By Chris Baburek
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists started off its new program year on September 21, with the theme of “Nature Near and Far”. We began with a “near” topic: Discover the Carp Barrens. Many of us have hiked on the Carp Barrens Trail and have been impressed with its wild beauty. Our speaker was Janet Mason, a retired engineer with a passion for nature and ecological conservation. She has volunteered with several local environmental organizations and co-founded Friends of the Carp Hills and Friends of the Carp River.
Janet described the Carp Barrens as part of the Carp Hills which covers approximately 4,000 hectares. It is a candidate Provincial and Regional Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and a Provincially Significant wetland complex. The Carp Hills is largely undeveloped but mostly privately owned and under pressure as the urban boundary of Ottawa continues to expand. The linkages it provides to other natural areas are becoming increasingly important.
Janet described the geography, geology, flora and fauna of the Carp Barrens. Geologically the area is similar to Gatineau Park. This outcrop of Precambrian bedrock is unique in the city of Ottawa. Typical of Canadian Shield, it is comprised of thin soils, rock barrens, upland forest, ponds, marshes, swamps fens, a bog and springs. Plant life is diverse and fragile, including eight regionally significant rare plants. The lichen here is highly diversified. Many bird species have been found here, including two species-at-risk. There are a number of mammal species here and of particular note is the beaver. The area had previously been grazed by cattle, logged and subject to fire. The beavers, being landscape engineers, allowed the area to recover and Janet showed some photos, taken over a period of time, which demonstrated this. Many reptiles and amphibians, as well as insects, are found along the Carp Barrens Trail and hikers are encouraged to contribute their findings to iNaturalist. Scientific studies are ongoing, including turtle conservation work by the Canadian Nature Federation.
This brought Janet to an overview of the impacts of the human species on the Carp Barrens. The stated goal of the Friends of the Carp Hills is to “preserve areas of the Carp Hills wilderness for conservation and areas for public recreation”. With the advent of trail apps, pandemic overuse, and the increasing popularity of mountain-biking and geocaching, The Friends of the Carp Hills put forth a list of recommendations to the City of Ottawa. All were implemented and an agreement to maintain the trails was signed with The Ontario Mountain Bike Association. This has been a great help in trail maintenance and now we are able to enjoy the beauty of the Carp Barrens while protecting the unique ecology of the area.
MVFN’s next Nature Talk will be a “Far” subject, with Justin Peter presenting “Bird Life of The Gambia and Senegal.”. A reminder that Nature Talks are open to members only. A complete list of Nature Talks and other events, as well as information on joining the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, is available on the MVFN website: mvfn.ca.