A landscape assessment for the Ontario Mixedwood Plains: Terrestrial biodiversity of federal interest in the Mixedwood Plains ecozone of Ontario: 2015

Table of contents


Document information

About the Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service is responsible for wildlife matters that are related to species of federal concern. This includes protection and management of migratory birds as well as nationally significant wildlife habitat, endangered species, control of international trade in endangered species and applied science on wildlife issues of national importance.

For more information, contact:

Environment Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service
4905 Dufferin Street
Toronto ON  M3H 5T4
Tel.: 416-739-5829 
Email: Wildlife.Ontario@ec.gc.ca

Canadian Wildlife Service publications are available online at the following URL: [TBD]

May be cited as:
Environment Canada. 2014. Terrestrial Biodiversity of Federal Interest in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone of Ontario. Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario.

This report is based upon:
G. Bryan,i A. Hebb,ii K. Holmesi and D. Kraus.ii Federal Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone of Ontario. Unpublished. October 2011

i Canadian Wildlife Service, 4905 Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3H 5T4

ii Nature Conservancy of Canada, RR#5, 5420 Highway 6 North, Guelph, Ontario N1H 6J2

Information contained in this publication or product may be reproduced, in part or in whole, and by any means,
for personal or public non-commercial purposes, without charge or further permission, unless otherwise specified.

You are asked to:

  • Exercise due diligence in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced;
  • Indicate both the complete title of the materials reproduced, as well as the author organization; and
  • Indicate that the reproduction is a copy of an official work that is published by the Government of Canada and that
    the reproduction has not been produced in affiliation with or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.

Commercial reproduction and distribution is prohibited except with written permission from the Government
of Canada's copyright administrator, Public Works and Government Services of Canada (PWGSC).
For more information, please contact PWGSC at 613-996-6886 or at droitdauteur.copyright@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

Front cover photos: TBD


Executive summary

The purpose of the Terrestrial Biodiversity of Federal Interest in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone of Ontario report and accompanying maps is to identify landscapes or regions in the Ontario Mixedwood Plains Ecozone that have multiple and overlapping federal biodiversity elements, and to identify areas where conservation actions may have the greatest impact. Environment Canada is obligated to report, monitor, manage and conserve particular wildlife and habitat elements of terrestrial biodiversity under legislated mandates, policies and international agreements. These include the Species at Risk Act,the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, the Canada Wildlife Act, the Federal Policy on Wetland Conservation, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (i.e., the Ramsar convention)and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Collectively, these represent Environment Canada's terrestrial wildlife and habitat biodiversity portfolio. Multiple programs are in place to support these mandates, policies and agreements, such as supporting international designations (e.g., Ramsar sites), protecting key areas for birds (e.g., Migratory Bird Sanctuaries), facilitating conservation of key habitats (e.g., Ecological Gifts) and funding projects that protect and help recover species at risk (e.g., Habitat Stewardship Program).

This project provides information across the landscape at two resolutions: Tier 1 and Tier 2. The Tier 1 assessment looks at the biodiversity portfolio at the ecozone level, while Tier 2 assesses and maps the biodiversity portfolio at the level of physiographic region and breeding bird atlas grid squares. The mapping includes species at risk, wetlands, breeding birds and habitats for migratory birds. The relative importance of each physiographic region was assessed based on the terrestrial elements of biodiversity that exist within its boundary, and finer resolution maps for each physiographic region were produced to illustrate the distribution and abundance of priority migratory bird species and their potential stopover habitat.

By looking at how all the parts of its biodiversity portfolio are distributed across the landscape, Environment Canada is able to see the spatial distribution of its terrestrial wildlife and habitat mandate as a whole. The biodiversity elements vary in concentration and richness across the Ontario Mixedwood Plains, with a notable convergence of biodiversity along the Great Lakes coast and the Canadian Shield transition. Identifying physiographic regions with a high number of multiple and important biodiversity features--such as the Iroquois Plain, Napanee Plain, Erie Spits, Haldimand Clay Plain, St. Clair Clay Plains, Norfolk Sand Plain, Huron Fringe, Prince Edward Peninsula and Bruce Peninsula--enables Environment Canada to direct conservation efforts most efficiently. Many physiographic regions exhibit overlapping distributions of biodiversity elements, and managing resources and programs to respond to these patterns of biodiversity should result in a greater synergy of efforts and also maximize investments of time, resources and personnel. Conservation of important natural places--whether wild or cultivated--and the gaps between them allows programs and partners to work better together. 


1 Introduction

1.1 Background

The terrestrial biodiversity portfolio

Fourteen geospatial values were used to represent the biodiversity portfolio in the Mixedwood Plains. These values were chosen as representative of the biodiversity mandate but could also be measured using relatively comprehensive, accurate, reliable and complete data sources, such as the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario (Cadman et al. 2007), Canadian Wildlife Service bird surveys, and the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre.
The values used to measure biodiversity in the landscape were:

  1. SAR (species at risk) richness
  2. SAR count
  3. SAR irreplaceability
  4. Globally rare species locations
  5. Coastal wetland locations
  6. Colonial nesting waterbird locations
  7. Landbird stopover locations
  8. Shorebird stopover locations
  9. Waterfowl stopover locations
  10. Forest bird density
  11. Open-country bird density
  12. Shorebird density
  13. Waterbird density
  14. Waterfowl density

Each value was weighted equally.

Biodiversity conservation often requires the identification of priority areas so that limited resources may be most effectively allocated (Margules and Pressey 2000). Approaches such as mapping concentrations of biodiversity, or "hot-spots," has been used to direct the allocation of conservation resources, allowing society to "protect the most species per dollar invested" (Myers et al. 2000). The Australian government, for example, has identified 15 national biodiversity hot-spots--based on ecosystems, endemic species and threats--to focus conservation effort and awareness (Australian Government 2006). Similarly, South Africa developed a program to identify and fund local conservation planning and action within Key Biodiversity Areas (Knight et al. 2007). These approaches are part of a movement toward applying a landscape/ecosystem approach to conservation.

Through its landscape assessment and planning function, Environment Canada is developing its own landscape/ecosystem approach to conservation based on its mandate areas. Various pilot projects are being initiated throughout the Environment Canada regions, and this project is part of Ontario Region's commitment towards producing a landscape plan for the Ontario portion of the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone. It identifies priority biodiversity conservation areas within the Mixedwood Plains based on 14 biodiversity elements (see The Terrestrial Biodiversity Portfolio box) chosen to represent the legislation, policies and agreements that are the responsibility of Environment Canada. The project provides a coarse-resolution assessment of the biodiversity portfolio across the entire ecozone, and a medium-resolution assessment addressing physiographic regions and breeding bird atlas squares within the ecozone. These are respectively referred to as Tier 1 and Tier 2 assessments. Collectively, the Tier 1 and Tier 2 assessments identify landscapes or regions within the Ontario Mixedwood Plains that have multiple and overlapping terrestrial biodiversity elements, and where conservation efforts may have the greatest impact. This project reflects a philosophy of targeting existing areas of higher biodiversity for restoration, defragmenting and linking. Additionally, it reflects the mandate of Environment Canada to protect and conserve existing wildlife and habitats. Conversely, the results of this landscape assessment may be used to identify areas of lower biodiversity as a focus for restoration.

