The Muskakosi Natural Area was formerly known as the McDonagh Peatland. Prior to the residential and recreational development of the area, it was approximately 35 hectares in size. It’s characterised by its black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricina) tree community, and has the unusual feature of marl pools. An assessment in 1993 identified that the ecosystem is highly sensitive to any disturbance that would alter the hydrological conditions of the site.
The Muskakosi Natural Area as we know it today is split into two sections: the North section (5 ha in size) and the South section (7 ha in size). It has experienced a reduction in overland water and disruption of its natural drainage systems. As a result of these and other factors, the vegetation community is shifting to resemble that of a treed swamp rather than that of a peatland. This change in the vegetation community is known as a stand transition; it is characterized by a vegetative community changing in composition or structure. These transitions can be naturally occurring or assisted through human influence, and can often include an increase in tree decline. Sometimes vegetation community transitions can be predicted based on the current tree canopy and understory plant communities. In the case of the Muskakosi Natural Area, it is predicted that the decline of the black spruce tamarack dominated tree community will be replaced by a mixed tree community of balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), white spruce (Picea glauca), and black spruce.
Many of the dead trees in the Muskakosi Natural Area have not yet fallen; these trees are known as snags. All vegetation has ecological value, and snags provide numerous ecological benefits, one of them being refuge structures for wildlife. Even fallen trees play a vital role in the overall health of a natural ecosystem and provide benefits such as habitat for nesting wildlife and beneficial insects, nutrient cycling, decreases in erosion, carbon storage and soil moisture retention. The City’s Natural Area Operations team will assess an area to determine if there is an excessive build-up of woody debris contributing to a higher fire risk in the area. Some down trees may be removed, spread out, mulched or left in place based on the assessment.
There are things the community can do as well to help lower the buildup of debris and reduce the risk of fire in the stand. Disposing yard waste using the following options can help to keep our communities safe and natural areas healthy:
Use a home composter and turn that waste into compost for your plants!
Go bagless by leaving grass clippings on your lawn to naturally feed the soil and plants.
Set out your yard waste in clear plastic or double-ply paper bags for seasonal yard waste collection this fall.
Top up your food scraps (green) cart with yard waste.
Drop off excess yard waste for free at one of the City’s Eco Stations.
Even though the Muskakosi Natural Area is going through a lot of change right now, it is resilient. We all need to do our part to ensure the Muskakosi Natural Area remains healthy and thrives.
By The Natural Area Operations Unit, City of Edmonton
Lewis Estates Community League (LECL) was incorporated in 1993 as a society representing over 4,000 households.
We focus on taking steps to improve our offerings by enhancing programs, events, and further developing the parkland within our boundaries.