The Gull Lake Wetlands 50° 25' N 96° 31' W, is located near the southeast corner of Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is immediately northeast of the Brokenhead First Nations Reserve. This area was formerly known as the Scanterbury Bog.
The Gull Lake Wetlands are a topographically confined raised bog, with some central ponds and marginal wet troughs (flarks) and a marginal fen. A fen is a kind of peatland characterized by a high water table with slow internal drainage by seepage down very gradual slopes. This slow moving ground water is enriched by nutrients from upslope materials and thus fens are more mineral rich and less acid than bogs. The pH of the groundwater in this fen is approximately 7.0 to 7.5. Section 34 Township 16 Range 7E comprises the biggest part of the fen and is the most interesting from a botanical perspective. The vegetation has a high proportion of sedges along with many other rare and interesting plants.
Dr.Karen Johnson, Curator of Botany at the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature has said that these wetlands have more rare and unusual plants including rare orchids and carnivorous plants than any known.
Native Orchid Conservation Inc. has conducted a botanical survey of the area during 1998 and 1999 as part of a research project funded by Manitoba Hydro. We collected 350 plant species in the wetlands, including 28 species of native orchids. As well, eight species of insectivorous plants, including the rare Oblong-leaved and Linear-leaved Sundews and Horned Bladderwort, occur here. Twenty-three species of rare plants have thus far been discovered in this fen. One of these, the Bog Adder's Mouth Orchid, is rare in Canada. A complete index to species found at Gull Lake is contained in our final report available from Bud Ewacha.
The calcareous fen that makes up part of the Gull Lake Wetlands is a rarity in itself. It is one of only a handful left in North America. Because of this, we cannot confine our efforts to counting and studying the unusual plants that grow there. We must make people aware of the unique character of this fen so that they will help us to protect it. The Gull Lake Wetlands needs to be permanently protected from drainage and resource harvesting. Our recommendations are as follows:
All plans to pump water from this wetland into Gull Lake or to affect its hydrology in any way should be shelved until more details of the hydrology, water chemistry and plant and animal life of the area are complete. Changes in its hydrology would almost certainly have a negative effect on both the rare and native flora and possibly the fauna located there. Following these studies, any decisions about the area's future should be made only after consulting people who have extensive experience with these kinds of unusually rich calcareous wetland ecosystems. As well, the Brokenhead First Nation, because of their close proximity, should be consulted regarding any future plans for this area. The Gull Lake Wetlands should be considered a prime candidate for a managed ecological reserve. If we want the rare carnivorous plants, sedges and orchids and the rare butterflies that pollinate them to be around in 100 years for future generations to enjoy and learn from, we must manage plant succession in the area to some degree. This can only be done if the area is set aside in a protected category which allows ongoing research and management by qualified individuals. A series of boardwalks should be built to allow students, researchers and the public to explore the area without damaging the wetlands or the plants within it.
If you would like to see this unique area for yourself, or if you would like to help us preserve this area please contact our president Doris Ames, 117 Morier Ave, Winnipeg MB R2M0C8, Telephone 204-947-9707.