological Programme to develop studies on tundra ecosystems. A considerable number of arctic sites were investigated during 1969 for use in this planned programme, and amongst them were included the Institute's Icefield Ranges Research Project at Kluane Lake in the Yukon and the Institute's Devon Island station at Cape Sparbo. ARCTIC INSTITUTEOF NORTH AMERICA~

3458 Redpath Street, Montreal 109, P.Q., Canada.


Situated on the western shoreline of James and Hudson Bays approximately 250 miles (400 kin) north of Moosonee, this wilderness region of some 7,000 square miles (18,130 sq km) was established in 1968 as Ontario's first 'Primitive Park'. As such it contains a vast area of natural landscape which will be preserved for recreation, education, and scientific observation. But as it is managed as a primitive area for the protection of its unique natural features, it will contain no tourist facilities within its bounds, there being no roads, telephones, or stores. Polar Bear Provincial Park is a combination of many unique ecological systems, and has been established to preserve these in their natural state for the benefit of the present and future generations. It extends north from the Ekwan River for 120 miles (192km) to


Biological Conservation

Hudson Bay and east from the Kinushseo River for of shoals and rapids. The latter are caused by solid 56 miles (90 km) to the James Bay Coast (Fig. 1). rock or, more often, by concentrations of coarse The Park is representative of the temperate regions glacial debris. in the south and of the sub-arctic regions farther The Park can be approximately divided into four north. For the scientist the Canadian northland is a main zones, which are notable for a wide variety of natural features (Fig. 2):


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(1) The Cape Henrietta Maria zone is a remarkable area of sub-arctic tundra. The Cape is on a peninsula about 8 miles (13 kin) long, and the peninsula consists of bare, disintegrated limestone ridges, grasslands, coastal flats, and numerous small, shallow lakes that are seldom more than two feet (61 cm) deep. (2) The west James Bay and southern Hudson Bay coastal zone consists of boulder-strewn mud-fiats that, with the retreat of the tide, extend sometimes for miles from shore. Cape Henrietta

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Sketch-map indicating location of the Polar Bear Provincial Park, Ontario.

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challenge, a vast frontier that is still relatively little known. This 'primitive park', ensuring preservation of the natural landscape and of all resources for scientific research and education, will provide an outdoor laboratory for scientists, where they may investigate the natural order of landscape evolution, and study an important range of ecosystems together with their populating plants and animals. None of the facilities usually associated with Ontario Provincial Parks will be developed in Polar Bear. Access points and travel areas will be carefully chosen to minimize human disturbance of the natural phenomena. Permission to enter the area must be obtained from the District Forester, Department of Lands and Forests, Cochrane, Ontario. The Park is situated in the physical region of Canada known as the Hudson Bay Lowlands--a flat, boggy expanse comprising one-quarter of the area of Ontario. Underlying it are untilted strata of Silurian limestone and shale. A few thousand years ago it lay beneath the sea. A succession of beach ridges, miles inland from the present coastline, tell the story of the rise of the land since the retreat of the last glaciers. The entire area is a plain that slopes gently towards James and Hudson Bays. Generally, the rivers run parallel--a characteristic of drainage in flat country. They cut canal-like channels through the Pleistocene sediments and the Silurian silts and shales, forming high banks above the water-level. Following the eroding spring floods, the rivers are normally shallow and swift, flowing either at grade or over long stretches

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Fig. 2. Sketch-map indicating main zones of the Polar Bear Provincial Park, Ontario. The Park extends about 120 miles (192 km) from north to south and 56 miles (90 kin) from east to west.

(3) The interior zone is flat, almost treeless bog. Travelling in this zone is difficult because many rivers are too shallow for boats and the ground-surface is too wet and unstable for easy foot-travel. (4) In the southern transitional zone, Black Spruce (Picea mariana) and Tamarack (Larix laricina) fen, mixed forest, upland coniferous forest, and rich swamp-forests, are intermingled with various types of

