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Saving Barrie's Lake

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Barrie’s Lake is an 88-acre wetland in North Dumfries (Ontario, Canada) bordering on the city of Cambridge. Bernice Beal who is better known as “the turtle lady’ owns 83 of the 88 acres of wetland. Bernice bought the wetland some 15 years ago and that is pretty much when the battle to protect this wetland and its inhabitants began. A battle that among other things caused Bernice to purchase and additional 10 acres of land to prevent a gravel company from blasting for gravel too close to the lake.

Barrie's Lake is a Fen. This means that a certain level of nutrients and pH of the water allows for and a certain type of ecosystem. It allows for a specific plant growth, which in turn allows for certain aquatic and non-aquatic live forms to exist there.

Fen’s are unusual in this part of Ontario and as such should be protected. In 2004 after a wetland survey was done Barrie’s Lake was declared a provincially significant wetland giving it extra protecting under the law.

Barrie’s Lake is also home to an Oak Savanna. They are also not common in this part of the province adding to the unique nature of Barrie’s Lake.

Over the years many scientist and researchers have visited Barrie’s Lake and particular the species of birds who spent time in this wetland have been well documented. The list is impressive and comprises of many species at risk including; Bald Eagles, Least Bitterns, Barn Swallows, Chimney Swifts, Rusty Blackbirds and many more.

Butterflies have also been well documented and that list too is long and impressive.

The plant life at Barrie’s Lake has not been as well documented, but some special species have been spotted such as wild cranberries and tamaracks that specifically enjoy the Fen environment. Future work will need to be done to get more accurate data.

The aquatic life has also not been well documented. We do know that the lake is home to many Snapping Turtles and Midland Painted Turtles and unfortunately at least two non-native species, the Gold Fish and Red Eared Sliders have been documented.

Simply by looking at the habitat one could deduce that this wetland is home to a large variety of herptiles, but further research would have to be done to document the species.

Currently Barrie’s Lake faces several threats:

  • Human Presence: Due to the very sensitive nature of this wetland it is not suited to becoming a haven for human ‘nature’ activities such as hiking, boating and other related activities and should not be converted into such.
  • Storm Water: A proposal is on the table to dump the storm water from a soon to be build subdivision in Barrie’s Lake. With pH and nutrient balance being so sensitive to change this has to be prevented at all cost.
  • Buffer zone: For the above mentioned reason a larger buffer zone has to be created between Barrie’s Lake and the adjacent farm land to prevent the leaching of nutrients in the lake.
  • Road Traffic: Every year hundreds of turtles are killed when they try to cross the road close to Barrie’s Lake during egg-laying season. Preventative road measures have to be put in place to reduce this number
  • Reference: William Barbour (ELC and OWES MSc student)
    Photography © Chantal Theijn

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    Barrie's lake - a wetland worth saving