1.2 Terrestrial biodiversity portfolio and program responsibilities

No one agency or level of government is responsible for all elements of biodiversity. The Environment Canada terrestrial biodiversity portfolio, as delivered by its Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), is defined in legislation and policies such as the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, the Canada Wildlife Act, the Federal Policy on Wetland Conservation, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (i.e., the Ramsar convention) and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Environment Canada also has interests and responsibilities over certain lands through the Ecological Gifts program (under the Income Tax Act), National Wildlife Areas (NWAs), Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs) and other stewardship and acquisition sites under the Habitat Stewardship Program. These responsibilities, as well as their geographic overlap, continue to grow with new and revised legislation such as SARA, the Income Tax Act and, most recently, the National Conservation Plan. The National Conservation Plan expands opportunities for partners (e.g., municipalities, environmental interest groups, hunters and anglers, landowners and community groups) to take practical actions towards conserving Canada's lands and waters, restoring Canada's ecosystems, and connecting Canadians to nature. With these changes comes a need to better integrate and apply legislative, stewardship and incentive tools to address cross-cutting mandate needs. An ecosystem approach of managing a site, a system or a region for multiple species may prove to be a more efficient and effective tool than managing species on an individual basis, particularly when they occur in the same space.

The Mixedwood Plains Ecozone

The Mixedwood Plains Ecozone includes some of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. This ecozone includes the region of Ontario south of the Canadian Shield (defined by provincial Ecological Site Districts 6E and 7E) and is over 7.5 million hectares in size. This ecozone is also known as the Southern Great Lakes Forests and Eastern Great Lakes Lowland Forests Ecoregion (Ricketts et al. 1999). It is also analogous with Bird Conservation Region 13. Within Canada, this region is bounded by Lake Ontario and extends along the shore of the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City south of the Canadian Shield; this region also extends south of Canada into Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York and small portions of Pennsylvania and Vermont. Approximately 49% of this region occurs in Canada. The topography ranges from extremely flat areas in the southwest and southeast to the more rugged terrain of the Niagara Escarpment. Vegetation is diverse, characterized by mixed deciduous-evergreen forests and tolerant hardwood forests, including Carolinian forests. Alvars, tallgrass prairies and savannahs also occur. Wetlands are numerous in certain areas, although many historic wetlands have been lost.

The Mixedwood Plains Ecozone has one of the highest human population densities in Canada and many of its pre-European settlement ecosystems have been converted for agriculture and urban settlement. Recreation and tourism are also major activities. In addition to land-use demands, exotic invasive species are displacing native species and altering natural ecosystem structure and function (Environment Canada 2005; Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2008).

2 Methods

2.1 Data collection and preparation

In order to develop the Tier 1 and Tier 2 assessments, various geospatial data representing the biodiversity elements were collected. An overview of the data is provided in Table 1. The Tier 1 study area--the Ontario Mixedwood Plains--was defined using provincial Ecological Site Districts 6E and 7E, and the Tier 2 study area was defined by the 53 physiographic regions within the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone (see Figure 1). All analyses and maps were produced in Lambert Conformal Conic projection, North American Datum 1983 using ArcGIS (ESRI 2008).

Table 1. Data inventory

Note: Vintage reflects the actual dataset used for analysis; there may be more current updated versions of datasets listed below.

Legislation, policies and agreements
DatasetVintageScale/resolutionSource
Migratory Bird Sanctuaries2002~1:50 000Canadian Wildlife Service
Important Bird Areas2004≥ 1:50 000Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Nature Federation
Ontario Eastern Habitat Joint Venture Staging Priority Areas2007Ducks Unlimited Canada
Ecological Gifts Program Sites2008Canadian Wildlife Service
Habitat Stewardship Program Sites (2003–2008)2009Canadian Wildlife Service
Biosphere Reserves2005–2008Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation
National Wildlife Areas2002~1:50 000Canadian Wildlife Service
Areas of Concern20081:5 000–1:10 000Environment Canada
Federal Land2005VariousCompiled by Canadian Wildlife Service
National Parks20031:50 000Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
National Marine Conservation Areas20031:50 000Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Provincial Parks20031:50 000Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Conservation Reserves20031:50 000Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Species
DatasetVintageScale/resolutionSource
Element Occurrence2005Natural Heritage Information Centre
Colonial Waterbird Nesting Sites2008Canadian Wildlife Service
Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas2008Bird Studies Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Landscape features
DatasetVintageScale/resolutionSource
Wetland Units20001:10 000Ministry of Natural Resources
Evaluated Wetlands20061:10 000Ministry of Natural Resources
Permanent Wetland Areas/Lakes20061:10 000Ministry of Natural Resources
Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Inventory20041:10 000Environment Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Southern Ontario Land Resource Information System20081:10 000–1:50 000Ministry of Natural Resources
Provincial Land Cover1998, 200225 mMinistry of Natural Resources
Confirmed Alvars19981:10 000Natural Heritage Information Centre
Tallgrass2004–20081:5 000–1:50 000Tallgrass Ontario, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Rivers (Water Resources Information Program Water Flow Network)20051:10 000Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
County Soil Surveys1929–19961:20 000–1:250 000Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ecological Site Districts20061:10 000Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Physiographic Regions of Ontario2007≤ 1:250 000Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (based on Chapman and Putman 1984, 3rd edition)
Figure 1. Study area and physiographic units

Map: 53 physiographic regions. See description below

Long description for figure 1

A map of southern Ontario showing study areas and physiographic units

  • 01 Niagara Escarpment
  • 02 Beaver Valley
  • 03 Bighead Valley
  • 04 Cape Rich Steps
  • 05 Horseshoe Moraines
  • 06 Flamborough Plain
  • 07 Dundalk Till Plain
  • 08 Stratford Till Plain
  • 09 Hillsburgh Sandhills
  • 10 Waterloo Hills
  • 11 Guelph Drumlin Field
  • 12 Teeswater Drumlin Field
  • 13 Arran Drumlin Field
  • 14 Oxford Till Plain
  • 15 Mount Elgin Ridges
  • 16 Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex
  • 17 Ekfrid Clay Plain
  • 18 Bothwell Sand Plains
  • 19 St. Clair Clay Plains
  • 20 Pelee Island
  • 21 Erie Spits
  • 22 Norfolk Sand Plain
  • 23 Haldimand Clay Plain
  • 24 Saugeen Clay Plain
  • 25 Huron Slope
  • 26 Huron Fringe
  • 27 Bruce Peninsula
  • 28 Manitoulin Island
  • 29 St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands
  • 30 Oak Ridges Moraine
  • 31 Peterborough Drumlin Field
  • 32 South Slope
  • 33 Peel Plain
  • 34 Schomberg Clay Plains
  • 35 Simcoe Lowlands
  • 36 Simcoe Uplands
  • 37 Carden Plain
  • 38 Dummer Moraines
  • 39 Napanee Plain
  • 40 Prince Edward Peninsula
  • 41 Iroquois Plain
  • 42 Leeds Knobs and Flats
  • 43 Smiths Falls Limestone Plain
  • 44 Edwardsburg Sand Plain
  • 45 North Gower Drumlin Field
  • 46 Glengarry Till Plain
  • 47 Winchester Clay Plain
  • 48 Lancaster Flats
  • 49 Ottawa Valley Clay Plains
  • 50 Russell and Prescott Sand Plains
  • 51 Muskrat Lake Ridges
  • 52 Petawawa Sand Plain
  • 53 Algonquin Highlands

This is a map of the southern portion of Ontario with Lakes Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario. The cities of Sudbury, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa are indicated by name. Lake Simcoe is not named but is shown approximately 100 km north of Toronto. The map shows the 53 Physiographic regions that comprise the Ontario portion of the Mixedwood Plains ecozone.  A small inset map indicates the location of the Mixedwood Plains in Ontario. The Mixedwood plains are shown as all of Ontario north of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and south of an imaginary line running from the islands at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to the islands at the northern tip of the Simcoe Uplands in south east Georgian Bay and then south of irregular boundary with the Canadian Shield that roughly runs from the southern Georgian Bay to approximately 50 km north of Kingston and then in an arch northward to Pembroke.  Manitoulin Island is located in the north part of Lake Huron and St. Joseph and Cockburn islands, located west of Manitoulin Island are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian islands in Lakes Erie, Ontario, St. Clair and the St. Lawrence River are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian Islands in the main part of Lake Huron and west half of Georgian Bay and west of Manitoulin Island and directly north of Manitoulin Island are part of the Mixedwood Plains as well. Approximately 20 medium sized lakes (each from 5 to 35 km long) are shown within the Mixedwood Plains, but not named, in an area south of the Canadian Shield to the Ottawa area. The rest of Ontario is blank with no further detail other than the location of Sudbury and Lake Nipissing, both approximately 100 km northeast of the northeast corner of Georgian Bay. A portion of Quebec to the east and the United States to the west and south have been left blank.