Conservation Around the Worm


muskeg. The forested areas are generally found along boundaries of the Park. However, some species that are found in the Sutton River and Attawapiskat River river shorelines. watersheds, and, therefore, probably in the Park, are The plant life has been affected in three major Brook Trout (river- and sea-run), Lake Herring, Lake respects by the sea that once covered the area. First, Whitefish, Northern Pike, Long-nose Sucker, Comthe migration of plants into the area began on the mon Sucker, Fathead Minnow, Johnny Darter, highest marine beaches and progressed down to the Walleye, Four-horn Sculpin, Three-spine Stickleback, present coastline. Secondly, the impervious marine clay and Nine-spine Stickleback. The Capelin is a common deposits held up the water-table and provided con- species in Hudson and James Bays and may occasionditions ideal for the growth of the 'Great Muskeg' on ally be found in tidal pools. the poorly-drained plain. Finally, as the sea receded As might be expected, the climate is often severe. the main rivers cut deep canal-like channels with well- Breakup of the sea-ice on Hudson Bay comes late, drained banks which supported numerous plant species. and pack-ice may drift about offshore as late as Away from the river banks the closed, boggy August. The summers are short, with the days varying forest of Black Spruce gradually thins out to open from agreeably warm to disagreeably cold. On warm bog with hummocks bearing stunted Black Spruce, days the blackflies and mosquitoes are extremely Tamarack, and bog shrubs, separated by hollows of numerous, while on cold days winter underwear and a sedges (Carex spp.) and cotton-grasses (Eriophorum parka are needed. spp.). Bog-mosses (Sphagnum spp.) often carpet the RENEBRUNELLE, ground. Near the coast, on the other hand, the land is Minister of Lands and Forests, so new that only a thin layer of plant material has Ontario Provincial Legislature, accumulated on the extensive wet sedge-and-grass Toronto, meadows. Ontario, Canada. Climatic conditions naturally influence plant occurrences in the Park. Chilling sea-fog frequently engulfs the land to a distance of several miles south of the Hudson Bay coast, discouraging tree-growth and fostering an area of tundra. Plants of this sub-arctic DEFOLIATIONAND BOMBINGEFFECTSIN VIETNAM region include a wide range of arctic species and dense mats of mosses and lichens. All are low-growing, windIn March of 1969 Professor Gordon H. Orians, of resistant species, even the willows (Salix spp.) being the University of Washington, Seattle, and I, paid a more or less flat-pressed against the ground except in short visit to South Vietnam to learn as much as we sheltered situations. could about the effects of the military uses of chemical The Park supports a wide variety of animal life. and biological agents in Vietnam. We were supported Some of the larger mammals are Black Bear, Polar by the Society for Social Responsibility in Science and Bear, Red Fox, Arctic Fox, Wolf, Otter, Skunk, the McGraw-HiU Publishing Company. We, like many Bearded Seal, Varying Hare, Beaver, Muskrat, Moose, other biologists, are very concerned about the use of and Caribou. toxic chemicals in Vietnam. This is the first time in Some of the birds found on or around inland waters history that such chemicals have been used in warfare, are Common Loon, Arctic Loon, Canada Goose, and no one knows what the long-term effects will be Snow Goose, Black Duck, Pintail, Green-winged Teal, on the productivity and health of Vietnam, its people, Common Golden-eye, Oldsquaw, Greater Yellowlegs, forests, and animal life. Lesser Yellowlegs, and Northern Phalarope. We learned that in 1968 almost one-and-a-half A few of the birds occurring along the coast are million acres (607,500 ha) were sprayed with chemicals. Common Eider, King Eider, Common Scoter, Semi- Over 20 per cent of the total forested regions of South palmated Plover, Whimbrel, Pectoral Sandpiper, Vietnam have been defoliated. Hundreds of thousands Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Parasitic Jaeger, of acres of crops have been killed. The chemicals and Arctic Tern. used are 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, Picloram, and cacodylic acid. An incomplete list of other birds found in the Park These chemicals are used in Vietnam at about ten includes Marsh Hawk, Willow Ptarmigan, Sharp- times the rate of application at which they are used for tailed Grouse, Golden Plover, Common Snipe, Short- civilian purposes. Scientific investigations have shown eared Owl, Horned Lark, Gray Jay, Yellow Warbler, that these chemicals may produce toxic effects in Savannah Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, White-crowned cattle and other animals, that they may make the soil Sparrow, and Lapland Longspur. incapable of growing plants for more than three years No fisheries surveys have been conducted within the after application~ and that constant exposure to