As we head into 2017 I am proud of all that we have accomplished at St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre over the past six years. We have achieved much in pursuit of our mission to help preserve and restore Ontario’s natural biodiversity. We have brought together some of the leading conservation scientists in the province and have successfully transformed a conventional forestry seedling nursery into one of the largest conservation nurseries in North America for our cause. At St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre, we now produce millions of wild-type source identified native plants (trees, shrubs, and forbs – grasses, sedges, wildflowers, ferns and aquatic plants) and thousands of kilograms of native seed mixes that are the foundation for ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation projects. Our native plants and seed have been planted throughout the province on our own ecological restoration projects such as the Highway 407East Habitat Compensation Project as well as by many conservation partners including Conservation Authorities, urban foresters, ecologists, government agencies, park managers, highway managers, school groups, NGOs and private citizens.
The conservation of native biodiversity remains a serious environmental challenge, and one that is complicated by global warming. The landscape and horticultural industry as a whole in North America does not have a good track record when it comes to conserving native biodiversity. Historically, the nursery industry has too often promoted exotic species over natives, and unwittingly has introduced many harmful exotic diseases (e.g., Dutch Elms Disease, Chestnut Blight) and invasive species (e.g., European Buckthorn, Phragmites) that have significantly impacted our native species and natural ecosystems. An important aspect of biodiversity conservation now is to preserve local genetic biodiversity of native plants by collecting seed from wild populations and propagating new plants for restoration, landscaping and gardening. It is essential that we restore and maintain healthy native plant communities in our landscapes in order to preserve the natural biodiversity of our province and country. St Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre will continue to do our part as a leading biodiversity conservation organization in Ontario, tracking and monitoring native plant populations, and growing source-identified seed and plants for conservation. I am excited to announce our new initiative to develop a Native Species Conservation Network seed database for Ontario in 2017 which will allow us to better work with more conservation partners to achieve our biodiversity conservation goals. Biodiversity conservation is a big undertaking and we will require many partners to work with us to plant source-identified wild type native plants in their landscapes, workplaces, parks and gardens…let’s bring nature home.
Yours in conservation,
Allan Arthur, M.Sc.
President, Sr Ecologist
St Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre