Dumoine River in Quebec, Canada: place to visit

Dumoine River in May

The Dumoine River is one of the nine main tributaries flowing into the Ottawa River, and the last remaining undammed river in southern Quebec. The Dumoine River flows south from Dumoine Lake into the Ottawa River, about 200 km upstream from Canada’s National Capital, Ottawa. It has a basin area of 5,380 km2 and is 129 km long. For most of its length, it acts as the boundary between the municipalities of Temiscamingue and Pontiac. It also happens to be home to the largest area of unfragmented boreal forest in southern Quebec. Not only is Dumoine River located close to the Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, but it serves as a very significant wildlife corridor linking La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve to Algonquin Park, further linking to Adirondacks in New York state, and then to the Appalachian Mountains.

Long ago, Wiskedjak, a prominent character of the Algonquian legends, came across Kiwegoam or the “turn-back lake” (Dumoine Lake). As he walked to the opposite side, he found a round, high, mountain that looked like a beaver lodge. Wiskedjak wanted to hunt the giant beaver that lived in this lodge, and decided to drain Kiwegoam (Dumoine Lake). While the water was draining, Wiskedjak took a nap. When he woke up, he couldn’t find the beaver, and thought that the beaver had followed the draining water and left the lake, so he followed the beaver. He went past the Coulonge River, past the Pembroke Lakes, and arrived at Calumet Chutes, but he found nothing. He turned around and began to follow his own tracks, thinking they belonged to the beaver. Finally, after several attempts Wiskedjak gave up. Nonetheless, his efforts made a significant contribution! His draining of the Dumoine Lake created the Dumoine River, while his trail established the Calumet portage, or simply the Wiskedjak tracks (Ottawa River Heritage Designation Committee, 2005; Schaber, 2015). This is an ancient legend, but confident beavers still inhabit the riverbanks…

Since that time and until now, the Dumoine River area is a great piece of intact nature still free of invasive species, and full of wilderness. Many natural habitats have been kept along the river providing healthy environment for settlements of boreal inhabitants. Fresh bear and moose footprints can be found in many places as well as animals themselves. Mostly wild animals are very cautious and try to avoid direct meetings with people. But they leave the evidence of their presence on the roads and in the woods. Other animals even pose for observers, because they are not scared by “bipedal aliens”, disturbing their realm.

The boreal forest is amazingly rich with many bird species, representing good northern species diversity. The birds are the most abundant and diverse group of vertebrate animals around Dumoine River, including many boreal specialists that inhabit the woods and make regular seasonal migrations. Some species are very abundant, others are more secretive and hidden in the woods and in the foliage of deciduous trees. It is hard to spot them in the crowns, but they can be recognized by calls and songs.

Morning light is something special on the river and time spent in the wilderness is very valuable for inspiration, and motivation of curious and artistic minds, as well as for enjoyment of life in all its fullness. The life is empty without such moments. Dumoine River still maintains wonderful landscapes, untouched wild nature and pieces of real wilderness that probably do not produce measurable goods and services, but fill the human sense by belonging to all living creatures and responsibility for the future of this virgin life. It is important to keep such “sacred” places for other people and future generations, because there is more to life than the fast paced urbanized society many of us live in.

Only small portion of photos taken by author was used for illustration. The Dumoine area always surprises the curious minds by unexpected observations of wildlife dynamics and picturesque sceneries.

Burnt Lands near Ottawa

Burnt Land alvar

If you are driving from Ottawa to the west in the direction of Almonte, Ontario, taking March Rd. (Regional Road #49), you will spot the sign of Burnt Land Road at right side along the highway and fence along the road, surrounding a large piece of land, mostly empty, which is unusual in the forested areas around Ottawa. This is the Burnt Land Provincial Park with area of 516 hectares, which supports unique alvar vegetation community. Alvars have been recognized as globally vanishing ecosystems.   

The Park’s name – “Burnt Lands” – is originated from old forest fires during the time of first European settlers. However, the large patches of area with scanty vegetation formed by limestone bedrock, black in the hot summer season, could also initiate the name of the area. The Burnt Lands consists of a mosaic diverse habitats, represented by wetland and swampy area, mixed and coniferous forests and grassland meadow. The area is surrounded by developed agricultural fields and forest concessions. In spite of development around, the small patch of the open landscape can support the diversity of prairie species, including many plants and animals. The land of Burnt Provincial Park is owned by Nature Conservancy Canada and managed by Ontario Parks under a lease agreement (Brdar, 2000). It is one of protected areas identified as a Nature Reserve provincial park since 2003.