The 53 physiographic regions are of widely varying sizes and shapes and numbered from 1 to 53. The regions are noted below with their number.

St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands (29) and Manitoulin Island (28) are located from west to east in northern Lake Huron. The Bruce Peninsula (27) separates Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. To the south of the Bruce Peninsula along the Georgian Bay coast from west to east are the Cape Rich Steps (4), the Beaver Valley (2), Simcoe Lowlands (35) and Simcoe Uplands (36). The Simcoe Lowlands and Uplands extend inland to the southeast to surround Lake Simcoe. To the east of the Simcoe Uplands there are a series of physiographic regions that border the Boreal Shield Hardwood Transition ecozone. These  physiographic regions that form the transition boundary with the Boreal Shield are, from west to east, Carden Plain (37), Dummer Moraines (38), Algonquin Highlands (53) and Smith's Falls Limestone Plain (43), the Ottawa Valley Clay plains (49) and the Petawawa Sand Plain (52). The Ottawa Valley is comprised of regions 49 and 52 along with the Muskrat Lake Ridges (51) to the west, the Russell and Prescott sand Plains to the south and east of Ottawa. The North Gower Drumlin Plain (45) and Winchester Clay Plain (47) are in turn located south of the sand plains (50). South of the Ottawa valley and bordered by Quebec to the east and the St. Lawrence River to the south are Lancaster Flats (48) and Glengary Till Plain (46). Moving west of 46, and upstream, the St. Lawrence River is bordered the Edwardsburg Sand Plain (44), Smiths Falls Limestone Plain (43), Leeds Knobs and Flats (42), and Napanee Plain (39). Moving further west the Lake Ontario shoreline and lake plain consists of the Prince Edward Peninsula (40), Iroquois Plain (41), Peel Plain (33), and South Slope (32). North of the Lake Ontario plain are regions dominated by rolling glacial topography and clay plains – from west to east the Oak Ridges Moraine (30), Schomberg Clay Plains (34), and Peterborough Drumlin Field (31). The Lake Erie shore and lake plain consists of, from east to west, the Haldimand Clay Plain (23), Norfolk Sand Plain (22), Lake Erie Sand Spits (21), Mount Elgin Ridges (15), Ekfrid Clay Plain (17), Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex (16), Bothwell Sand Plains (18) and St. Clair Clay Plains (19). The Clay Plains (19) are a large region that also contain the plain around Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and St. Clair River. Northward, the Huron Fringe (26) is a narrow region that runs along the entire Ontario Lake Huron shoreline north to Stokes Bay on the Bruce Peninsula. The Fringe (26) is bordered to the east almost entirely by the Huron Slope (25) except for the Arran Drumlin Field (13) to the north.
The remaining regions comprise an upland plain that is bordered to the east by the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment (1) and gently slopes westward to Lake Huron. Bordering the Escarpment (1) in the east are from north to south are the Horseshoe Moraines (5), Dundalk Till Plain (7), Hillsburgh Sand Plains (9), Guelph Drumlin Field (11) and Flamborough Plain (6). To the west on the slope to Lake Huron are the Saugeen Clay Plain (24), Teeswater Drumlin Field (12), Stratford Till Plain (8), Waterloo Hills (10), and Oxford Till Plain (14).

The map is oriented to the north with a scale of 3cm = 100km. Both the Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada word marks are present.
Produced for Environment Canada copyright 2014 under license with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by Nature Conservancy 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic, NAD83

Data Sources: MNDM 2007, MNR 2006. Includes material copyright of the Queen in Printer for Ontario. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright Nature Conservancy of Canada 2014

Regulated protected land
For purposes of this project, federally protected land was represented by the extent of National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas, NWAs and MBSs. Provincial parks and conservation reserves were added to map all federally and provincially regulated protected land within the Ontario Mixedwood Plains.

Wetlands
Wetland data from the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Inventory and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) (now known as the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) Natural Resource Values Information System (NRVIS) were combined with the location data of permanent wetland areas (identified through OMNR's Ontario Base Mapping) to create a comprehensive wetland Geographic Information Systems (GIS) layer. The permanent wetland layer provided critical wetland information previously missing for Manitoulin Island and St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. All wetlands within 2 kilometres of the Great Lakes shoreline were considered coastal wetlands, and wetlands coinciding with Ramsar sites were classified as Ramsar wetland sites.

Land cover
Land cover was compiled from the OMNR's provincial land cover database. Multi-spectral satellite imagery (Landsat Thematic Mapper) collected between 1986 and 1998 was available for the majority of the Ontario Mixedwood Plains Ecozone, and 28 different land cover classes were identified from the satellite imagery. A revised 2002 provincial land cover database, derived from satellite imagery collected between 1998 and 2002, provided additional land cover information for Manitoulin Island and St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands.  

The Southern Ontario Land Resource Information System (SOLRIS) data for southern Ontario provided further land cover information to assist in distinguishing between cropland and pasture within the agricultural land class.

Land cover data were reclassified as follows:

  • Water
  • Wetland – freshwater coastal marsh/inland marsh, open bog, open fen
  • Forested Wetland – coniferous swamp, deciduous swamp, treed bog, treed fen
  • Forest – coniferous plantation, dense coniferous forest, dense deciduous forest, mixed forest mainly coniferous, mixed forest mainly deciduous, sparse coniferous forest, sparse deciduous forest
  • Pasture – pasture and abandoned fields, old cuts and burns, recent cutovers
  • Alvar
  • Agriculture – cropland
  • Urban – settlement and developed land, transportation
  • Other – mine tailings, quarries and bedrock outcrop, cloud and shadow, unknown

Stopover sites
The reclassified land cover data were used to identify stopover habitat for priority birds. Undeveloped land cover was defined as all natural land cover features (i.e., wetlands, forested wetlands, forest, pasture and alvar). Agricultural and forest bird habitat data consisted of all agriculture and forest features. Grassland bird stopover habitat was represented by a combination of areas classified as pasture in the land cover data with prairie, savannah and tallgrass data and the location of confirmed alvar sites.

Species at risk
Data representing species at risk and globally rare species were available as Element Occurrences from the Natural Heritage Information Centre of OMNR. Each Element Occurrence was separated (ungrouped) for further analysis.  

Ecological gifts
The Ecological Gifts data were converted from generalized polygons (areas) to points. A random point within each Ecological Gift polygon was buffered by 5 kilometres and then converted back to a point for use in further analysis.

Soils
Detailed soil survey data were used to represent the hydric soils necessary for migratory bird stopover habitat models. Ewert et al. (2005) define hydric soils as those with a wet or very wet soil moisture index. As soil moisture information was not available for this project, soil drainage was used as a proxy. With the exception of eight counties, soil drainage information was available in digital format from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Soil drainage information was manually added to the soil survey information from digital copies of the original maps for the eight counties with no data from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. All county soil surveys were merged into a single layer, and all features classified with poor or very poor soil drainage were used to map hydric soils as input into the bird model.

