Gull Lake Wetlands Botanical Survey
Final Report
November 1999

Prepared For:  Manitoba Hydro

Prepared By:  Bud Ewacha
Native Orchid Conservation Inc.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dr. Karen Johnson, Gloria Keleher, Laura Reeves and Gerry Oliver for their generosity in lending their professional expertise to this project.  I am especially grateful to Dr. Johnson for her comments and suggestions.  Special thanks to Doris Ames for her help with the survey and preparation of this report.

Any errors in this report are strictly the responsibility of the author.

Bud Ewacha
President
Native Orchid Conservation Inc.
35 St. Michael Road
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R2M 2K7
 

Introduction

This report is intended to present the information compiled so far by Native Orchid Conservation Inc. on the native flora of the Gull lake Wetlands.  It also includes a brief description of the wetlands and recommendations for their ongoing management.

Location

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.  A very unusual area, it was first known as the Scanterbury Bog.  Scanterbury was a tiny siding on the railroad between East Selkirk and Beaconia (where the railway turns east to Stead and then north to Pine Falls).  The southern portion of the wetland is bisected by Highway 59; the main remaining wetlands are just west of Highway 59, north of the junction with secondary highway 219 to Stead.  Dr. Karen Johnson has said that these wetlands have more rare and unusual plants, including rare orchids and carnivorous plants, than any other known site in Manitoba.

Description of the Area

The Gull Lake Wetlands are a topographically confined raised bog, with some central ponds and marginal wet troughs (flarks) and a marginal fen.  (See aerial photographs - Appendix 1).  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.

Once there were hundreds of filled ponds in the wetland but since the construction of Highway 59 through the area, only about 15% of the ponds still have water in them.  Some feeder streams were cut off by the construction but 10 are still active, two of them still keeping some of the ponds supplied with water.  Use of a well in the nearby gravel pit may also have damaged some of these streams by drawing down the water table.  Two locations show indications that streams were once present, with one of them having water coming out of it at present.  A more thorough investigation needs to be done on the sources of the water supply for these wetlands.
 

Botanical Survey Results

We have 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 tabulated in Appendix-2.

Recommendations

Our recommendations for the management of this very special area, based on observations made during this botanical survey, are:

  1. 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.  Please see accompanying letters from Dr. Jennifer Shay, Dr. Eva Pip and Dr. Karen Johnson in Appendix 3.  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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.
     

Bibliography

Budd, A. C.   1987   Budd's Flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces.   Research Branch, Agriculture Canada Publication 1662.

Jones, Geoff B., Jason Greenall and Elizabeth Punter   1999   A Preliminary Vegetation Survey of the Gull Lake Wetland Areas Report No. 99-04.   Terrestrial Quality Management Section, Manitoba Department of the Environment, Winnipeg

Johnson, Karen L.   1986   Rare Plant Alert! An Orchid List for Manitoba.   Manitoba Naturalists Society Bulletin 11(9):13.

Petrie, W.   1981   Guide to Orchids of North America.   Hancock House, Vancouver

Scoggan, H.J.   1978   The Flora of Canada.   National Museum of Natural Sciences, Publications in Botany, NO. 1 (1-4) National Museums of Canada. Ottawa, ON 4 vols.

White, D. J. and Karen Johnson   1980   The Rare Vascular Plants of Manitoba.   Syllogeus 27, National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.


Appendices

Appendix-1 is not available on this website.

Appendix-2 - Index to Gull Lake Species.

Appendix-3 is not available on this website.