The use of the area of the Park is limited, due to fragile nature of unique habitat. There are no special facilities in the Park; it is closed for visit by large groups. There is no special parking and rare visitors usually park on the road-sides. Although some limited activities are allowed. The park is attractive for birdwatching and plant-watching by small groups of naturalists. Hikes and excursions have been sometimes organized by Ottawa Field Naturalist Club. There are no official trails in the Park, although there are some incidental trails. The information about alvar is presented in several nature-guides (Brunton, 1996; Wake, 1997). It also can be found in internet with direction link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/ontario/burnt-lands-provincial-park-trail

Alvar plant community is distinguished from surrounding landscape. It is rich with many unique species of open plains, including some rare plants. The Park provides habitat for many vascular plants, including one Globally Threatened species, three provincially rare and around 20 regionally rare species. Since spring until end of summer, the Park is attractive for plant-watchers who can find many interesting species in the area. Some of them are common in Ontario, but infrequent in Ottawa area. Others are typical only for calcareous areas or prairies. The visitors should pay attention to presence of Eastern Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). This plant actively colonizes all appropriate habitats. It can be found abundant on the alvar and on openings in the forest areas. The Eastern Poison Ivy can burn the skin even after visit of Burnt Lands. It is recommended to change clothes after visit of the area, especially in wet morning, and thoroughly wash hands with soap. It is not recommended to visit the area with open legs to avoid severe burns.

In the end of May, the site provides opportunity to see two blooming species of lady slippers: Yellow Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) and Rum’s head Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) as well as other spring flowers. Later, in June and July plant-watchers can find blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium albium), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), hairy beardtongue (Penstomen hirsutus), spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius), wood lily (Lilium phyladelphicum) and many-many others.

White-tailed deer, coyotes, skunks, American red squirrels often visit alvar grasslands and marshy forest in the Burnt Land area.  However, the area is mostly settled by diversity of bird species typical for open and forest landscapes. Birdwatchers will find in the area upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicaudata) and killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) and eastern kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus). Several “sparrow” species nest in the area including clay-colored (Spizella pallida), grasshopper (Ammodramus svannarum), savannah (Passerculus sandwichensis) and most abundant field sparrow (Spizella pusilla). The black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erhytropthalmus) usually arrives later than other birds, when hairy caterpillars attack trees. The cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is one of the common and abundant due to good harvest of creeping juniper and many other berries. More than 50 birds can be found in the area during spring morning with good conditions for bird observation.  

The best time to visit park is from the end of April until October. This time is good for naturalist hikes to observe diversity of plants and animals, which typical for alvar communities and surrounding landscapes.

“Time for Nature”- World Environmental Day in 2020

Red Marmot (Marmota caudata) in the mountains of Central Asia

The UN World Environmental Day is celebrated widely in more than 100 countries since 1974. This is an important day to encourage awareness and actions to protect our environment. The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is, “Time for Nature”, with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development.

We all as a part of environment and a biological species with ability to change the environment at the global scale are responsible to protect biodiversity as a base of our life and prosperity. What means biodiversity in our everyday life? For people leaving in rural or urban conditions of many “developing” and “developed” countries it is just a source of surviving, providing food, fiber and other needs of families and communities. Biodiversity is a source of inspiration and creativity, our art and literature reflect the vision of the world – the vision of environment and biodiversity.

Because our growing population and increasing consumption, our civilization takes more and more space from nature occupied for our needs. We use all possible resources destructing natural habitats and replacing them by rural and urban landscapes, managed for needs of our growing communities. We reduce space for other species, fragmenting habitats and transforming natural ecosystems. We pollute environment with many new substances changing landscapes and seascapes. We use too much resources that leads to declining of species and their extirpation in many areas. We introduce new species and diseases impacting native flora and fauna. We are changing climate that leads to biotic changes, impacting our lives and lives of all other creatures…

Only changing own behavior as individuals, communities, civil societies, countries and regions we can achieve the conservation goals and turn into the way of “sustainable development”. What we can do as individuals or community? We need to reduce own consumption. We need to aware other people. We need to help environmental organizations. We need to be more responsible and responsive and think about own role as a citizen to save the diversity of our green planet for future generations.

Central Asian Tortoise and its Conservation

This tortoise is still widely distributed in the desert areas of Central Asia. Photos by Mark Pestov

If you will visit the desert plain near foothills of Nuratau Range in Uzbekistan in spring – from mid-March – until late May, more likely that you will be able to spot several individuals of Central Asian Tortoise, grazing on juicy spring ephemeral plants and cereals. This turtle has the huge periods of “hibernation”, hiding for harsh time of summer heat and winter cold in deep holes, and appearing again only next spring for the short period of breeding time. It is possible to distinguish “good” and “bad” years on the rings of the tortoise carapace. After “good” years, abundant with rains and juicy vegetation, the rings are wide and prominent; after “bad” years the rings are slightly distinguished. It is possible to identify the age of individuals counting yearly rings. Surprisingly, this tortoise could adapt to the extremely difficult conditions of cold Central Asian deserts and evolve for millennia, occupying all appropriate plain desert landscapes. This tortoise does not need too much that to survive in the modern world: habitats that are not disturbed and mild anthropogenic pressure. Many desert habitats are still virgin and cannot be transformed into agricultural lands due to lack of precipitation and water. However, anthropogenic pressure is a more serious threat…   

