Heather lake Ecological Reserve ER #87

Posted March 25, 1990 | Categories : 87,Reports,Species List |

ORIGINAL PURPOSE To protect representative trembling aspen stands and associated vegetation  and fauna within the Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone

Physical: The reserve encompasses an elongate, well-drained, northwest-southeast trending
ridge with a low, rounded summit. The ridge lies at the eastern edge of the floor of
the Rocky Mountain Trench, a structurally controlled valley with considerable
glacial drift on its floor. Two small lance-shaped lakes separated by narrows, and
their inflow stream, mark the east boundary. These drain via a creek around the
north end of the ridge and westward to Williston Lake. These are virtually the only
aquatic/wetland habitats in the reserve. Numerous lakes lie on the trench floor just
west of the reserve; the Misinchinka Ranges of the Rockies rise to the east.

The feature of major interest is a fairly extensive, mature stand of trembling aspen
with a dense, diverse understory of shrubs. This is a productive site for aspen
growth compared to others in the region. White spruce also occurs, in some places
as a dominant and in others as a sub-dominant, in the aspen woods. Juvenile
spruces occur in much of the aspen forest and, in the absence of fire, this species
will probably become dominant over much of the area.

Only two communities have been described here to date. Typical aspen woods
have a shrub layer characterized by Douglas maple and birch-leaved spirea, and
herbaceous cover characterized by prince’s pine and rattlesnake-plantain. Other
common shrubs are Sitka alder, highbush-cranberry, red-osier dogwood, and red
elderberry. In white spruce stands, black huckleberry is the typical shrub while
queen’s cup, bunchberry, and red-stemmed feather moss characterize the ground
cover. Forest cover maps indicate that lodgepole pine stands also occur. Other
trees present include Subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, paper birch and balsam

The fauna of the reserve has not been surveyed but this habitat type provides high
quality winter range for moose. Aspen woodlands usually support a high diversity
and abundance of small mammals and songbirds. Arctic grayling are reported to
occur in the two lakes in the reserve.
Threat: Climate Change:
The biodiversity of these aspen woodlands may change due to climate changes . Altered climatic conditions, such as warmer temperatures and drier soils, will
favour some species, resulting in a shift in community composition.
alder, Sitka (Alnus viridis ssp. sinuata)
aspen, trembling (Populus tremuloides)
birch, paper (Betula papyrifera)
bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
dogwood, red-osier (Cornus stolonifera)
elderberry, red (Sambucus racemosa)
fir, subalpine (Abies lasiocarpa var lasiocarpa)
highbush-cranberry (Viburnum edule)
huckleberry, black (Vaccinium membranaceum)
maple, Douglas (Acer glabrumvar. glabrum)
moss, red-stemmed feather (Pleurozium schreberi)
pine, lodgepole (Pinus contorta var latifolia)
poplar, balsam ( Populus balsamifera ssp. balsamifera)
prince’s pine (Chimaphila umbellata ssp. occidentalis)
queen’s cup (Clintonia uniflora)
rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia)
spirea, birch-leaved (Spiraea betulifolia ssp. lucida)
spruce, Engelmann (Picea engelmannii)
spruce, white (Picea glauca)
Grayling, Arctic (Thymallus arcticus)
Moose (Alces americanus