How to save the unique eco-treasure

To mow or not to mow: that is the question each fall when passers-by see machines cutting back the vegetation on the Garden City Lands, as has happened of late.

The key context is that the lands are a remnant of the ancient Lulu Island bogs and that the sphagnum peat bog ecosystem on a large part of the lands has a unique chance of surviving. Since annual mowing improves the odds, it is the stopgap answer.

In contrast to the Garden City Lands, the Department of National Defence lands and Richmond Nature Park to the east are evolving into bog forest. Experts tell me that’s probably not reversible. Bog forest is good too, but it’s not the same.

On the Garden City Lands, the mowing does cause some loss of wildlife habitat and a little damage to the essential sphagnum moss and the native shrubs like bog cranberry, bog blueberry, and Labrador tea. However, the net result is positive, especially if the mowing occurs before the rainy season and if the cuttings get cleared away.

In effect, the mowing is like the natural and human-planned fires that always used to get rid of larger vegetation overshadowing the sphagnum and other bog species.

In order for part of the Garden City Lands to be restored with a thriving bog ecosystem, there are further needs to raise the water table in specific ways and to combat invasive plant species. Those are complex challenges, but expertise and the will to win can overcome them.

For now, mowing is working. Let’s rejoice that the machines are not excavators tearing out the peat that, as living sphagnum, helped the island to form above the river bed thousands of years ago.

Somehow, nature’s heritage on the Garden City Lands is still in our hands to save or squander. It’s a down-to-earth issue with mundane questions like to mow or not to mow, but it’s also a once-in-millennia opportunity to restore, cherish, and share.

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This post overlaps at least three previous posts. If you wish to read more, consider “Toward restoring the Garden City Lands” and “Mowing—Can it be good?and “Eco-tour hope, foreboding, joy.”

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