Development of road network is one of the threats for tortoise populations

Central Asian Tortoise (Agrionemys horsfeldii), the species widely distributed in Central Asia in the past, becomes more and more threatened in last decades due to species exploitation in the international trade, change and transformation of habitats, development of road network in the desert regions and other anthropogenic impacts. The species also called Horsfield’s Tortoise, Russian Steppe or Afghan Tortoise. This is an only tortoise species, which is an endemic of Central Asia. Species range and abundances significantly reduced last decades in the result of human development and transformation of virgin desert lands into irrigated crop production fields and due to international trade for pet markets. Central Asian Tortoise is included in IUCN Red List as a Vulnerable species (VU), however, its population status is unknown and not much is known about population trends (IUCN, 2021). The species is included in CITEC Appendix II and covered by agreement about international trade of wild plants and animals.

Central Asian Tortoise occurs in desert plains of Central Asia inhabiting sandy, gravelly sandy and loamy plains with sparse desert vegetation. It also can be found in stony-loamy foothills on elevations up to 800 m above sea level. Although there are known its findings on altitudes up to 1,600 m above sea level. But feeding conditions are better in the desert plains, therefore the population densities of tortoises in mountains are very low. Habitats with optimal conditions, providing a stable food base and reliable shelters, are represented by loess foothills and piedmont plains with ephemeral or wormwood-ephemeral vegetation, usually, below 800 m above sea level (Bondarenko & Peregontsev, 2017). According to assessment, conducted in Uzbekistan, the current range of Central Asian Tortoise in Uzbekistan occupies around 300,00 square kilometres. The population density varies significantly ranging from 0.1 – 0.9 individuals per hectare (rare) to 1.0 -9.9 individuals per hectare (common) and > 10.0 individuals per hectare (abundant).

Agricultural development of desert areas in Central Asia that took place in 1950-1980s led to expiration of this species within developed lands. Because tortoises ate seedlings of crops and green vegetation on agricultural fields. In some developed regions farmers collected and killed 2,000 – 3,000 tortoises a day.  At present, the Central Asia tortoise is extirpated from the developed regions. In some regions of Central Asia, for example, in Fergana Valley, the species is completely extinct. However, the greatest damage to the remained tortoise populations has been done by uncontrolled collection for trade.  

Males of tortoises are smaller than females

This species has an important value for local economies. Since 1990s until present, it is a subject of zoological trade, covering the needs of pet market, mostly in Europe. The tortoises for trade have been caught mostly in natural environment, therefore planning and control of animals collected for zoo-market are extremely important.

Collection of Central Asian Tortoise for trade started in 1960-1980s in southern Kazakhstan by Central Asian zoo-enterprise, located in Tashkent. Since independence time in 1990, this zoo-enterprise started to collect tortoises for trade in Uzbekistan, supplying for the market 4,000 -19,000 individuals annually. At the same time, the illegal trade to Russia and Ukraine on assessment of experts reached 50,000 individuals annually (Bondarenko & Peregontsev, 2006).  Until 1999, the CITEC quote was issues to Russia. Since 1999, it is issued directly to Uzbekistan. At the same time, since 1999 to 2016 the annual export quotas for collection of tortoises in natural environment increased from 35,000 to 80,000 individuals (UNEP-WCMC, 2016). A trend of sharp increase in trade took place from 2009. More likely, it is related not only high demand of the foreign markets in inexpensive turtles, but also by the increased number of organizations received official permits for catching. In total, according to expert evaluation from 1997 to 2015 only in Uzbekistan there were collected for trade legally 592,100 individuals. Besides, at least 430,000 individuals were exported for the same period of time illegally mostly to Russia and Ukraine (Bondarenko & Peregontsev, 2017).

Surveys carried out in Uzbekistan on the areas of long-term collection of tortoises for trade showed that uncontrolled catch caused the sex and age composition of the populations. After collection of individuals, suitable for trade (specimens with carapace’s length less than 12 cm), the populations are mostly represented by females over 15 years old (Bondarenko et al., 2001), because males are smaller than females and their share in catch is greater. The further research indicated that after 10 years of tortoise collection within surveyed areas, their density of populations significantly decreased and did not recover to the level before catching in next 9 years. The population density within the most part of the tortoise range does not exceed 3.0 individuals per hectare.

Central Asian Tortoise at the end of breeding season

All these facts indicate that sustainable catch of tortoises from natural environment should be only 10,000 – 12,000 individuals annually. But even in this case the international mechanisms do not solve the problem of tortoise conservation, because illegal collection and illegal export of tortoises through Kazakhstan to Russia and Ukraine. The conservation efforts should include strengthening of legislation and control, including other Central Asian countries, Russia and Ukraine. Monitoring of wild populations, public awareness and engagement in conservation of local communities in desert regions.         