2.2 Data analysis

Before the finer-resolution Tier 2 assessment was carried out, the various landscape features were assessed at the Tier 1 level. This involved summarizing the features in various ways. The area (hectares) of agricultural, urban and natural land cover and regulated protected land was calculated across the Mixedwood Plains. The area of landscape features coinciding with regulated protected land was computed, and the total area of each landscape feature was summarized by physiographic region.

A Conservation Risk Index (CRI) based on land cover data was derived to measure the disparity between habitat loss and protection. CRI was calculated by dividing the percentage of total land area converted from natural land cover by the percentage of total land area protected for conservation. Converted land includes areas converted for urban and agricultural land use, while secured land areas include all regulated protected land. Higher CRI values indicate that the area converted is much greater than the area protected (Hoekstra et al. 2005).

Within each physiographic region, the extent of forest and grassland bird habitats were combined with the extent of regulated protected lands to summarize the total area of forest and grassland habitat within each region as well as the percentage of each bird habitat that was protected. The process was repeated to summarize the total area of wetland, coastal wetland, protected wetland and Ramsar wetland features within each physiographic region.

Federally protected land area was used to determine the percentage of land within each physiographic region that is federally protected. Additionally, the extent of Ecological Gifts lands and Habitat Stewardship Program project sites was determined for each physiographic region. The species at risk and globally rare species Element Occurrences were used to count the number of species at risk within each physiographic region and to determine species richness.

2.3 Bird modelling

Methodology developed by Ewert et al. (2005) to model migratory bird stopover sites in the Western Lake Erie Basin was modified and applied to the Mixedwood Plains. Using the modified methodology, suitable bird habitat for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and landbirds was identified within the Mixedwood Plains. For each migratory bird group, habitat was scored as having very low (1), low (2), medium (3), high (4) or very high (5) suitability based on stopover site preference attributes.

Suitable habitat for migrating waterfowl
Attributes important to mapping waterfowl bird habitat include the size and type of wetland, location and size of agricultural fields, and proximity to lakes. To identify suitable habitat for migrating waterfowl, wetlands were divided up based on land cover class (wetland versus forested wetland), and the distance between all wetlands with an area greater than 1 hectare to the next closest wetland larger than 1 hectare were determined. Only wetland features within 120 metres of other wetland features were included in the analyses. Agricultural fields with hydric soils were represented by the intersection of agricultural land cover with the extent of hydric soils.

To identify suitable habitat for migrating waterfowl, wetlands, agricultural hydric soils and lakes were combined together to map potential waterfowl habitat. Suitability scores were assigned based on the attributes and the location of each feature in the landscape (see Table 2). For example, all forested wetland features over 1 hectare in size were assigned a suitability score of 2. All agricultural fields that intersected areas of hydric soil were selected. This selection was narrowed further to include only features greater than 5 hectares in size that are less than 24 kilometres from the Great Lakes shoreline. These features were assigned a suitability score of 3. A similar method of selecting features was used to assign suitability scores of 4 and 5.

The models completed for waterfowl were augmented with CWS waterfowl survey data in order to partially address waterfowl habitat in the open waters of the Great Lakes.

Table 2. Waterfowl stopover site attributes (modified from Ewert et al. 2005)
AttributeSuitability score
Wetlandsa > 16 ha with > 1 ha of open water5
Wetlandsa > 1 ha and < 120 m from another wetland15
Wetlandsa > 1 ha4
Agricultural fields with hydric soilsb > 5 ha that are < 24 km from Great Lakes shoreline3
Agricultural fields with hydric soilsb > 5 ha that are < 1.6 km from a permanent lake > 2 ha and > 24 km from Great Lakes shoreline3
Agricultural fields with hydric soilsb > 5 ha that are > 24 km from Great Lakes shoreline2
Forested wetland > 1 ha2

a Excludes swamps, treed bogs and treed fens

b Soils that are poorly or very poorly drained

Suitable habitat for shorebirds
Important attributes for shorebird stopover habitat include the size of wetland complexes and wetlands, the presence of agricultural fields with hydric soils, and proximity to the Great Lakes. In order to map shorebird habitat, wetland complexes were defined, with each wetland in a complex being less than 250 metres from any other wetland. To identify wetland complexes, all wetland features were buffered by 125 metres. The buffers were dissolved and assigned a unique identifier, and then spatially joined with the original wetland features. By spatially joining the two layers, it was possible to identify within which wetland complex each individual wetland feature fell. The wetland features were dissolved by the unique identifier of the wetland complexes, and the area of each complex was calculated. The wetland complex layer was combined with the agricultural land cover data and hydric soils layer to create a shorebird habitat layer. Suitability scores were then assigned based on attributes and location of each feature in the landscape (see Table 3).   

Table 3. Shorebird stopover site attributes (modified from Ewert et al. 2005)
AttributeSuitability score
Wetland complexesc > 10 ha that are < 3.2 km from Great Lakes shoreline5
Wetland complexesc > 10 ha that are > 3.2 km from Great Lakes shoreline4
Wetlands or agricultura fields with hydric soilsd < 16 km from Great Lakes shoreline4
Wetlands or agricultural fields with hydric soilsd > 16 km from Great Lakes shoreline3
Wetland complexes or isolated wetlands < 10 ha and < 3.2 km from Great Lakes shoreline3
Wetland complexes or isolated wetlands < 10 ha and > 3.2 km from Great Lakes shoreline2

c Each wetland in a complex is < 250 m from any other wetland in a complex; isolated wetlands are > 250 m from any other wetland

d Soils that are poorly or very poorly drained

Suitable habitat for landbirds
The main determinants for identifying suitable landbird habitat include type of cover (i.e., natural or undeveloped) and proximity to water and other natural features. Buffers were generated around rivers, lakes, the Great Lakes shoreline and undeveloped land areas to determine feature location within the landscape. Undeveloped features were then selected based on various attributes and assigned a suitability score (see Table 4).

Table 4. Landbird stopover site attributes (modified from Ewert et al. 2005)
AttributeSuitability score
Undeveloped covere < 0.4 km from Great Lakes shoreline5
Undeveloped covere > 0.4 km but < 1.6 km from Great Lakes shoreline4
Undeveloped covere > 1.6 km from Great Lakes shoreline and < 0.2 km riversf or lakeshores3
Undeveloped covere > 1.6 km from Great Lakes shoreline and > 0.2 but < 0.4 km from riversf or lakeshores2
Undeveloped covere > 1.6 km from Great Lakes shoreline and > 4 km from other cover2
Undeveloped covere > 1.6 km from Great Lakes shoreline and < 4 km from any other cover1

e Undeveloped cover includes alvar, bog/fen, forest, marsh, pasture and swamp (excludes agriculture, urban, water, other, unknown)

f Rivers with a Strahler stream order of 3 or higher

Suitable habitat for each bird group was combined with the total area of regulated protected land in each physiographic region to summarize the area of each stopover suitability category. Suitable habitat and regulated protected lands were also combined with Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and staging areas (waterfowl only) to summarize habitat suitability by IBA and staging area (waterfowl only).

Colonial waterbird nesting sites were also mapped for the bird modelling analysis. Colonial waterbird nesting sites were spatially joined with regulated protected land within each physiographic region in order to identify the total number of nesting sites, and the number of nesting sites in protected areas, IBAs and each physiographic region.

2.4 Relative density maps

This project developed a series of maps to illustrate relative densities for different groups, or guilds, of priority birds. Relative density is a measure of density for a priority bird species within a specific unit of area (e.g., 10 x 10 kilometre grid square), relative to the average density of that species across the wider landscape (e.g., Bird Conservation Region [BCR 13]). Bird groups included landbirds, forest birds, open country birds, shorebirds, waterbirds and waterfowl. The list of priority species included in each bird group is provided in Appendix B. It should be noted that the list is based on a provisional BCR 13 priority list in existence at the time of analysis (2009–2010), based on four pillar plans created for the region under the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. There would likely be little or no change in the results presented in this report if the final BCR 13 list were substituted. This is because there are relatively few differences in terms of the individual species included on each list, and the analysis addresses entire guilds of priority birds, which are well represented by either list, rather than individual species.

