The Land Between Region – Cottage Country

The Land Between is also known as Cottage Country. It is a region that stretches across southcentral Ontario from the Georgian Bay Coastline to the Ottawa Valley. The Land Between is home to over 2400 lakes that represent the headwaters for major river systems which feed the Trent Severn Waterway, flushing into the Ottawa River and into Lake Ontario. The lakes in the region also feed aquifers that provide drinking water for many major cities in southern Ontario.  However, the Land Between region is also marked by the majority of rock barrens in the province, and therefore it is predominantly an area with very shallow soils that do not have the absorption capacity to buffer against pollution. Residential lakeshore development is the major source of pollution affecting these fragile and interconnected water resources.

The Land Between is also an ecotone – an ecological term to describe a meeting place between ecoregions. The Land Between is an ecotone or meeting place between the Canadian Shield and St. Lawrence Lowlands. Ecotones are known for their biodiversity because found within them are species from each bordering region. Therefore, found within the Land Between region are species from both northern and southern parts of Ontario, such as the blueberry and strawberry, black spruce and green ash, black fly and mosquito (underpinnings of major food webs), raven and the crow, river otter and woodchuck, moose and deer.  But the Land Between region is more than an ecotone; because of its unique physiographic features, it is also its own unique landscape. With more rock outcrops and small lakes than anywhere in the province, the Land Between attracts unique species of reptiles who love to bask and swim, such as turtles – the region has more turtles than anywhere in the province. Also the region attracts other unique species that like to live in alvar or rock barren communities or near shorelands, such as Eastern Hognosed Snakes (innocuous and gentle pretenders), Common Nighthawks (that love to eat mosquitoes), Kingfishers and Ospreys (handsome anglers), or Five-lined Skinks (Ontario’s only lizard that lives in leafy areas next to shores).

And because of the Land Between’s unique position in Ontario and between regions, but also because it is still primarily intact with over 80% natural cover (2010), the region is actually the last wilderness or uninterrupted natural landscape in southern Ontario. It is therefore, also the last stronghold for many of Ontario’s wildlife species. More, is that the Land Between has the final reserves of habitats, biodiversity and corresponding ecosystem services which support all peoples locally and within the cities found to the south. This means the Land Between has pollinators to help our food grow, breeding birds that rid forests of pests and which spread seeds to ensure biodiversity persists, and wetlands to clean and filter waters.

However, development in the region is on the rise. Shorelands, which are effectively ecotones within this larger regional ecotone, are a meeting place between upland and lowland. Therefore, shorelands naturally are the most biodiverse areas within a lake, supporting both upland and aquatic wildlife, diversity and ecosystem health. However, shorelands are the most developed areas. Changes to these habitats are effecting entire lakes and collectively the larger region.

The Blue Lakes program was founded within the Land Between bioregion, by the Land Between charity, to find adaptive solutions to ensure this invaluable region and irreplaceable lake ecosystems remain healthy for all people and all wildlife, and therefore for future generations.

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