References:

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/21651/9306759

Bondarenko D. A., Peregontsev E. A. 2006. Perspectives of Study and Protection of Steppe Tortoise in Uzbekistan // Chelonii. Vol. 4. P. 278 – 284.

Bondarenko D.A., Peregontsev E.A. 2017. Distribution of the Central Asian Tortoise (Agrionemys horsfieldii [Gray, 1844]) in Uzbekistan (Range, regional and landscape distribution, populations density). // Modern Herpetology, 2017, V. 17, issue 3/4. Pp. 124-146.

UNEP-WCMC. 2016 . Review of species selected on the basis of the Analysis of 2016 CITES export quotas. UNEP-WCMC. Cambridge. Available at:
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/cites/pdf/reports/

Global Forest Coalition by Andrey Laletin and Elena Kreuzberg

Dr. Andrey Laletin, Coordinator for Central Asia and Easter Europe, ETI campaign and membership coordinator, Russian Federation

In July 2018, we participated in the Fostering Community Conservation Conference, organized by the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) and meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), where the members of GFC took part. Both events were held in Montreal, Canada, where the Secretariat of CBD is located and the meeting of the parties was held. The Global Forest Coalition took a part in the CBD meeting, promoting the ideas of community participation in the post-2020 biodiversity framework. 

Discussion during Fostering Community Conservation Conference

The GFC is a relatively young organization. It was founded in 2000 by 19 NGOs and Indigenous People Organizations IPOs) succeeding the NGO Forest Working Group established in 1995. The Forest Working Group coordinated by Netherlands National Committee of IUCN and the World Rainforest Movement led the multi-stakeholder initiative to address the underlying causes deforestation and forest degradation. Until 2005, the Global Forest Coalition was formally hosted by the World Rainforest Movement. In 2005, it was registered as an independent foundation in the Netherlands. Currently, this is a coalition of NGOs and IPOs from more than 65 countries defending social justice and rights of the forest people. 

The mission of the Global Forest Coalition is to advocate for the conservation and restoration of forest ecosystems, through defending and promoting respect for the rights, territories, traditional knowledge and sustainable livelihoods of the Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women that co-exist with them.

Forest degradation and unsustainable management is a problem in many countries of the world, where natural forests were replaced by mono-plantations

The vision of Coalition is based on several major principles:

  • Protect real forests, and the people dependent on them.
  • Protect the rights of forest peoples, including customary systems of forest governance and conservation, and the territorial rights to land of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
  • Halt deforestation and biodiversity loss. 
  • Recognition that plantations are not forests. 
  • Forests are not a commodity to be traded, forests are for life. 
  • Forests are key to the climate crisis. 
  • Biodiversity through cultural diversity is vital to biodiversity conservation and the protection of forest ecosystems, with an emphasis on inter-generational dialogue and the crucial role of young people.

The Global Forest Coalition’s work is based on its strategy to campaign through its broad membership and in coordination with other allies, alliances, movements and networks, to support the struggles of Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women by bring their views, positions and proposals to the forefront of local, national, and global forest-related decision-making processes.

Participants of the Fostering Conservation Community Conference in Montreal, July 2018

The Global Forest Coalition supports and coordinates joint NGO/IPO campaigns for socially and effective forest policy and the rights of Indigenous and other forest peoples. The members of coalition work on campaigns to defend rights, to prevent forest loss and land conversion to mono-culture, to support community conservation. They cooperate with other organizations and allies against unsustainable livestock, raising awareness about impact of such production, promoting more sustainable community-based initiatives. GFC works together with a large number of women’s movements, enhancing  women’s rights and empowerment. The list of activities can be continued. However, the more information about current and past activities of the Global Forest Coalition can be found on its website: https://globalforestcoalition.org/ 

In general, the Global Forest Coalition promotes participatory approach and good governance, which serve as a basic precondition for sustainable development, and facilitates development of the bottom-up approaches for building new scenarios of life within the “planetary boundaries”. 

 

 

About bats and COVID-19 by Heliana Dundarova

Heliana Dundarova, PhD, an expert in bat studies; a scientist at IBER-BAS (Bulgaria) and a guest researcher at Osh State University (Kyrgyzstan) during field work

Bats (order Chiroptera) are the second largest order of mammals (1411 species). They are the only mammals capable of flying actively, which allowed them to be globally distributed. In general, flight has led to high refinement of order Chiroptera, and orientation through echolocation, which allows them navigate in reduced visibility environments. In-flight body temperature rises, which speeds up their metabolism and puts their bodies in a constant state of high fever. The temperature varies from 38 to 41 °C. This type of energy production and consumption is huge and intolerable for other mammals. High energy potential leads to the release of huge amount of free radicals, which damage DNA molecules and kill the cells of mammals. However, this does not happen to bats and scientists have found out why. They have a mutation which accelerates the cell’s ability to find and repair damaged DNA molecules. In addition, their cellular mechanism practically does not allow the damaged cells to multiply, as is the case with all other mammals, and cancer is rare.

