The property known as Thundering Waters is situated in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It is comprised of 484 acres of old growth trees, savannah plains and mature forests - 220 acres of which are designated as provincially significant wetlands (forested swamps).
The land is privately owned by GR (CAN) Investment Group of China. GR (CAN), in cooperation with the city of Niagara Falls, is currently seeking the approvals required for a mega-development on this pristine site. Upscale housing for 10,000 people along with the requisite infrastructure and transportation investments would wipe out the forest and do irreparable damage to the wetlands. The mayor of Niagara Falls has led an active campaign to have the provincial protections on the wetlands removed in order to facilitate an even grander development plot.
The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), the very organization that should be leading the resistance against this development, has ignored their mandated responsibilities.
Thundering Waters is habitat to many threatened and rare species including ancient Black Gum and Wild Honey Locust trees. Snapping Turtles can be found throughout the site as well as Milk Snakes (a species at risk), Blue Spotted Salamanders and Wood Thrush. In fact, the variety of life supported at Thundering Waters is so diverse that to date it has not been fully identified or categorized. Thundering Waters is one of the last few remaining forested swamps in Canada. These wetland communities have a higher density of life form than any other habitat in the country and are among the rarest.
The developer has stated publicly that if they do not get the provincial protections for these wetlands removed, they will simply develop the surrounding savannah and forest which is not protected. If this is permitted to happen, the wetlands will eventually choke off and die. It's likely that the wetlands could not survive the influx of 10,000 humans with their pesticides, road salts, cleaning chemicals and bike paths.
There is no development in the world that can equal what the Thundering Waters forested swamp contributes to all of us, and there is no scientific evidence proving that these ancient wetlands can be replaced or replicated.
The Wetland Ecosystem
The Wetland Ecosystem
The Niagara Region has lost more than 90% of its original wetlands, and southern Ontario has lost over 70% (Ontario Nature 2016).
Wetlands provide “ecosystem services” to humans such as flood control, erosion prevention, as well as nutrient and pollution filtration.
Wetlands cover approximately 6% of the Earth's land surface but contain 10-20% of the world's carbon, helping to combat climate change (Iowa State University 2014).
Old growth forests/wetlands such as Thundering Waters Forest contain the following traits which only time can recreate:
Wetlands offer a unique habitat to species where both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem characteristics merge. This allows species of both realms to exist, as well as species specifically adapted to wetlands only.
Debunked: “Well, I've been there this summer and I didn't see many wet areas”- that is exactly what makes this swamp forest provincially significant. The depressions in the land called vernal pools fill up every spring with meltwater and rain. These pools are temporary and dry out by early summer, but when full, they provide critical breeding grounds for amphibians and insects who need not worry about predatory fish. These vernal pools even house a crustacean called the fairy shrimp.
Debunked: “We can recreate a wetland in “x” amount of years”. Only time and natural processes can create the ecosystem functions and characteristics present in a place like Thundering Waters Forest.
Academics and locals are still finding species not mentioned in the previous site survey, meaning a more adequate search and survey for wildlife and plant species is necessary before making decisions.
The Niagara Region is part of Carolinian Canada, a life zone characterized by species of plants and animals generally found further south of here in the United States. This is Canada's most biodiverse region, but this region only covers 0.25% of Canada's land region.
"Canada’s “Deep South” makes up a distinct ecoregion known as the "Carolinian Zone," adeptly suited to not only humans, but also 2,200 plant, 70 tree and 400 bird species - more than any other region of Canada. The Carolinian Zone contains a third of Canada's rare and endangered species, including 150 designated "Species at Risk"”(Carolinian Canada Coalition 2016). The moment you drive north of Toronto, Hamilton, or London, Ontario, Carolinian species are generally no longer present.
Though the swamp forest habitats in Thundering Waters are currently labelled as provincially significant and are therefore protected by provincial policy, developing areas around/adjacent to this ecosystem will effectively "choke" it. This situation would create a "genetic island" where remaining populations of species would not be able to share genes with other populations. With time, in most cases, inbreeding leads to the degeneration of populations.
The outlying savannah and other transitional habitats should be protected in order to help maintain the habitat size and diversity required for healthier genetics for the species living in Thundering Waters Forest.
Savannah habitats and other habitats that are transitional, located between the swamp forest and surrounding areas, have species that are dependent on more open spaces for hunting, movement, and shelter. Such savannah habitats and their associated species are important to the ecosystem stability of the swamp forest and therefore the Thundering Waters property as a whole. They also provide a buffer to prevent invasive species from entering the swamp forest.