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Manitoba's Network of Protected Areas

Birch River Ecological Reserve

Birch River Map

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Birch River
Land Designation

Ecological reserves play a key role in Manitoba’s Protected Areas Initiative by protecting unique, rare and representative examples of plants, animals, geological features and ecosystems. They are the most protected of the provincially designated sites within Manitoba’s network of protected areas.

Landscape Description

The 183 hectare Birch River Ecological Reserve is located within Porcupine Provincial Forest, just two kilometres north of the community of Birch River, Manitoba. Situated on the eastern edge of Manitoba’s Western Upland Natural Region, this site contains a great diversity of vegetation, including several forest and wetland communities.

Outstanding Features

The Birch River Ecological Reserve has had a complex geological and glacial history. Situated near the base of the Porcupine Mountain Escarpment, the ecological reserve reflects this history through its rugged topography. The reserve’s complex physical environment enables it to support several diverse plant communities. The site includes parts of three beach lines formed by former Glacial Lake Agassiz. Two of the beach lines mark the eastern and western boundaries of the site. The beach lines support various forest communities: coniferous, deciduous, mixedwood or herb-shrub dominated.

Inter-beach depressions alternate with the beach lines and support distinctive, largely wetland communities, including bog lakes, intermittent lakes, sedge meadows, willow flats, floating bogs, treed muskeg, sparse mixedwood forest and open tamarack/black spruce forest. In some areas melt water from glaciers has created drainage streams.  McLure Creek forms the northern boundary of the site and Swede Creek is located below the site’s southern boundary.  When the site was inventoried in 1994, McLure Creek supported a mature White Elm (Ulmus americana ) dominated riverbottom forest, a forest community rarely found this far north.  In recent years the elms have been severely affected by Dutch Elm disease.  Swede Creek flows through a poorly drained area, with large scattered clumps of willows and a ground cover of sedges, grasses and forbs.

Several rare and uncommon species thrive within the ecological reserve.  Seventeen orchid species call this site home, representing over 40% of Manitoba’s orchid flora.  The site supports at least six plants considered rare in Manitoba: the Large-leaved White Violet (Viola incognita), Marsh Bedstraw (Galium palustre), Adder’s Mouth Orchid (Malaxis monophyllos), Bog Adder’s Mouth Orchid (Malaxis paludosa), Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) and Slender Beak Rush (Rhyncospora capillacea).

The Birch River area also supports a diverse and noteworthy small-mammal population.  Two significant species include one of the northernmost records for the Dusky Shrew (Sorex monticolus), and a high preponderance of black Northern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys talpoides)
at the northern limit of the mammal’s range.  Several large-mammals are also known to be in the area, including coyotes, moose, elk, black bears and timber wolves.  Sandhill Cranes have also been observed nesting in the region.

The Birch River Ecological Reserve will be maintained for the preservation and protection of the biodiversity which it contains.  Passive visits on foot will be allowed without a permit.  All other activities will require prior approval.