Clyde Fen Candidate Natural Area
by Derek Johnson
The Clyde Fen Candidate Natural Area is located in the Dry Mixedwood Boreal Forest Natural Region, approximately 8 km NE of Clyde, or 7.5 km E of Highway 2 along the Bouchard Lake Road. The natural area encompasses parts of three quarter sections of land (SW 15, NE 16 and SW 27 of T60 R24 W4). Much of the surrounding land has been cleared for agriculture. A large commercial sand pit is in operation east of the natural area. The most prominent feature of the area is Bouchard Lake, found in the northwestern corner of NE 16. The lake is almost completely surrounded by a sometimes floating band of tamarack, willow, sedges and brown mosses.
The candidate natural area was established in 1990 and the Alberta Native Plant Council has been the Volunteer Steward of the site since 1992. Annual inspections of the area are made in conjunction with ANPC field trips, usually on the last weekend in May as part of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists’ May Species Count.
The wettest parts of the area support a weekly patterned, treeless fen with alternating higher, drier strings of dwarf birch, sedge and golden moss, and lower, wetter flarks of sedges and brown mosses. The edges of the fen are dominated by tamarack, dwarf birch, bog bean and brown mosses. This grades into a black spruce – Labrador tea – golden moss / feathermoss forest as the soil moisture level drops. At higher and drier elevations, a few small areas of white spruce – aspen / balsam poplar forest can be found. There are also two sand ridges in the area with an open jack pine – northern rice grass forest. A checklist of the vascular plants of the Clyde Fen Natural Area has been prepared and is available from the Natural Resources Service of Alberta Environment in Edmonton (403) 427-5209.
Clyde Fen is important for a number of reasons. It supports the most southerly population of pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) in Alberta (less than 100 km from Edmonton). Other insectivorous plants found in the area include three species of sundew and three species of bladderwort. Bog adder’s mouth (Malaxis paludosa) also occurs in the area. This orchid is one of Alberta’s rarest native plants, currently known from only four other localities in the province, and it is considered to be one of the rarest orchids in North America. The area also supports old growth black spruce forest, with some of the trees approaching 200 years in age. There is also one species of lichen (Sphinctrina turbinata), the only known collection of which for Alberta comes from the natural area. This lichen has rarely been reported from west of Ontario and is considered an indicator of old-growth forest. The yellow-bellied flycatcher, a scarce bird in Alberta, has been recorded breeding in the area. Palm warblers also breed here in the black spruce – tamarack forest. A breeding colony of Bonaparte’s gulls occurs approximately 1.5 km west of the natural area.
Many groups are interested in the protection of the area because of its species richness, diversity of habitats, presence of rare plants, educational potential and proximity to a large urban area. However, there are a number of activities that could threaten the integrity of the natural area, such as: the disruption of the natural flow of water through the fen due to the surrounding agricultural activity; degradation of the natural area from increased ATV activity (some of this is already occurring along the established cutlines in the area); or the introduction of non-native species (currently there is a serious problem with common caragana from an abandoned farmstead invading the aspen – balsam poplar stand in the northeast corner of NE 16).
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