Niagara Escarpment Ancient Cedars
The Niagara Escarpment is home to the oldest ancient forests
in eastern North America. These cliff-dwelling cedars (Thuja
occidentalis), some of which are over 1500 years old, cling
to the face of the Escarpment, rooted in the shallow soil
of cracks and crevices. They face drastic temperature fluctuations,
high winds, and low nutrient and moisture levels. Due to
this harsh environment, cliff dwelling white cedars are
considerably smaller in stature than their non-cliff dwelling
relatives and have a twisted, gnarled appearance. In fact
a 1500 year old tree many only be a few feet tall! Unfortunately,
their shrub-like stature makes the cliff-dwelling cedars
susceptible to damage during recreational activities, such
as rock climbing.
sport, traditional, or top-rope climbing, cedars may be
crushed or torn out if used as foot or hand holds. Climbing
can also interfere with the cedars' ability to reproduce
as seedlings germinate in minute amounts of dirt that collect
on ledges; ledges that are often brushed for use as holds.
Even the larger cedars growing back from the cliff edge,
are at risk because, over time, top anchors may erode their
with researchers at the
Cliff Ecology Research Group (CERG) at the University
of Guelph, Earthroots has launched the Niagara Escarpment
Ancient Cedars Education Project, aimed at raising public
awareness about this threatened forest.
CERG researchers discovered this ancient forest only sixteen
years ago. The escarpment's 'vertical' ecosystem is considerably
different than ecosystems both above and below the cliff
face. The ancient cedars are of considerable scientific
value and environmental importance. Since their tree rings
absorb and store pollutants, scientists have been able to
record air quality changes over centuries and the rings
can provide information about local climate change for the
past 2,700 years.
summer of 2001, Earthroots engaged in an intensive climber-focused
educational campaign. Numerous climbing gyms, clubs and
gear stores have acted as clearinghouses for a new educational
pamphlet. Our outreach program was covered in Escarpment
area newspapers, Coast Magazine and the popular climbing
magazine Gripped. Earthroots hopes the environmental impacts
of rock climbing will be minimalized as a result of the
campaign and that the ancient cedars of the Escarpment will
continue to flourish for years to come.
plans to expand this campaign beginning in May 2004. If
you are an interested climber who uses the Escarpment and
want to get involved please contact Victor Lorentz at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 416-599-0152 x13 .
Earthroots campaigners and volunteers will be distributing
our campaign brochure Responsible Climbing on the Niagara
Escarpment at local crags. Climbers look for us at your
favourite local crag! Or download a copy by clicking here.
Also get a copy of this pamphlet at your local gym or climbing
is also working with the Alpine Club of Canada ACCess committee
and the newly formed Ontario Climbers Coalition to ensure
continued access to local cliffs. As numerous wilderness
management studies have shown, the closure of popular recreational
areas only increases the damage to the ecosystem as users
search for new recreational areas. Instead Earthroots proposes
a balanced approach to protecting the cedars through park
management policies and self-policing within the climbing
community. By working together with conservation authorities,
Ontario Parks, and the climbing community, Earthroots hopes
we can develop a conservation strategy that will protect
the cedars and their cliff ecosystems while also maintain
climbers' access privileges!
campaign is made possible through the generous support of
Mountain Equipment Co-op, TD Friends of the Environment
Foundation's Bruce Peninsula, Burlington, Oakville, Etobicoke,
Halton, Milton, South Georgian Bay, Toronto Chapters and
the Helen McCrae Peacock Foundation.