Stoco Karst Forest. Photo by Eli Drummond/NCC staff.

Stoco Karst Forest. Photo by Eli Drummond/NCC staff.

Globally rare alvar ecosystems protected in the Napanee Plain

September 21, 2023
Tweed, ON


New nature reserve provides critical habitat for wide ranging species

Protected conservation lands in the limestone landscape of the Napanee Plain just got a bit bigger. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), with the support of government partners and private donors, has now permanently protected a large natural property near Stoco Fen, a significant wetland located near Tweed. This project expands the organization’s conservation efforts in eastern Ontario.  

Encompassing 81 hectares of forest, wetland and rocky habitat, the Stoco Karst Forest nature reserve is in the Napanee Plain, a unique landscape where limestone lies close to the surface and water slowly erodes limestone underground. On the surface, this supports rare, sparsely vegetated habitats known as alvars. Below ground, the water creates caves, crevices and unique landforms that are known as karst. Due to these tough conditions, alvars are home to distinctive species that have adapted to life on alvars. The new nature reserve protects both these types of features and builds on and creates a buffer for nearby Stoco Fen Provincial Park, a 350-hectare nature reserve class Provincial Park.  

The protection of the new NCC nature reserve provides habitat for interesting plant and wildlife species. It also connects with a large intact forested area, sustaining wide-ranging mammals such as black bear, moose and bobcat which require large expanses of habitat, as well as many species of birds.  

Protected areas also provide important ecosystem services for communities. The alvars, forests and wetlands within the Stoco Karst Forest nature reserve and the neighbouring provincial park provide flood regulation and water purification services for downstream communities such as Belleville, while the forests store carbon from the atmosphere and filter the air we breathe. 

This project was made possible by the Government of Ontario through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership program and the Government of Canada through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. Numerous private donors across Ontario who support the work of NCC also contributed to the protection of this land. 

This project showcases how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing people and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation. 

With development pressures on the rise, it is critical to advance conservation in the areas where nature needs us most.  

In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. When nature thrives, we all thrive.


“Stoco Fen’s rocky limestone landscapes, wetlands, and forests make this unique habitat home to a diverse range of rare and wide-ranging species. The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work in conserving this area helps to protect these habitats from land use change, which also allows them to keep absorbing and storing carbon, regulate flooding, and purify water in nearby eastern Ontario communities. Supported by the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, this project is an important step toward Canada’s efforts to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050, while also benefitting biodiversity and contributing to job creation in the green economy.”  – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change  

“Protecting natural areas, including this property that borders Stoco Fen Provincial Park, is a shared responsibility that we all play a role in supporting. I’m proud of the work we’ve done alongside the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners, including private landowners, to safeguard natural areas and protect our province’s vital resources. Our collaborative efforts make it possible to preserve more ecologically important natural areas, conserve the province’s natural diversity and promote healthy spaces for generations to come.” – The Honourable David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks  

“Private landowners approached NCC with a vision of having this property permanently protected and they worked with us to make this conservation project happen. We are grateful for their cooperation, and we are looking forward to caring for this beautiful property alongside the provincially protected Stoco Fen Provincial Park.” – Mark Stabb, Program Director – Central Ontario-East, Ontario Region, Nature Conservancy of Canada  


  • Conserving this new nature reserve near Stoco Fen protects the fragile alvar and karst ecosystems in the area, as well as wildlife species that require forest interior habitat or ‘deep woods’ conditions.  

  • The protection of Stoco Fen provides a buffer to the protected lands in the 350-hectare Stoco Fen Provincial Park, which NCC previously helped to build.  

  • NCC has been working in the Napanee Plain landscape for more than 30 years and has helped conserve almost 1,250 hectares of ecologically significant habitat. This includes securing the lands that are now part of the 914-hectare Menzel Centennial Provincial Park.  

  • The Napanee Plain lies in the Land Between corridor is where the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence lowlands eco-regions transitions to the Canadian Shield. This region is very high in biodiversity and provides some of the best habitat we have left in Ontario for many species at risk.  


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s most important natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) is a $1.4 billion, ten-year fund (2021–2031) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada to help conserve, restore, and enhance the management of ecosystems such as wetlands, forests, and grasslands, in order to help tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The NSCSF will focus on three main objectives: (1) conserving carbon-rich ecosystems at high risk of conversion to other uses that would release their stored carbon; (2) improving land management practices to reduce their greenhouse gas emission-causing impacts on Canada’s ecosystems; and (3) restoring degraded ecosystems. Overall, these projects will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration, while also providing benefits for biodiversity and human well-being.

Ontario’s Greenlands Conservation Partnership helps conserve ecologically important natural areas and protect wetlands, grasslands and forests that help mitigate the effects of climate change. Through the Greenlands Conservation Partnership, a total of $38 million has been invested to date by the Ontario Government. Additional match funds are raised from other sources, such as individual donations and foundation support through NCC and the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, and other levels of government.

For photos and video, click here.

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Brianne Curry
Communications Manager, Ontario
C: 519-520-1340

Andrew Holland
National Media Relations Director
Nature Conservancy of Canada
C: (506) 260-0469

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