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Great Lakes Alvar Conservation Workshop

Great Lakes Program • 8 South Michigan Avenue • Chicago, Illinois 60603
Phone:  312.759.8017
FAX:  312.759.8409

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE				         	         Contact:  Heather Potter
June 18, 1998									    (312) 759-8017 x15


	On June 11-12, 1998 in Tobermory, Ontario, The Nature Conservancy’s Great
Lakes Program and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON) convened the
Great Lakes Alvar Conservation Workshop.  The workshop was the culmination
of the International Alvar Conservation Initiative, a three-year program
launched by the Great Lakes Program and FON to coordinate research and
conservation planning for alvars across the Great Lakes basin.  This
workshop was the first international gathering of North American scientists
and conservation specialists to promote the collaborative conservation of a
very rare and unusual type of natural area found in the Great Lakes basin
--- “alvar”. The International Alvar Conservation Initiative provides a
prime example of collaborative cross-border work for the protection of
shared biological priorities with Canadian and U.S. partners.
	The International Alvar Conservation Initiative consists of over forty
scientists and conservation specialists from throughout the Great Lakes.  It
has sponsored research on hydrology, nonvascular plants, invertebrates, and
the effects of fire, deer browsing and cattle grazing --- all of which will
be critical to guiding the effective management and conservation of
important alvar areas.
	Only recently have naturalists recognized alvar habitat as an exciting
aspect of natural history.  Known as nature’s own rock gardens, alvars are
globally rare ecosystems that occur on horizontal limestone or dolomite
bedrock where soils are very shallow or entirely absent.  These areas
undergo such extremes of climate that only the most tenacious and unusual
creatures and plants survive.  Imagine cycles of flooding and drought,
severe heat and cold.  The results are an odd and exciting convergence of
prairie and arctic plants, bonsai-style trees, ancient lichens, and species
of snails newly discovered to science.  When in full blossom, alvars
showcase flowers found nowhere else in the world except the Great Lakes
shores---including Pitcher’s Thistle, Dwarf Lake Iris, Houghton’s Goldenrod,
and Lakeside Daisy.
	Worldwide, alvars are found only in the basins of the Baltic Sea in
northern Europe and the Great Lakes in North America.  The word “alvar” is a
Scandinavian term that is now also used in North America to describe these
unusual limestone bedrock communities. Within the Great Lakes region, alvars
are found in Ontario, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.
	The international workshop included over 100 enthusiastic participants from
throughout the Great Lakes region, including representation from
universities; federal, provincial and state governments; nonprofit
conservation organizations, local land trusts; industry; and private
landowners.  The workshop provided an overview of alvars; summarized recent
alvar research findings and threats to these systems; highlighted a variety
of conservation strategies; discussed competing economic interests; and
identified actions at multiple levels to better conserve these globally
significant systems.
	The International Alvar Conservation Initiative and the Great Lakes Alvar
Conservation Workshop have been supported by grants from the Great Lakes
Protection Fund, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office.  Printed materials
about alvars, the Initiative’s work, and the outcomes of the workshop will
be available in early 1999.  For more information, contact The Nature
Conservancy’s Great Lakes Program at (312) 759-8017.


The Nature Conservancy is an international nonprofit conservation
organization whose mission is to preserve the plants, animals and natural
communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the
lands and waters they need to survive.  The Conservancy's Great Lakes
Program, with a coordinating office in Chicago, represents the collaborative
efforts of eight Conservancy state chapters (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois,
Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Central and Western New York),
two Conservancy regional offices (Midwest Regional and New York Regional)
and Canadian partner organizations in Ontario and Quebec that operate in the
Great Lakes region.  The Program seeks to transcend state, provincial and
international boundaries to preserve the unique biological wealth of a whole
ecological system --- the Great Lakes ecoregion.

Heather Potter
Conservation & Communications Coordinator
The Nature Conservancy's Great Lakes Program