Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

August 01, 2007

Book Takes Readers on Trip to Ancient Cliff-Face Forest

For the first time, people can visit Canada's most ancient forest without leaving the comfort of their home, courtesy of a new book by two University of Guelph researchers.

The Last Stand: A Journey Through the Ancient Cliff-Face Forest of the Niagara Escarpment was written by local author and photographer Peter Kelly, a U of G research associate, and Guelph integrative biology professor Doug Larson.

The book brings people into a vertical world previously experienced by few others. It explores an ancient forest of spectacular gnarled and stunted cedar trees that have been growing for thousands of years on the vertical rock faces of the Niagara Escarpment, a 735-kilometre-long series of cliffs that crisscross southern Ontario from Niagara Falls to the Bruce Peninsula.

“There is nothing like it in Canada,” said Kelly, a member of U of G’s Cliff Ecology Research Group. “These cedar trees have been living on these cliffs for over 1,000 years, including two trees that sprouted from seed before the year 700 AD.”

The trees survive in one of the few remaining natural corridors in Ontario despite intense development pressures, said Larson. Close to seven million people live within 100 km of the Niagara Escarpment and its ancient trees.

“It’s such a cool story and a really exciting book,” he said. “The oldest of the living trees began life shortly after the death of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, and before Genghis Khan and the Viking colonization of North America.”

Helping to conserve this ancient forest through public awareness is the primary purpose of the book, said the authors. In the book’s foreword, Juno Award-winning musician and Niagara Escarpment activist Sarah Harmer makes a plea for the escarpment’s protection.

“Once people have a good look at these remarkable trees, it will be difficult to argue against their protection,” Kelly said.

The book profiles the unique attributes of the Niagara Escarpment and eastern white cedar, the only tree species capable of persisting on the vertical cliffs. It also explores the importance of white cedar to the native peoples of central Canada and the first European explorers and settlers.

The Last Stand includes vivid first-hand accounts and more than 70 colour photographs that bring the remarkable discovery of this ancient forest to life. It’s available from Natural Heritage Books/Dundurn Group of Toronto.

The idea for the book came out of the Niagara Escarpment Tree Atlas Project, which Kelly and Larson launched in the late 1990s with support from the Ivey Foundation, Global Forest Science and Ontario Parks.

** Note to media: photographs are available

Peter Kelly
U of G Cliff Ecology Research Group
519 824-4120, Ext. 52679 (work)
519 824-4965 (home)

Prof. Doug Larson
Department of Integrative Biology
519 824-4120, Ext. 52679

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338.

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