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The Last Stand: A Journey Through the Ancient Cliff-Face Forest of the Niagara Escarpment [Paperback]

Peter E. Kelly , Doug Larson , Sarah Harmer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 39.95
Price: CDN$ 25.04 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

May 31 2007

The most ancient and least disturbed forest ecosystem in eastern North America clings to the vertical cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Prior to 1988 it had escaped detection even though the entire forest was in plain view and was being visited by thousands upon thousands of people every year. The reason no one had discovered the forest was that the trees were relatively small and lived on the vertical cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. The Last Stand reveals the complete account of the discovery of this ancient forest, of the miraculous properties of the trees forming this forest (eastern white cedar), and of what is was like for researchers to live, work and study within this forest. The unique story is told with text, with stunning colour photographs and through vivid first-hand accounts. This book will stand the test of time as a testament to science, imagination and discovery.


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Review

The most ancient and least disturbed forest ecosystem in eastern North America clings to the vertical cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Prior to 1988 it had escaped detection even though the entire forest was in plain view and was being visited by thousands upon thousands of people every year. The reason no one had discovered the forest was that the trees were relatively small and lived on the vertical cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. The Last Stand reveals the complete account of the discovery of this ancient forest, of the miraculous properties of the trees forming this forest (eastern white cedar), and of what is was like for researchers to live, work and study within this forest. The unique story is told with text, with stunning colour photographs and through vivid first-hand accounts. This book will stand the test of time as a testament to science, imagination and discovery.



I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's easy to read and provides a great review of the research completed by the Cliff Ecology Research Group.

(Lesley McDonell)

The Last Stand is a beautiful book, shot through with full colour, striking photographs of cliffs, cedars and those who discover them. It's an adventure story, a lesson in ecology and a close up look at the cliffs that surround us every day. After reading it, you will never again take that rampart of rock for granted.

(Andrew Armitage)

This is a fascinating book about the discovery of old-growth trees where they were least expected.

(Gloria Hildebrandt)

About the Author

Peter E. Kelly completed his M.Sc. at the University of Western Ontario before joining the Cliff Ecology Research Group in the Department of Botany at the University of Guelph. He has devoted the last fifteen years to studying the ecology of the old-growth cedar forests of the Niagara Escarpment. He is co-author, with Douglas W. Larson of Cliff Ecology, published in 2000 by Cambridge University Press.

Douglas W. Larson completed his Ph.D. at McMaster University and is currently a Professor of Botany at the University of Guelph. He founded the Cliff Ecology Research Group at the University as a vehicle for the studying of structure and function of the Niagara Escarpment cliff ecosystem. He has also taught ecology for over 25 years. He is co-author, with Peter E. Kelly of Cliff Ecology, published in 2000 by Cambridge University Press.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read July 6 2007
Format:Paperback
This book is a must read for anyone interested in ecology, Canadian heritage, geography, nature, history, science, and adventure. Author Peter Kelly provides the perfect mix all of all these things while he tells the story of how he discovered some of the oldest trees in Canada growing on the cliff faces of the Niagara Escarpment in Southern Ontario. Through the chapters you feel like you are right there with him, dangling from the cliffs, getting hissed at by turkey vultures, stung by bees, bit by ants and tangled in poison ivy. Furthermore, the full colour photos and detailed sketches of the ancient trees will blow you away and boggle your brain. This book is not only educational, but it is surprisingly funny, witty, inspiring and presents a strong case of why we should preserve and maintain our natural environment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Stand April 2 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent story of the ancient forest on the Niagra Escarpment. Amazing pictures. Written in a way that anyone can understand. Highly recommended for anyone who has a love of trees.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On The Last Stand June 1 2010
Format:Paperback
I am really pleased to own this book. I had known for some time that the cedars on the cliff faces of the Niagara Escarpment included some very old specimens, but I had no way to discern which of the trees I saw as I hiked the Bruce Trail would qualify as 'ancient'. This book includes an excellent photograph section.

