Forest Hills pond

Hooray for peatlands

Island Nature Trust receives valuable carbon sink donation

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Island Nature Trust (INT) recently secured a significant carbon sink peatland in its largest single acquisition to date. Recognized for its high ecological value by the Minister of Environment & Climate Change Canada, the parcel of land will now be protected forever thanks to an Ecological Gift donation from Carl Hansen and Dan MacIsaac.

Forest Hill is an ecological treasure trove, providing benefits to both Islanders and wildlife. The Hansen-MacIsaac Natural Area is a relatively untouched area of eastern PEI and it is the single largest land parcel secured by the Trust in its 41 year history.

The peatlands that constitute nearly half of the 337 acre property serve the Island community through continued carbon sequestration, groundwater and cold water springs protection. Although they only occupy three percent of the global land area, peatlands contain about 25 percent of global soil carbon—twice as much as the world’s forests. Acting as a natural carbon sink, they absorb 150–250 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year worldwide. In a province that has experienced a loss of almost 1200 acres of peatland due to mining, protecting this vital ecosystem service area in perpetuity will mitigate the effects of climate change and directly benefit Islanders for generations to come.

Forest Hill is notable for its intact and contiguous lowland forest blocks, which are rare for PEI. Recognized as a Priority Place for biodiversity and species-at-risk in PEI, the forested wetland is home to migratory songbirds, such as the Ruby-throated kinglet and palm warbler. Three species of frog (wood frog, northern leopard frog and spring peeper), beaver lodges, muskrat dens, coyote scat, and ruffed grouse have all been observed at the site.

In addition, Forest Hill has added ecological value because of its connectivity to other protected lands. Near Greenwich, PEI National Park, it is also bounded to the south by the Forest Hill Natural Area and to the north by the River Wetlands Wildlife Management Area, both owned by the Province.

To the south, the provincial Forest Hill Natural Area supports walking and horse-riding trails that help Islanders connect to their environmental heritage in an immersive way. INT will honour the donors’ wishes to see a loop trail addition to this network using the existing woods road that enters and exits onto MacSwain Rd. The woods road follows the highest elevations on the property where Islanders can experience the natural beauty of the forest without impacting the natural spaces.