Point count data from the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario (Cadman et al. 2007) was used to determine relative densities for atlas grid squares. "Point counts" are records of the birds seen and heard at a patricular location, or station, by a trained observor for a set period of time. The atlasdatabase consisted of 2001–2005 atlas point counts, point counts for species at risk (breeding birds) and point counts for rare species and colonial species. The point count data were derived from a number of sources including, among others, the Forest Bird Monitoring Program, Marsh Monitoring Program, Waterfowl Database and Colonial Waterbirds Decadal Census.

The atlas grid squares were screened to the Mixedwood Plains/BCR 13, and individual point counts were related to the atlas grid squares to record all of the species within each atlasgrid. The total count of individual species within each atlas grid square was determined, and each square was further screened to include only those squares with at least 10 point counts. The provisional list of priority species for BCR 13 was used to further screen species. It is important to note that all individual point counts remaining in the analysis were capped at a maximum of 10 individuals to reduce the impact of large flocks.

The average count of each priority bird species per atlas grid square was computed by dividing the total count of an individual species within each square by the total number of point counts found within that square. The maximum average count for each species across all squares was determined (maximum average count of each species was the square with the highest average count for that species), then used to determine relative density scores.

Mapping relative density as a continuous surface

To interpolate relative density surfaces for each bird group, each atlas grid square was converted to a point (centroid) representing the relative density for each bird group within that square. The point was used in kriging: a  geostatistical technique that interpolates values from discrete map squares and turns them into a continuous surface. For each priority bird group, ordinary kriging was used, with an exponential semivariogram model, a fixed search radius of 27 000 kilometres and an output cell size of 1 000 metres.

The resulting surface (grid) was initially classified into 10 quantiles, with each quantile containing an equal number of squares. This classification method is similar to the equal area classification method used to illustrate overall relative density scores for each priority bird group in each atlas square, as all the grid cells in the kriging surface are the same size. The 10 quantiles were mapped into four categories of relative density: very high (top 10% of the squares with scores), high (next 20%), moderate (next 30%) and low (bottom 40%). 

The final relative density kriging surfaces were converted into polygon coverages and intersected with the physiographic regions to calculate the area of each relative density category for every priority bird group within each region.

Relative density scores were calculated for each species by dividing the average count per priority bird species per atlas square by the maximum average count for that species. Relative densities greater than or equal to 50% were assigned a score of 5, densities between 25 to 50% a score of 4, 10 to 25% a score of 3, 1 to 10% a score of 2, and those greater than 0 but less than 1% a score of 1.

To generate an overall relative density score for each priority bird group (landbird, shorebird, waterbird and waterfowl), relative density scores were totalled across all species within each atlasgrid square. Such an overall relative density score was also calculated for each habitat guild (e.g., forest and grassland). The overall relative density values were reclassified into quartiles and mapped using equal area classification with the aid of ArcView 9.3 (ESRI 2008): very high (top 10% of the squares with relative density scores), high (next 20%), moderate (next 30%) and low (bottom 40%). 

In addition to showing relative density by atlas squares, maps were also produced representing relative density as a continuous surface. See Figure 5 and Mapping Relative Density as a Continuous Surface box.

The location of known colonial waterbird nesting sites were also mapped and summarized by unit. The nesting sites were spatially joined with the study area units and regulated protected land in order to calculate the total number of nesting sites within each unit and the number of nesting sites in protected areas within each unit.

3 Results

The detailed results of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 assessments are illustrated in 26 ecozone scale maps and 53 physiographic region scale maps and are available as a separate map book at URL TBD.

3.1 Geographic patterns of biodiversity in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone

There is significant variation in the amount of natural land cover in the Mixedwood Plains, ranging from 8.3% in the St. Clair Clay Plains in the southwest to over 80% for Bruce Peninsula, Manitoulin Island, St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands, and the Smith Falls Limestone Plain. The average natural land cover for the ecozone is approximately 41% (see Figure 2).

3.2 Regulated protected areas

The Mixedwood Plains Ecozone has less regulated land protection than most parts of Canada. Federal and provincial parks, wildlife areas and reserves cover less than 1% of the ecozone. Regions with higher levels of parks and protected areas include the Erie Spits (64.8%), Bruce Peninsula (11.5%), Huron Fringe (5.5%), Algonquin Highlands (5.3%) and Pelee Island (3.3%). These calculations do not include the substantial contribution of lands held by non-governmental organizations or conservation authorities, county forests or municipal parks. It also does not account for the major role that statutory land use planning under the provincial Planning Act plays in defining and conserving habitat.

Figure 2. Land cover

Image of map. See description below.

Long description for figure 2

This is a map of the southern portion of Ontario with Lakes Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario. The cities of Sudbury, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa are indicated by name. Lake Simcoe is not named but is shown approximately 100 km north of Toronto. The map shows the dominant land cover of the Ontario portion of the Mixedwood Plains ecozone. The Mixedwood plains are shown as all of Ontario north of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and south of an imaginary line running from the islands at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to the islands at the northern tip of the Simcoe Uplands in south east Georgian Bay and then south of irregular boundary with the Canadian Shield that roughly runs from the southern Georgian Bay to approximately 50 km north of Kingston and then in an arch to north to Pembroke.  Manitoulin Island is located in the north part of Lake Huron and St. Joseph and Cockburn islands, located west of Manitoulin Island are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian islands in Lakes Erie, Ontario, St. Clair and the St. Lawrence River are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian Islands in the main part of Lake Huron and west half of Georgian Bay and west of Manitoulin Island and directly north of Manitoulin Island are part of the Mixedwood Plains as well. Approximately 20 medium sized lakes (each from 5 to 35 km long) are shown within the Mixedwood Plains, but not named, in an area south of the Canadian Shield to the Ottawa area. The rest of Ontario is blank with no further detail other than the location of Sudbury and Lake Nipissing, both approximately 100 km northeast of the northeast corner of Georgian Bay. A portion of Quebec to the east and the United states to the west and south have been left blank. 

There are four categories of land cover noted in the Legend of the map. They are Natural Vegetation, Agricultural, Urban and Other. Natural vegetation is the dominant land cover on all islands in Lake Huron, including Manitoulin, St. Joseph's and Cockburn islands as well as the northern Bruce Peninsula, with only small scattered individual patches of 'agricultural' land cover. The area that borders the Canadian Shield from the north end of Lake Simcoe to west of Ottawa  in the east and extends from 20 to 50 kilometres into the Mixedwood Plains from the edge of the Shield is dominated by natural vegetation, with small scattered areas of agricultural land that accounts for 10 -20 % of the otherwise naturally vegetated landscape. The eastern portion of the Mixedwood Plains (east and south of Ottawa is a mixed mosaic of natural vegetation and agriculture. The area from Kingston to Hamilton to southern Georgian Bay is largely agricultural cover with scattered patches and clumps of natural vegetation, with natural vegetation varying from 5 to 20 of the total land cover in this area. West of a 10-20 km wide band of largely natural cover running from the southern Bruce Peninsula to Hamilton the landscape is dominated by agricultural land cover, with scattered patches of natural vegetation becoming less common as one goes westward toward Windsor. In this area natural cover covers 10-20% of the landscape and gradually diminishes to approximately less than 5% just west of Windsor. Urban land cover is largely found around in a 10-60 kilometer wide band around the west end of Lake Ontario, including Toronto and Hamilton, an approximate 20-30 kilometer patch representing Ottawa and surrounding areas and smaller (10-15km patches) corresponding to other named cites on the map as well as Kitchener-Waterloo, Sarnia, St. Catharines-Welland and Niagara Falls. There are approximately 40 or so two to five kilometer patches spread throughout the parts of the map otherwise dominated by agricultural land cover. No 'other' land cover is discernible on the map at this scale.
The map is oriented to the north with a scale of 3cm = 100km. Both the Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada word marks are present.