The background writing (apart from one jarring typographical error in the foreword by Sarah Harmer) is easy reading and not pedantic. The anecdotes about how tricky it is to explore this forest are nicely interspersed with history and geology of the area.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You will fall in love with Eastern White Cedars Oct. 24 2009
By Suhail Zubaid AHMAD TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Although I have hiked a lot on various sections of Bruce Trail and other trails in the Niagara Escarpment, it never occured to me that this UN Biosphere Reserve has on its cliff-faces oldest Eatern White Cedars. The oldest, nicknamed 'The Ancient One' by the researcher and author Peter E. Kelley is 1,320 years old.

The book is on a species of tree that grows on faces of cliffs withstanding centuries of bombardment by severe natural elements like wind, ice, snow, hail, rain, and intense heat and cold. However, it is written in such a manner that it makes a pleasant reading for novices.

The book is very informative. It describes in a very easy to read manner the features of the Niagara Escarpment and the biological characteristic of the eatern white cedar, of its medicinal and other uses by first nation people and by the early settlers, the Cliff-Face Forest, comparison with the oldest trees found elsewhere in the world, adventures in discovering ancient living trees in the Escarpment, the technicalities of measuring tree age (scientific terminology: Dendrochronology) and of exploring them by rappling down from the cliff tops, and finally the details of the 10 oldest eastern white cedars in the Escarpment. The 10 oldest cedars have been creatively given characteristic names on the basis of their appearances like The Ghost, The Cliff Giant, The Bowspirit, The Alien, The Hunchback, The Snake, The Ancient One, etc.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Worthy of its Subject Sept. 17 2007
By Ronald M. Lanner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Anyone who knows the forests of eastern North America has to have a soft spot in her heart for the arborvitae, or northern white cedar (eastern white cedar to these Canadian authors). Its grace, its fragrance, the beauty of its ropy bark and foliar sprays, and the deep green that contrasts with the hardwoods it mingles with -- all set it apart as a conifer of special qualities. The Native Americans thought so, and used its foliage, its scent, and its ashes as cures for whatever ailed them. This evergreen species was never considered a long-lived tree. In its moist flatland habitats it seldom exceeds 400 years of age, and those trees are mostly long gone. But in the 1990s the authors of this stylishly-written book constituted the "Cliff Ecology Research Group", started dangling from ropes off the edge of cliffs of the 400-plus-mile-long Niagara Escarpment, and were bewildered to encounter dwarfed, contorted, stunted, kinky, and barely alive white cedars growing from cracks in the limestone cliff faces. No other trees shared this habitat. Not only were these trees present, they were also very old. Like up to and beyond a thousand years -- at maximum 1320 years right now in 2007. Working out of Ontario's Guelph University the authors and a band of grad students conducted serious and fruitful ecological and physiological research on the cedars that grew upwards, downwards, straight out, or in all combinations of these orientations, held in place only by the tenacity of their roots ramifying through cracks in the limestone. The story of this research is told here in a text that is often chatty, always straightforward, frequently humorous and sometimes sublime. For flavor, here is Peter Kelley describing a 1213-year-old cedar rooted in an incredibly narrow crack in the rock: "The entire root system of this cedar is therefore crammed into a space just a few millimetres wide but within a sprawling area of unknown extent stretching back and into the cliff face. Its root system is sandwiched between two massive blocks of dolomite like a treasured leaf pressed for safekeeping between the pages of a book." Now that is fine writing.

Mixed in with accounts of author Larson checking out cliff faces in Europe and the U.S., and discovering old cedars and other species older than the locals imagined, we are treated to Kelly's experiences with bees, ants, vulture chicks and poison-ivy while spinning out of control at the end of a tether. There is detailed information on Indian medicine and mythology regarding the cedar, nutrition and water conduction in the trees, and much more. Kelly's photos (70 in color!) and his exquisite sketches of numerous individuals rooted in the rock, as well as some archival photos, illustrate the book sumptuously. There are chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index. The only downside to reading this lovely book is learning that the vertical old-growth forest of cedars is endangered in places by the quarrying of limestone and the selfish behavior of rock climbers to whom a millenium-old tree may be just an impediment to their heroics.
This is a tree book to be savored.
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