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Beamer Memorial Conservation Area-An Environmental Inventory

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 2414 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 Beamer Memorial Conservation Area covers 50 hectares of Niagara Escarpment and mature wood lot in Grimsby, Ontario. The land is owned and operated by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and is available to the public for recreational use including winter activities; hiking the Lookout trails and part of the Bruce trail; and birding (NPCA, 2018). It is internationally recognised by BirdLife International as an “Important Bird Area” and is the site of the annual spring hawk migration (IBA, 2018). As part of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, it is one of the most extensive escarpment forests in the Niagara Region and is well known for its breathtaking views of Lake Ontario, the escarpment ridges and 40 mile creek including an upper and lower waterfall. 

Field Survey Information

A 20 hectare portion was chosen for this Environmental Inventory (Figure 1).

Date     Time  Weather  

Saturday 6th October   2pm  18°C, light rain, humid, no wind

Monday 8th October   6pm  12°C, humid, slight breeze

Sunday 14th October  1pm  14°C, overcast, dry, slight breeze

Monday 15th October   6pm    6°C, overcast, dry, windy

Thursday 19th October 6pm    5°C, overcast, dry, slight breeze

Biotic Components

Community 1

  This area is located in the lower quadrant below the escarpment. The entrance to the Bruce Trail starts where the town and residential streets end at the northernmost point and leads into a full canopy dominated by mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and Black Walnut (Juglans nigra). The ground cover nearest the escarpment face consists of new young trees, various ferns, fallen red, orange and brown leafs, a few fallen trees some with fungi growing on the remaining bark and fallen rocks with crustose lichens. Protruding roots run across the natural trail from west to east towards 40 mile creek. No wildlife was noted in this area.  

Community 2

This area runs up the side of the escarpment via manmade wooden stairs (Figure 2). Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is growing out of the escarpment cliff face and crustose lichen was seen on a large number of the rocks. Decaying trees and leafs covered the lower ground whilst wildflowers Azure Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Golden Rod (Solidago canadensis) and various wild grasses grew up the side of the stairs between the wood and the rocks. No wildlife was noted in this area.

Community 3

This area is a flat surface that runs along the top of the escarpment. Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is growing out of the side of the rocks along the length of the steep cliff edge. Some rocks are moss covered whilst others have some short grasses or plantain (Plantago major) growing between them.  The trail is of natural surface with roots growing across it towards the cliff edge. Similar to Quadrant 1, there is a full canopy dominated by mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). One small area stood out as the canopy opened up to a view of the sky and the ground was covered with what could possibly be invasive Periwinkle (Vinca minor) (Figure 3). I would like to further investigate the identification of this species. Two (2) chipmunks (Tamias) played in the fallen leafs and some birds chirped but I could not see them. I observed a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight at the north side of the escarpment on the first occasion and on the third visit, I observed a kettle of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) catching thermal updrafts high above the escarpment edge. Each time I visited this quadrant, I met between two (2)-six (6) humans (Homo sapiens) and three (3) domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris).

Community 4

This area is partly wooded along the trail to an open birding area which is surrounded mostly by mature Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). Many Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) border a manicured common grassy area surrounding the hawk watchtower. Three (3) Crab apple (Malus) trees are present on the south side of this area. Two (2) Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), four (4) American robins (Turdus migratorius) and seven (7) sparrows (Passer) were observed on the first visit. A gravel trail through an area of wildflowers, wild grasses and Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) leads to an old abandoned quarry on the northern most edge of the escarpment. The border of the old quarry is lined with Eastern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) and White Birch (Betula papyrifera) with wildflowers and grasses growing up between the fractured rocks. In the centre of the old quarry is an isolated patch of Common Cattail (Typha latifolia). On the second visit the sound of frogs and song birds echoed throughout the old quarry however I was not able to see the wildlife that I could so clearly hear. No other wildlife was noted in this quadrant on the other occasions. 