Produced for Environment Canada copyright 2012 under license with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by Nature Conservancy of Canada 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic, NAD83

Data Sources: MNR 2008, 2006, 2002, 1998. MNDM 2007.  Includes material copyright of the Queen in Printer for Ontario. All Rights Reserved.

3.3 Conservation risk index

The CRI is a ratio of habitat conversion to habitat protection. It compares the area within each physiographic region that has been converted to other land uses (e.g., conversion from forests to cropland) to the area that is under regulated protection. The CRI represents a comprehensive measure of whether habitats are being protected on the same spatial scale as habitats are being converted. The value for the entire Mixedwood Plains is 75.8:1 (i.e., for every 75.8 hectares converted, 1 hectare has been protected).

As with land cover and protected areas, there is great range in this value for the Mixedwood Plains as a whole. For example, 16 of the physiographic regions do not have any regulated protected areas, and the conservation risk index cannot be calculated.

3.4 Species at risk

At the time of this project, there were 144 species at risk in the Mixedwood Plains, representing almost a third of all species at risk in Canada.Footnote 1 Most of the occurrences were located in the southern physiographic regions (St. Clair Clay Plains, Norfolk Sand Plains) where many southern species reach the northern limit of their range. In some areas, such as the Erie Spits, Pelee Island and Huron Fringe, there were relatively high diversities of species at risk documented in protected areas. This richness is likely based on a combination of protected areas having high quality habitats that support species at risk, public access that increases the documentation of species at risk and professional inventories done for management planning. Overall, there was a general decrease in species at risk richness along a south-to-north gradient (see Figure 3).

Richness and abundance of globally rare species were also examined. Areas with high richness and abundance of globally rare species tended to have large areas of Great Lakes coast and include the Bruce Peninsula, Manitoulin Island and the St. Clair Clay Plains. Several physiographic regions hosted unique species at risk that do not occur in other regions of the ecozone. Examples of these include the Norfolk Sand Plain (Toothcup) and Napanee Plain (Juniper Sedge). 

3.5 Wetlands

There are nearly half a million hectares of wetlands in the Mixedwood Plains, including over 56 000 hectares of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Concentrations of coastal wetlands occurred in the St. Clair Clay Plains, Erie Spits, Iroquois Plain and Napanee Plain. Almost 3% of all wetlands are included in the Ramsar designation of internationally important wetlands (Ramsar: Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat). However, half of this total is from one wetland (Minesing Wetlands).

3.6 Forest, grassland and open country bird habitat (nesting)

Forest-breeding bird habitat generally corresponds to the amount of natural cover, with the majority of natural cover being forest (upland and swamp) or undergoing reforestation. Grassland was defined as pasture/old field, alvar and tallgrass. There are some discernible patterns in grassland distribution, with concentrations in the Ottawa Valley Clay Flats, Peterborough Drumlin Field, Glengarry Till Plain, Horseshoe Moraines and Manitoulin Island. However, grassland mapping is less accurate than the forest or natural cover maps, as it is difficult to distinguish between types of open country land covers from existing satellite imagery. 

The term "open country" includes grassland, and it constitutes the areas not classified as forest or wetland. It is difficult to distinguish open country habitat, and it was not identified for this analysis. In addition, not all open country offers breeding habitat for species at risk or migratory birds. Some grain crops, for example, serve as limited breeding habitat for birds, but corn has little or no breeding-bird habitat value (although it is used by waterfowl for migration stopover). Further, open country--especially agricultural grassland--is relatively ephemeral. Areas will change from pasture, hay or grains to other uses on a yearly or even seasonal basis, meaning distributions of open country (and accompanying maps) can quickly change. 

Protection of grassland bird habitat in agricultural areas is very limited (<0.5%), with much grassland habitat in active or recently retired agricultural use (e.g., pasture, hay, fallow fields or old fields). Protection of grassland habitat is higher in physiographic regions where grasslands represent rare native grassland community types (e.g., Erie Spits and Carden Plain).

The distribution of non-native open country and agricultural grassland habitats often does not correspond to the distribution of other biodiversity values such as species at risk concentrations or high breeding densities of other bird guilds.

Figure 3. Richness of species of risk

Map: Richness of Species at Risk.  See description below.

Long description for figure 3

This is a map of the southern portion of Ontario with Lakes Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario. The cities of Sudbury, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa are indicated by name. Lake Simcoe is not named but is shown approximately 100 km north of Toronto.

The map shows the richness of Species At Risk for each Physiographic region in the Ontario portion of the Mixedwood Plains ecozone. The 53 physiographic regions are of widely varying sizes and shapes. Each of the 53 physiographic regions is shown as belonging in one of five categories of richness of species at risk. These categories are listed in the legend 0 to 10 species, 11 to 19 species, 20 to 32 species, 33 to 58 species, and 59 to 86 species.

The Mixedwood plains are shown as all of Ontario north of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and south of an imaginary line running from the islands at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to the islands at the northern tip of the Simcoe Uplands in south east Georgian Bay and then south of irregular boundary with the Canadian Shield that roughly runs from the southern Georgian Bay to approximately 50 km north of Kingston and then in an arch to north to Pembroke.  Manitoulin Island is located in the north part of Lake Huron and St. Joseph and Cockburn islands, located west of Manitoulin Island are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian islands in Lakes Erie, Ontario, St. Clair and the St. Lawrence River are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian Islands in the main part of Lake Huron and west half of Georgian Bay and west of Manitoulin Island and directly north of Manitoulin Island are part of the Mixedwood Plains as well. Approximately 20 medium sized lakes (each from 5 to 35 km long) are shown within the Mixedwood Plains, but not named, in an area south of the Canadian Shield to the Ottawa area. The rest of Ontario is blank with no further detail other than the location of Sudbury and Lake Nipissing, both approximately 100 km northeast of the northeast corner of Georgian Bay. A portion of Quebec to the east and the United States to the west and south have been left blank. 

The physiographic regions in the richest and second richest categories are largely found in the southwest portion of the Mixedwood Plains and along the shores and lake plains of the Great Lakes. The physiographic regions in the lowest and second lowest categories are found inland away from the lakes, in the eastern portion of the Mixedwood Plains and to the northern areas of the Plains.

The map is oriented to the north with a scale of 3cm = 100km. Both the Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada word marks are present.

Produced for Environment Canada copyright 2012 under license with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by Nature Conservancy of Canada 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic, NAD83

Data Sources: MNDM 2007. MNR 2006, 2003.  Includes material copyright of the Queen in Printer for Ontario. All Rights Reserved.

3.7 Migratory stopover habitat

There is a high degree of variation in the amount and quality of migratory stopover habitat in each physiographic region for all bird groups (landbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl). For landbirds, physiographic regions where greater than 50% of the remaining natural land cover is highly suitable habitat include the Erie Spits, Pelee Island, St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands, Huron Fringe, Manitoulin Island, Cape Rich Steps, and Prince Edward Peninsula. Existing protection of this highly suitable habitat ranges from 75% for the Erie Spits to 0% in the Cape Rich Steps (although a large portion of the region includes the Department of Defence Land Forces Central Training Centre). Highly and very highly suitable landbird migratory stopover habitat occurs in 14% of the remaining natural cover in the Mixedwood Plains. Small areas of stopover habitat are likely more significant in physiographic regions that lack natural cover, as migrant birds have fewer alternatives. For an example of suitable habitat mapping, see Figure 4.

