Meadow Restoration

Meadow Restoration
Along The Meadoway

Meadow restoration and habitat creation is currently ongoing at specific sites across The Meadoway during the spring, summer and fall.

Existing, previously restored meadows will be mowed to maintain plant diversity. Mowing mimics the natural processes that keep woody and invasive species from encroaching and out-competing meadow species while stimulating vegetation growth.

New meadow areas are also being restored!

During the spring and summer, areas are being tilled to prepare the soil and remove invasive species so they can be seeded with native wildflowers next year.

To ensure restoration success, adaptive management, monitoring and invasive species management is being carried out at all Meadoway restored sites.

SCARBOROUGH CENTRE BUTTERFLY TRAIL

The Scarborough Centre Butterfly Trail (SCBT) is located within the hydro corridor in the Highland Creek watershed  of Toronto.

The SCBT stretches from Thomson Memorial Park near McCowan Road and Lawrence Avenue East for 3.25 kilometers to Scarborough Golf Club Road.

local residents explore Scarborough Centre Butterfly Trail

The SCBT was a pilot revitalization project aimed at creating habitat for local wildlife, particularly butterflies and pollinators.

Prior to 2011, this 40-hectare section of The Meadoway was mowed up to eight times a year, and lacked both habitat and biodiversity.

Over a four-year period, from 2012 to 2016, the area was restored into a naturalized meadow habitat that also contains a paved multi-use trail.

Scarborough Centre Butterfly Trail community planting event

Today, the SCBT site contains a healthy native meadow community supporting a variety of butterflies, pollinators, birds and wildflowers species.

ABOUT MEADOW RESTORATION

What is a Meadow?

A meadow is defined under Ontario’s Ecological Land Classification  as a community dominated by grasses and herbaceous plants, with tree and shrub cover of 25% or less. Meadow communities are shaped over time by patterns of natural or human disturbances such as cycles of fire, drought, soil scarification or mowing.

wildflowers in meadow

Meadow Ecosystems in the GTA

In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), meadows are often transitional communities, dominated by grasses, forbs and other non-woody plants.

Meadows support plants that use surface water and/or shallow ground water. Meadow plants can survive with limited water because they have very deep root systems — over two metres — tapping into ground water that shallow-rooted grasses and turf cannot reach.

These root systems, along with the tight-knit growth structure of meadow plants, help to make meadows resistant to non-native and invasive species.

meadow plants and their root systems

Meadow plants and their root systems.
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Meadows are habitat for important ecological communities. The Meadoway will serve as year-round habitat for some species, while providing a migrating corridor for others passing through, as they fuel up for their journey to warmer over-wintering regions.

Examples include:

  • The monarch butterfly and milkweed plant are both supported by meadows. These two species have a symbiotic relationship: milkweed plants rely on pollinators such as the monarch to enable fertilization and the production of seeds; the monarch, meanwhile, lays its eggs on the milkweed plant and the young caterpillars that later emerge eat the leaves.
  • Bird species, such as Savannah sparrows and goldfinches, find food, shelter and nesting habitat all within a meadow.
monarch butterfly
Savannah sparrow

Why Restore Meadows?

Meadow habitats have been in decline throughout Ontario due to the expansion of urban areas, the intensification of agriculture, and the suppression of natural disturbances such as fire.

The loss of meadow habitat has led to the decline of food sources, migratory staging areas, and overwintering or nesting areas for a number of bird and pollinator species, and is the reason why a number of native plant and animal species have been listed under the Endangered Species Act, 2007.

Meadow restoration promotes the return of native bird and pollinator species to the area, with beneficial impacts on local communities, wildlife, regional biodiversity and climate change mitigation.

red-winged blackbird in meadow

Restoring The Meadoway will create a vibrant landscape delivering benefits such as:

  • Increased ecosystem resilience and biodiversity
  • Support of pollinator services and pest control
  • Improved wildlife habitat and enhanced natural corridors
  • Increased water infiltration and ground water recharge, which will help to reduce soil erosion and compaction
  • Reduced maintenance costs and related emissions
  • Reduced pollution through air filtration
  • Facilitation of recreational and community activities that support active and healthy lifestyles

Growing a Meadow

Meadows are great for naturalizing areas where existing infrastructure may not allow for woody trees and shrubs.

The process of meadow restoration will vary depending on existing conditions such as soils, invasive species and land use. The site can be seeded with a native wildflower and grass mix chosen to match soil moisture content and texture.

wildflowers in meadow

In some cases, berry or nut-producing shrubs may be planted to increase the variety of habitat and food within the meadow.

Additional habitat features such as downed woody debris, snake hibernacula and nest boxes (pictured below) can also be installed to increase habitat opportunities.

nest box in meadow

In the absence of natural disturbance, meadows will typically succeed into forest communities.

To ensure native seed establishment and promote biodiversity, meadow restoration projects require a maintenance regime that is appropriate to the site and project objectives.

Invasive Species

Invasive species are non-native species (introduced or alien species) that invade and disrupt the ecosystems they colonize. Because they typically grow and spread quickly, invasive species pose a threat to biodiversity by outpacing or out-competing native species.

Specific invasive species found along The Meadoway include garlic mustard (pictured below), dog-strangling vine and Japanese knotweed.

garlic mustard

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) follows best management practices for invasive species and is constantly updating the adaptive management approach for controlling and monitoring these species within restored areas of The Meadoway.

You can do your part to help manage invasive species by applying best management practices in your own backyard. FIND OUT MORE.