Abiotic Components

This area of the Niagara Escarpment was created 250 million years ago when the seas of the Michigan Basin dried up (Bruce Trail, 2018). Since then compaction of sediments and erosion of the various rock layers including; Queenston Shale; mixed beds of sandstone, shale, limestone and dolostone; and Lockport-Amabel Dolostone have formed the current geological features (GC.CA, 2018). The upper and lower waterfalls create a path through the rocks in the form of the 40 mile creek which runs through the east side of the survey site and eventually feeds into Lake Ontario. The upper areas of the escarpment gently slope towards the vertical cliff face. The lower areas of the escarpment gently slope towards the creek allowing for a well-drained soil base throughout both areas. Shallow dry soils were noted with up to 100cm of soil over mainly dolostone bedrock (GC.CA, 2018). Decaying leafs and branches together with freshly fallen leafs were laid on top of the soil. Many small fossils were observed in the fallen rocks as well as on the escarpment rock face.  The creek was made up of majority large boulders with smaller boulders nestled in between. Water flow varied throughout the length of the creek with some pooled water observed on flattened rocks. Remnants of a circa 1900 quarry is present at the north side of quadrant 4.     

Man-made drainage surrounds the birding area and drainage pipes run down along the side of the wooden stairs connecting the upper and lower areas of the escarpment. 

The topography of the area creates a microclimate with the 20m high cliffs of the escarpment situated at the narrowest distance to Lake Ontario. The occasion northerly winds allows for strong updrafts to occur (IBA, 2018).  

The average temperature recorded over the five (5) survey visits is consistent with the historical daily average temperature of 11°C recorded from 1981-2010 (GC.CA, 2018). 

Aspect of the Biotic/Abiotic Inventory Connections

 Situated at the end of Grimsby town, an increasingly high populated area and only a short distance away from the Queen Elizabeth highway, this section of the escarpment is well used by humans for recreational purposes. This is a significant area for water discharge of the 40 mile creek as well as a very important corridor of a variety of old growth and interior forest as observed including Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) and Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), shrubs and ferns which provide undisturbed habitats and food supplies for the wildlife living there. The special microclimate allows for certain species to exist and continue to thrive including the average 14,000 raptors recorded as passing over this area each spring between 1981 and 2000 (IBA, 2018). The Bruce Trail Conservancy, The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada all have vested interest in working towards stewardship of this land.

Cultural Components

 Beamer Memorial was once the site of a sawmill powered by water from the 40 mile creek (NPCA, 2018). Presently, it is famous for its breathtaking views where the northern most edge of the escarpment has been made accessible by gravel trails leading towards two (2) wheelchair accessible viewing platforms. Two (2) wooden memorial benches are situated at other open areas of the eastern edge to view the escarpment ridges and take rest from climbing the steep wooden stairs. The hawk watchtower is situated in the middle of a manicured lawn area, it is a tall steel observation tower with a wooden floor accommodating approximately 10 people. Two (2) wooden benches and two (2) wooden tables are situated near the tower. A gravel trail circles the manicured area of the tower and a washroom is situated close to the trailhead. Large boulders are placed at each trailhead entrance to prevent vehicle entry and a metal swing gate is situated at the parking lot entrance. The Bruce Trail has been left natural with roots and rocks protruding from it which runs along the top length of the escarpment cliff edge down to the bottom section towards the 40 mile creek. Wooden stairs connect the upper and lower sections. A fire pit was observed next to the old abandoned quarry but I believe this to have been made by the public as it appeared “unprofessionally” constructed. Three (3) information boards are located at the trailheads providing details on the geology and ecology of the area. Pictures and facts about certain bird species are provided for visitors to identify possibly sightings. 


 Beamer Memorial Conservation Area has a sense of wonder historically, geologically, ecologically and socially, it has so much to offer in many different ways. Its recognition as a Biosphere Reserve and Important Bird Area brings visitors from around the world to enjoy. This also means it is currently well protected by a number of different authorities each having their own priority for conservation efforts. This survey shows biodiversity within the area and currently little threat from human activity but it is important for the authorities involved in protecting it to continue to maintain its ecological health for all to benefit.      

Figure 1.

Sketch Map




Figure 2.

Wooden stairs connecting upper and lower escarpment.


Figure 3.

Open area with Periwinkle (Vinca minor).



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