Potential shorebird stopover habitat concentrations are more common because of shorebirds' use of agricultural fields. Only areas mapped as very high relative density (4% of the ecozone) may be considered a priority for shorebirds. Areas with a large proportion of very high priority habitat for shorebirds include Erie Spits, Huron Fringe, Prince Edward Peninsula, Bruce Peninsula, Manitoulin Island, and St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands. As with landbirds, most of this habitat is protected in the Erie Spits. Other physiographic regions have 1.7% (Prince Edward Peninsula) to 7.8% (St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands) of their potential shorebird stopover habitat protected.

Highly and very highly suitable stopover habitats for waterfowl are very rare within the Mixedwood Plains, occupying just over 2% of the total area. The greatest concentrations can be found within Erie Spits, Pelee Island, Bruce Peninsula, St. Clair Clay Plain, and Leeds Knobs and Flats.

3.8 Colonial nesting waterbirds

Habitat for Great Lakes colonial nesting waterbirds is generally restricted to regions with islands in the Great Lakes. Areas with the greatest number of sites are Manitoulin Island, Iroquois Plain, St. Clair Clay Plains and Bruce Peninsula. There are also colonial nesting waterbirds that nest in inland wetlands or in Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

3.9 Relative breeding densities of Bird Conservation Region 13 priority species

Regions with the greatest relative breeding density of all BCR 13 priority species are associated with the area south of the Canadian Shield east of Lake Simcoe and west of Brockville, and the north shore of Lake Erie (see Figure 5).

Areas with high relative breeding density for open-country birds occur in physiographic regions with large amounts of pasture and old field, and physiographic regions with large areas of alvar and tallgrass habitats.

High relative breeding densities of shorebirds occur as scattered pockets throughout the Mixedwood Plains. Some of the most significant concentrations occur in the Carden Plain and Russell and Prescott Sand Plains physiographic regions.

Waterbirds and waterfowl are concentrated in specific regions of the Mixedwood Plains. Colonial waterbirds are primarily associated with islands and wetlands, while non-colonial waterbirds are associated with wetlands. The greatest relative breeding densities of waterbirds occur in the Erie Spits, Bruce Peninsula, Napanee Plain and Prince Edward Peninsula physiographic regions. The analysis grouped Great Lakes colonial waterbirds (those that largely occur on islands and some coastal wetlands) with colonial and non-colonial wetland birds. It is thought that Great Lakes colonial waterbirds were under-represented in the analysis, as some of the over 1500 sites where CWS conducts population surveys were not included. Priority waterfowl species occur in the highest relative breeding densities in the Napanee Plain, Prince Edward Peninsula and Peel Plain.

Figure 4. Example of suitable stopover habitat and very high and high breeding bird relative density in the Napanee Plain physiographic region

Image of map. See description below.

Long description for figure 4

This is a map of a physiographic region known as the Napanee Plain. The map shows the Napanee plain as an irregularly shaped area, stretching approximately 95 km from Trenton to a point approximately 15 km east of Kingston, with the irregular north shore of the Bay of Quinte and the north shore of Lake Ontario forming its southern boundary and its northern boundary defined as an irregular east-west line running approximately 10 to 40 kilometres north from the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario. The region includes the irregularly shaped Wolfe Island, which is approximately 25 kilometres long east-west and lying approximately 5km offshore of Kingston in Lake Ontario.. Half the size of Wolfe Island, Amherst Island, lies approximately 10 kilometres to its west and similar distance offshore and is also part of the Napanee Plain. Population centers noted on the map within the Napanee Plain are Belleville on the north shore of the Bay of Quinte, Napanee in the center of the region, and Kingston on the north shore of Lake Ontario where the St. Lawrence river begins. Outside of the Napanee Plain the towns of Trenton, just to the west of the region on the Bay of Quinte and Gananoque,  about 12 km east on the St. Lawrence, are labelled. A small inset map shows an outline of southern Ontario with the Napanee Plain located on the southern boundary of the province.

Bird Habitat Modelling is mapped across the region with the legend noting three categories of high and very high habitat suitability: Landbird Stopover Sites, Shorebird Stopover Sites, and Waterfowl Stopover Sites. Areas of shorebird stopover sites area scattered across the region with a higher concentration of suitable habitat located south of Napanee almost completely covering Wolfe and Amherst islands. The areas of landbird stopover sites are predominantly found along half to two thirds of the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario shorelines, running 2 to 5 kilometres inland. There are only a few small scattered areas of waterfowl stopover sites, largely associated with small bays along Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte. For context stopover sites have been faintly mapped in the areas beyond the Napanee Plain, with the exception of a small portion of the United States that is present on the map south of Wolfe Island, which has been left blank.

All of the Napanee Plain and all lands within the Mixedwood Plains to the east and west of the plains are overlaid with a grid of ten kilometre squares. Each square that contains a Very High Relative Density or High Relative Density of each of Priority Landbird Species, Priority Forest Bird Species, Priority Open Country Species, Priority Shorebird Species, Priority Waterbird Species and/or Priority Waterbird Species is labelled accordingly. The bird densities are irregularly and widely distributed with the exception of very high and high relative densities of priority waterbird and priority waterfowl species which are associated with grid squares containing Great Lakes shoreline.  Core Bird Areas for Bird Species at Risk are outlined on the map, with approximately 75% of the Napanee Plain being one large core area and another core area covering the Kingston area and Wolfe Island. Fourteen smaller (5 to 10 km diameter) Core Bird Areas are distributed outside of the Napanee Plain to the west, southwest, north and east. In addition four Important Bird Areas are outlined under Other Features. A large Important Bird Area, largely continuous with the Core Bird Area covering the majority of the Napanee Plain is marked on the map, along with an Important Bird Area covering all of Wolfe Island and approximately one to two kilometres of surrounding waters. Outside of the Napanee Plain a small (two kilometre diameter) Important Bird Area is located in Lake Ontario south of Amherst and Wolfe Islands and another area covers Prince Edward Point and surrounding waters on the southern extent of Prince Edward County.

The map is oriented to the north with a scale of 1.5 cm = 10 km. Both the Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada word marks are present.

Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic, NAD83

Data Sources: NCC 2010; BSC et al. 2008; MNDM 2007. MNR 2006.  Includes material copyright of the Queen in Printer for Ontario. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The identification of core areas is based on the best available information on species distribution. The locations and extent of these areas is subject to change based on new information.

Copyright NCC 2011.

Figure 5. Relative density of BCR 13 priority bird species

Map: Relative Density of Priority Bird Species. See description below

Long description for figure 5

This is a map of the southern portion of Ontario with Lakes Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario. The cities of Sudbury, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa are indicated by name. Lake Simcoe is not named but is shown approximately 100 km north of Toronto. The map shows the Relative Density of BCR 13 Priority Bird Species. The priority birds area based on a draft BCR list.

This is a map of the Relative Density of Priority Bird Species for Bird Conservation region (BCR) 13 in Ontario. BCR 13 is shown as all of Ontario north of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and south of an imaginary line running from the islands at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to the islands at the northern tip of the Simcoe Uplands in south east Georgian Bay and then south of irregular boundary with the Canadian Shield that roughly runs from the southern Georgian Bay to approximately 50 km north of Kingston and then in an arch to north to Pembroke.  Manitoulin Island is located in the north part of Lake Huron and St. Joseph and Cockburn islands, located west of Manitoulin Island are also part of BCR 13. All Canadian islands in Lakes Erie, Ontario, St. Clair and the St. Lawrence River are also part of BCR 13. All Canadian Islands in the main part of Lake Huron and west half of Georgian Bay and west of Manitoulin Island and directly north of Manitoulin Island are part of BCR 13 as well. Approximately 20 medium sized lakes (each from 5 to 35 km long) are shown within BCR 13, but not named, in an area south of the Canadian Shield to the Ottawa area. The rest of Ontario is blank with no further detail other than the location of Sudbury and Lake Nipissing, both approximately 100 km northeast of the northeast corner of Georgian Bay. A portion of Quebec to the east and the United States to the west and south have been left blank. 