The colony of Rhinolophus lepidus in the mine

In all mammals, the immune system triggers a group of signaling proteins called interferons. When a virus enters a cell, interferons produce signals to warn the other cells to activate their antiviral mechanism and prevent the virus from further multiplying. In bats, interferons are constantly activated and there is no mechanism to switch them off and thus they constantly control the viruses. Therefore, extreme energy production, high body temperature, mechanisms for the rapid recovery of damaged DNA, and the specific immune system make bats a suitable reservoir of different types of RNA viruses. These viruses are adapted to the dynamic cellular life of their hosts as well as to bats. RNA viruses from bats cannot be transmitted directly to humans because their fine-tuning requires other organisms (intermediate hosts) in which the cells viruses adapt to the final host. Similar examples from the recent past are SARS-CoV coronaviruses and the MERS-CoV virus. In 2002, SARS-CoV caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and has affected about 30 countries, of which, for 800 people, the outcome was lethal. It is established that similar coronaviruses are carried from bats but the infection to people did not happen directly. The source of the infection is civets, a species of rare predator that is sold freely to markets in China. The virus has long been spread by the intermediate host in Chinese markets.

In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) appeared. The intermediate hosts are camels, who have been carrying the coronavirus for about 30 years. MERS caused an epidemic in the Arabian Peninsula, about 2000 people were infected, and the death rate was 50%. The scenario for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 syndrome, is similar. The virus genome is most similar to the CoV RaTG13 coronavirus known from the intermediate horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus affinis), which inhabits the Yunnan province, China and Southeast Asia. The virus binding receptor at the intermediate horseshoe bat and other horseshoe bats cannot directly bind to the human ACE2 receptor located on the outside of the lung cells. There was a tuning time (mutation) period in the intermediate host that took years to separate SARS-CoV-2.

The Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

Globally, mammalian organisms, including humans, are full of different corona-viruses. They are divided into specific groups, and interspecific transmission is extremely rare, since the virus must adapt to the specific cellular receptor of the final host. Therefore, direct transmission from bat to human with SARS-CoV-2 is excluded.

Bats are the natural “biopesticides” on Earth. Globally, one bat consumes a huge amount of the known pests on forests and farmlands such as the insect pests on coniferous plantations, cereals and fruit orchards. Bats regulate the numbers of the Greater Wax Moth; whose larvae are parasites on beehives.

The Lesser Mouse-eared Bat – Myotis blythii – species widely distributed in Eurasia

Many bat species control the mosquito populations, which are the main reservoir and vector of Zika, Yellow fever and Dengue. One bat colony can eat about 100 tons of insects per night.

The danger does not come from bats or other animals, but from the human beings. People penetrate into previously virgin places, destroy natural habitats at unimaginable speeds, and move quickly from one to another point of the world. All this allows pathogens to overcome the interspecies barriers that previously prevented them from emerge and spill-over uncontrollably.

References:

Simmons N. B. 2005. Order Chiroptera. In: Wilson, D. E., Reeder, D. M., editors. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. 3rd ed. Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 312-52

Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes, Robert F. Garry. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9

Zhou, P., Yang, X., Wang, X. et al. A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin. Nature, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2012-7

Ji, W., Wang, W., Zhao, X., Za, J., Li, X. Cross-species transmission of the newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Journal of Medical Virology, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25682

Mountains of Central Asia as a touristic destination by Sergey Toropov

Summer day in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan
Mountains around Chon-Kemin River, Kyrgyzstan

The majestic mountain systems of Dzhungar, Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai, ridges covered with dazzling white glaciers, and emerald meadows of mountain valleys with sapphire eyes of lakes, seething streams and waterfalls of fast mountain rivers carrying their crystal waters into deserts, languishing from the heat. All this diversity of ecological landscapes and climatic zones is the “Mecca” for tourists, scientists and travelers to Central Asia!

Issyk-Kul Lake is one of the largest mountain lakes in the world

Summer in mountains of Kyrgyzstan

Abandoned field before rain

Such a variety of natural landscapes creates unique conditions for the numerous representatives of the animal world, including many insects, the vivid representatives of which are butterflies – natural flowers of nature. More than 300 species of diurnal butterflies live in various ecosystems of Central Asia. Attracting magnets of this region are species such as swallowtails Parnassius loxias, an inhabitant of the rocky canyons of the Central Tien Shan in the Sary-Jaz river basin, and Parnassius autocrator, which is the dream of any lepidopterologist, the inhabitant of screes among the rocky massifs of the Pamirs. The habitats of these two species of Apollo butterflies are very local and almost inaccessible. In 2006, the entomological world was shocked by a sensation. In the unexplored places of the Inner Tien Shan, in the system of the Moldo-Too ridge, a new species of Apollo was described by the Russian entomologist S. Churkin. It was named as Parnassius davydovi. This is the first such discovery in a hundred years.

