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Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, Canada

The Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve is situated in south-eastern Ontario at the intersection of terrestrial and riverine ecosystems. The area comprises islands and islets of the Saint Lawrence River, which function as important stepping stones for the migration of plants and animals. The Frontenac Arch is an important land bridge linking the habitats of the Algonquin and Adirondack Park regions. 

Designation date: 2002


Regional network:  EuroMab

Ecosystem-based network: Mountains




    Surface : 220,973 ha

    • Core area(s): 5,073 ha
    • Buffer zone(s): 15,900 ha
    • Transition zone(s): 200,000 ha

    Location: 44°30’03”N – 76°14’26”W

    Administrative Authorities

    Garry Blake Clark
    Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve Network
    19 Reynolds Road
    Lansdowne, Ontario, K0E 1LO CANADA

    Tel.: +1- 613-342-2544

    Email: and

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    Ecological Characteristics

    The Frontenac Arch is the name given to an ancient ridge of granite that sweeps across the Saint Lawrence River forming a corridor between the Canadian Shield and the Adirondack Mountains. Where the ridge intersects with the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River it forms the Thousand Islands. 

    The topography of the biosphere reserve is rugged, consisting of steep, rocky slopes and ridges, typical of the Precambrian Shield. These alternate with moist forest or wetland valleys inland, and rocky promontories in the Saint Lawrence River known as the Thousand Islands. 

    First Nations call the Frontenac Arch the ‘backbone of the mother’– Mother Nature’s spinal column. Five separate forest regions meet at the crossroads of the Frontenac Arch and the Saint Lawrence River, creating a rich ecosystem of plant, insect and animal species, renowned as the most biodiverse region in Canada. It has a long and rich cultural heritage and serves as the gateway through which the Saint Lawrence River flows into Canada.

    Characteristic species of the area include the pitch pine (Pinus rigada), the black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsolete) – Canada’s largest reptile and a threatened species, the least bittern heron (Ixobrychus exilis) – the smallest member of the heron family and listed as a species of special concern, the great blue heron (Ardea Herodias), the osprey (Pandion haliaetus), the common loon (Gavia immer), the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and the pine warbler (Dendroica pinus).

    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    The main traditional industry in the inland part of the biosphere reserve is agriculture. Other main economic activities include fishing, forestry and mining. Water-oriented recreation and tourism are major economic sectors in shoreline communities along the Saint Lawrence River, the Rideau Canal and Charleston Lake. 

    The Thousand Islands, the Frontenac Arch region and the Saint Lawrence River have a long history of human habitation. Archaeological sites found in the Thousand Islands indicate that people visited the area as early as 7,000 years ago, and that Laurentian and Point Peninsula cultures used the area as hunting and fishing grounds.



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    Last updated: October 2018