Papilio apollo merzbacheri, Kichi-Kemin, Kyrgyzstan

In addition to the 18 species of Apollos, occurring in this region, 14 species of “sulphurs” butterflies (Colias) are of particular interest to travelers – entomologists. Not one region of the world has such a diversity of species of this genus. Entomologists can find in the region the carrot-scarlet Colias draconis, an inhabitant of the steppe slopes of the Western Tien Shan, and the scarlet fiery red Colias regia, the endemic of Tien Shan. Other species include unusually painted in the ash-brown tones Colias christophi helialaica is an inhabitant of the Alai mountain range, persistently closed by fogs and the legendary, very rare Colias erschoffi, an inhabitant of the harsh middle mountains of the Dzhungar Range.

The fiery red blue-butterfly from Lycaenidae family –  Thersamonia solskyi attila – inhabits the mountain systems of eastern Alai. Endemic blues Plebejus lycaenidae with brilliant eyes on the lower wings inhabit buckthorn bushes along the banks of mountain rivers. Numerous species from satyr family – Hyponephele, Pseudochazara, Chazara, Karanasa and other satyrs inhabit dry foothills and high mountain steppes of various ranges.

All this sparkling and shimmering in the sun variety of diurnal butterflies cannot leave indifferent ecological tourists, entomologists and respectable scientists who are happy to plunge into the world of butterflies, during visits of Central Asia.

And when the daytime colors fade, the more modestly colored representatives of the night butterflies begin to dance near the daylight lamps. These are the nimble owlet moths (Noctuidae) with interesting genus Cuculia and swift hawk-moths with a rare species of Rhethera komarovi, and of course the peacock-eyed Neoris that amazes everyone with their large eye-spots on wings. Brightly colored tiger-moths inhabit high mountain valleys. Almost all species of this group of butterflies are endemic to Central Asia, including such genera and species as Oroncus, Acerbia, Arctia ruckbeili and numerous representatives of Palearctia genus.

This natural variety of mountain landscapes is inhabited by 318 breeding bird species. Besides, another 108 bird species appear in the region during migrations and wintering. Many birdwatchers have been attracted to the region by opportunity to observe such species as Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii), an inhabitant of pebble floodplains of high mountain rivers. Other species of particular interest are a large Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus hemachalanus), with a wingspan of about three meters, which makes nests in niches of inaccessible cliffs, and tiny White-browed Tit-warbler (Leptopoecile sophiae) with sapphire plumage, a small inhabitant of juniper dwarf. During trip to mountain valleys tourists will have chance to spot the cautious Pallas’s Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus), nesting in rocky deserts along the shores of the beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake, a rare high-altitude bird Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus pamirensis), alpine White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis alpicola), flashing when flying with snow-white wings, and the legendary Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus turcestanicus), with an amazing flute song, competing with the roar of the waterfall.

Posing rufous-naped tit
Rufous-naped Tit
Bright male of white-browed tit-warbler
White-browed Tit-warbler

Of the 86 species of mammals that live in Kyrgyzstan, the most famous is the fabulous Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia), a resident of rocky gorges. Snow leopards prey on unsurpassed mountain climbers – Ibexes (Capra sibirica), with horns reaches one-and-a-half-meter size. The Marco Polo Argali (Ovis ammon polii) also occur in high mountain valleys, whose horns are also not small. In older males, the length of the horn can reach 165 centimeters. A very beautiful and rare Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) also lives on the alpine wet meadows (“syrts”).

Preparing to hunt...
Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) in Kegety, Kyrgyzstan

Exploring Wildlife in Ottawa Area

Ottawa is located on the border between Canadian Shield and Mixwood Plains ecological zones. This location defines its relatively rich biodiversity. Species occurring in the northern Canadian (Ontario) Shield Ecozone and Southern Mixwood Plain Ecozone can be found here, often in the same habitats.

Moose (Alces alces) and White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Ottawa Valley 

 

Ontario Shield Ecozone is associated with Precambrian Shield, which occupies approximately 60% of Ontario stretching from the Hudson Bay Lowlands to the Thousand Islands area on the south. The shield is represented by the limestone bedrock which forms specific landscapes with rock outcrops and alvars grown by coniferous forests with Black Spruce (Picea mariana), Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) and Tamarack (Larix laricina) on the north and mixed and deciduous forests with Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and North-American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) on south. All these forest types can be found in Ottawa Valley and in the Ottawa Greenbelt.  The area is abundant with lakes and rivers; many wetlands are shaped in the result of beaver activity. Although there are some extracting industries in this area, such as mining, logging and hydro-energy, it is relatively intact and still keeps the core diversity typical for the boreal forest and taiga biomes.  

Mixwood Plains Ecozone occupies only 10% from the total area of Ontario, but it has the densest human population and the area is heavily developed in the result of human activity. It is located on the limestone to south of the Precambrian Shield and bounded by three large Great lakes – Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. The area, especially in its northern and eastern parts, is mostly flat. Many flat plains are developed for agricultural production, creating conditions for the movement of some southern prairies and grassland species to the north. Two major rivers – Ottawa and St. Lawrence – form their watersheds in this area with diverse wetlands and rich species diversity. Vegetation is very diverse and presented both coniferous and deciduous trees.  Carolinian forests are grown on the south of this zone; tolerant hardwood forests are represented mostly on the north and in the areas around Ottawa. The most typical trees of this Ecozone growing around Ottawa are coniferous such as a White (Pinus strobus) and Red pines (Pinus resinosa), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virgniana), Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and deciduous such as a Sugar (Acer saccharum), Red (A. rubrum), Striped (A. pensylvanicum) and Silver (A. saccharinum) maples, Red (Quercus rubra) and White (Q. alba) oaks, American (Ulmus americana) and Slippery (U. rubra) elms, Yellow (Betula alleghaniensis) and Paper birches, Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), Butternut (J. cinerea), Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Balsam Poplar (P. balsamifera), Basswood (Tilia americana), Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis) and others. In spite of development and expanding of urbanization, only about 1.5% of this ecozone is protected. In this eco-zone, many areas, unique landscapes and habitats need urgent protection, because they become isolated in human-created “matrix” and fragmented by growing road network. Road corridors create conditions for dispersal of exotic alien species, which replace native species and form the new environment.   

Animal species diversity in Ottawa valley is relatively high, because species belonging to both – Canada Shield and Mixwood Plain ecozones – occur in this area. In spite of human activity, many species well adapted and live in close human neighborhood. Some of them sometimes create tiny problems for local gardeners. Some species are well preserved since the time when this area was not developed. Another species has been dispersed relatively recently. For example, a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) spread to the north, because evident climate change and created favorable conditions for this species in open mixed woods altering with farms, which provide rich harvest of herbs. Other species, such as an American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), opposite, moves to the south and compete with an Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) for habitats in the towns and greenbelts. Bird feeders placed along trails ensure feeding for both squirrel species; therefore, their populations in the cities and around cities are flourishing.  Groundhogs (Marmota monax), Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) and raccoons (Procyon lotor), Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and other mammals in some degree benefited from urban development and established successful urban populations, which survive in suburban areas and in the city parks. However, roads provide limiting barriers for many mammal species and their dispersal to the new areas is often impossible. Bird species in Ottawa Valley are diverse and abundant; but their composition usually change with seasons. Diverse reptile and amphibian species are also well represented. The diversity of invertebrates and especially insects is large in the southern regions; In the northern regions, several species of bloodsucking insects can be very numerous in the summer, creating certain inconveniences for visiting these places.

The Ottawa region is attractive for any naturalist, who interested to know more about wildlife in Canada. Any season here is fascinating. However, perhaps, late spring – the end of May and the beginning of June, as well as autumn – the end of September – the beginning of October – are most attractive to naturalists, since it is in these seasons that one can observe a greater number of species, flowering “festivals” and bright autumn colors.

 

UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030)

Pandemics of Corona-virus showed the vulnerability of our human civilization to natural disasters and unpredictable events. Definitely, in the face of real danger, all of humanity has come together and is developing an ethics of communication both locally and internationally. We are all passengers on the same ship, called Earth, accelerating toward the future. We all understand that our future depends on mutual assistance and support.

The quarantine started in this uneasy time also gave opportunity to sort out urgent and not too much matters. Finally, we had chance to read and think about Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly for 2021-2030 in accordance with its Resolution A/RES/73/284. The resolution calls for support efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and raise awareness of the importance of ecosystem restoration.

Indeed, lack of awareness and understanding of biodiversity values for sustainable development have been recognized as a one of the main barriers on the way to restoration. The Strategy of UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is presented on the UN website, inviting all interesting stakeholders to take a part in discussion: https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/get-involved/strategy

Any organization or indifferent citizen may take part in the open consultation and review of the Strategy for the Decade and its Communication Strategy and provide feedback through the submission section below on the overall document or specific sections. The deadline for the submission of feedback is April 30, 2020.

Following to the instructions on the website you can provide your comments and suggestions to both documents or to be engaged in the consultation process.

The UN invite you to review The Decade’s Strategy “aims to foster a restoration culture in which restoration initiatives start and scale up across the planet, by establishing a global movement, improving the political will of the Member States and other actors, and by enhancing the capacity for designing, implementing and sustaining ecosystem restoration initiatives”.

Ottawa Greenbelt: “for people and nature”

These days the parking places to most trails in Greenbelt of Ottawa are closed due to pandemics of COVID-19. But we hope that with summer time the normal life will return and all interested people may enjoy the beauty of nature in the National Capital Region…

The unique Ottawa Greenbelt creates specific atmosphere in the Canadian capital and makes it one of the greenest, “environmentally friendly” and attractive city in North America. The Greenbelt idea was proposed by Jacques Gréber (1882-1962), architect specialized in landscape architecture and urban design, as a part of his master plan for Ottawa in 1950. The land for greenbelt was partly expropriated, partly bought and partly donated by owners of farms located in this area. At present, the Greenbelt covers about 204 square kilometers of lands within the present boundaries of Ottawa from Shirley’s Bay in the west to Green’s Creek in the east. Most part of the area (149 square kilometers) is owned and managed by the National Capital Commission (NCC); other land belongs to federal government[1].  The purpose of greenbelt establishment directed to prevent urban sprawl and provide open space for development of farms, natural areas and government campuses. Greenbelt surrounded Ottawa in the time of its establishment; however, after joining of several urban and rural municipalities and formation of city Ottawa in its current boundaries the greenbelt “moved” inside of the city, where it forms the green arc with numerous recreation areas.  It is considered currently as one of the largest urban parks in the world. And, who knows? Perhaps, it serves as a model for future landscape architecture of the environmentally friendly urban settlements under scenarios of adaptive management development of human societies, where highly industrialized civilization neighboring with green spaces and caring about wildlife…

Ottawa Greenbelt: Source: NCC, 2019

More information about Greenbelt and places of interest you can find here

At present, the greenbelt area comprised by forests, wetlands and traditional fields, provides immense opportunities for recreational activity within a city. This area is used for farming, forestry, research and conservation.  Successful location of greenbelt creates the “green” islands for the dispersal of wildlife, providing the connecting corridors for large number of wildlife species during migration and ensuring normal population dynamics. This belt supports also northern bird visitors during wintering, which can stay near feeders established by Ottawa Field Naturalist Club, other environmental groups and citizens.  The greenbelt provides the presence of breeding sites not only for “edge” species, but also for typical representatives of many forest and wetland ecosystems from different ecozones.

Even now, with human population of Ottawa about 900,000 people, it is difficult to find an empty trail in the greenbelt in any time of the year. With projected increase of population and its doubling after 30-40 years, the role of greenbelt for recreation will grow dramatically. Several new centers growing in Kanata, Barrhaven, Orleans, Stittsville are located beyond the greenbelt boundaries. Their infrastructure and especially new roads present the new barriers and increase isolation of wildlife habitats in the greenbelt. The further careful planning and development are very important that to keep the current level of wildlife diversity and abundance in the urban conditions. Ottawa can pioneer developing and designing the urban park concept in North America as well as in the world.  Current projects of the City of Ottawa, National Capital Commission and Nature Conservancy Canada on evaluation and analysis of the links between core natural areas provides the real base for the development of conservation plan, and, probably, for the development of urban park in Ottawa.  It is difficult to predict what we can expect after next 50 years and what kind of wildlife will survive in the urban conditions. However, it is clear that the presence of greenbelt will secure the adaptation of species to the changing environmental conditions in the process of development. The greenbelt represents the real natural and historical heritage, important not only for city, but for whole country and many Ottawa visitors. It is important to remain this land without development. Its current role as a green space will provide much more benefits to the city and citizens at present and in the future than any modern constructions, new streets and buildings. Ecological integrity is more significant that visible current economic benefits. So, we just need to think beyond the boundaries of our current believing, standards and imagination.

What you can do in the Ottawa Greenbelt?

The area of Greenbelt is designed for all kinds of recreation activities. Each designated place has the special facilities, such as comfortable outhouses, maintained trails with wooden bridges and passages in the marshy areas. Guiding maps on wooden boards at the entrance provide information about the trails, as well as about the permitted activities. If in this place you cannot walk with the dog, then a corresponding sign will be put (crossed dog sign, etc.). In places where the trails diverge, signs are usually put showing the number of the trail and where it goes. Each path has its own name. Read them carefully to avoid getting lost. Signs also show directions to parking lots and sometimes even distance to them. In each particular place of the Greenbelt there are special skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and cycling routes. Some areas are open to visitors with dogs. Some areas are open for visitors with dogs.

All sites are attractive for nature watch in different seasons and many naturalists and photographers visit sites during a year that to look for the “chronicles of nature”, inspire by beauty of changing environment or just rest observing natural things.

What is not allowed in Ottawa Greenbelt?

Any activity that can be harmful for wildlife and can damage the integrity of the Greenbelt is not allowed. It is not allowed to cut a forest, leave garbage and wastes, camp in the greenbelt, start fire, collect flowers, plants and firewood, pick up mushrooms, catch insects, hunt or capture wild animals, damage trail infrastructure, disturb animals, destroy their habitats, talk loudly or shout in the animal breeding places.

What is the best season for visit of Ottawa Greenbelt?

There is no “best” season in the Greenbelt. This area is open for recreation activity in any season and weather. However, some areas in Greenbelt are more attractive in winter. Other areas gather more visitors in spring or summer. The autumn is adorable everywhere.

[1] About the National Capital Greenbelt. The National Capital Commission. 2013.04.26