The Legend shows five categories of Relative Density: zero, low, moderate, high and very high. These categories are mapped as areas whose boundaries are smoothed isolines. Areas of relative density are nested; very high density areas being surrounded by high density areas, high density areas are in turn surrounded by moderate density areas and moderate density areas are surrounded by low density areas. There are no zero density areas.  All of the western portion of BCR 13 in Ontario (the area west of an imaginary line running from Hamilton to the southern limit of Georgian Bay) is mapped as moderate density with the exception of several low and high and very high relative density areas. The low relative density areas are: St. Joseph's island, the northern Bruce Peninsula, the central Lake Huron shoreline inland 10 to 20 km, an area at the very south end of lake Huron and extending down the St. Clair river and inland 10 to 20 km, an oval shaped area approximately 50 kilometres east to west and 20 km north to south extending westward from London, most of Essex County (the Windsor-Essex Peninsula, excluding Point Pelee) a 20 kilometer diameter area centred on the Beaver Valley (an area running inland some 20 km from the southwest shore of Georgian Bay), and a similar sized area roughly centered on Guelph (about 75 km west-southwest of Toronto). There are two high relative density areas approximately 10-15 kilometres in diameter midway between Guelph and Lake Huron, another on the east side of lake St. Clair extending approximately 10 km inland, Point Pelee, and a triangular shaped area extending eastward 70 kilometres along the north shore of Lake Erie from Rondeau Bay (located 85 kilometres due east of Windsor) and inland to a maximum distance of 60 kilometres. Within the latter two high density areas are small areas (less than 5 kilometres in any direction) of very high density at the southern tip of Point Pelee and around Rondeau Bay. There are three areas consisting of areas of very high density surrounded by areas of high density. One is an area extending eastward 150 kilometres along the north shore of Lake Erie from a point on the shoreline due south of London and generally running inland 40-50 kilometres. Another is an area starting at a point approximately 15 kilometres south from where the Niagara Escarpment meets Georgian Bay (Collingwood, approximately 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto), extending southward from there approximately 75 kilometres, then extending approximately 75 kilometres westward, then extending back to the point south of Georgian Bay. The other area is a roughly rectangular oval whose boundaries extend from Owen Sound on the west shore of Georgian Bay (approximately 150 kilometres north-northwest from Toronto), to a point on Lake Huron approximately 50 kilometres southwest of Owen Sound, then southeast inland approximately 30 kilometres, then northeast 50 kilometres, and then northwest to Owen Sound.

The central portion of BCR 13, roughly the area east of the imaginary line from Toronto to Georgian Bay and ending approximately 75 kilometres west of Kingston, is mapped as moderate density east of the Toronto to Georgian Bay line to a similar north-south line touching the eastern shore of lake Simcoe. There are areas of low density on the south and northwest shores of Lake Simcoe and an area running 25 km northeastward from Hamilton along the Lake Ontario shoreline and extending a maximum of approximately 20 km inland. The City of Toronto and a small oval shaped area approximately 20 kilometres north-northwest of it area mapped as high density areas. The rest of the central portion of BCR 13 is mapped as a high density except for a 20 kilometre stretch of the Lake Ontario shore extending inland 10 to 15 kilometres starting approximately 80 kilometres east of Toronto.  Very high density areas within the high density areas are shown as a band 20 to 40 kilometres wide east-west extending northward to the Canadian Shield from points on Lake Ontario approximately 50 and 70 kilometres eastward of Toronto, an approximately 30 kilometre diameter area approximately 50 kilometres north of lake Ontario and equidistant from Toronto and Kingston and all of BCR 13 from approximately 60 kilometres west and 60 kilometres east of Kingston.

The remaining eastern portion of BCR 13 is mapped a low density throughout the Ottawa valley and most of the area south from Ottawa to the St. Lawrence River. The remaining areas to the west and east are mapped as moderate density, except for one small (10 kilometre diameter) area of high density approximately 40 kilometres west-southwest of Ottawa.

The map is oriented to the north with a scale of 1.5 cm = 50 km. Both the Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada word marks are present.

Produced for Environment Canada copyright 2012 under license with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by Nature Conservancy of Canada 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic, NAD83

Data Sources: BSC et al. 2008; MNDM 2007. MNR 2006. Cadman et al 2004. Includes material copyright of the Queen in Right of Ontario. All Rights Reserved.

3.10 Priority regions – key regions

Fourteen key biodiversity attributes related to species at risk, migratory birds, wetlands, and other species and features were used to identify priority areas (see Table 5). The values of these attributes were determined for each region, and a score (0–4) was assigned based on the relative value of the attribute within the region compared to all other regions. The total score for each region was then divided by the maximum potential score (n=56), to assign each region a Conservation Priority Index score. Top-scoring regions (see Figure 6) are listed in Table 5. Many regions have identical scores, including the top-ranked Iroquois Plain and Napanee Plain, which each have a score of 54. This should be noted when ranking regions to avoid confusion. For example, the top 5 scores (54, 52, 48, 47 and 46) represent 8 different regions: the Iroquois Plain and Napanee Plain (54), the Erie Spits (52), the Haldimand Clay Plain (48), the St. Clair Clay Plains and Norfolk Sand Plain (47), and the Huron Fringe and Prince Edward Peninsula (46).

Figure 6. Biodiversity scores for physiographic regions

Image of map. See description below

Long description for figure 6

This is a map of the southern portion of Ontario with Lakes Huron, St. Clair, Erie and Ontario. The cities of Sudbury, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa are indicated by name. Lake Simcoe is not named but is shown approximately 100 km north of Toronto.

The map shows the Biodiversity score for each Physiographic region in the Ontario portion of the Mixedwood Plains ecozone. The 53 physiographic regions are of widely varying sizes and shapes. Each of the 53 physiographic regions is shown as belonging in one of five categories of biodiversity conservation score. These categories are listed in the legend 7 to 14 , 15 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 48, and 49 to 54.

The Mixedwood plains are shown as all of Ontario north of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and south of an imaginary line running from the islands at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to the islands at the northern tip of the Simcoe Uplands in south east Georgian Bay and then south of irregular boundary with the Canadian Shield that roughly runs from the southern Georgian Bay to approximately 50 km north of Kingston and then in an arch to north to Pembroke.  Manitoulin Island is located in the north part of Lake Huron and St. Joseph and Cockburn islands, located west of Manitoulin Island are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian islands in Lakes Erie, Ontario, St. Clair and the St. Lawrence River are also part of the Mixedwood Plains. All Canadian Islands in the main part of Lake Huron and west half of Georgian Bay and west of Manitoulin Island and directly north of Manitoulin Island are part of the Mixedwood Plains as well. Approximately 20 medium sized lakes (each from 5 to 35 km long) are shown within the Mixedwood Plains, but not named, in an area south of the Canadian Shield to the Ottawa area. The rest of Ontario is blank with no further detail other than the location of Sudbury and Lake Nipissing, both approximately 100 km northeast of the northeast corner of Georgian Bay. A portion of Quebec to the east and the United States to the west and south have been left blank. 

The physiographic regions in the 49 to 54 biodiversity scores category are those along the shore of Lake Ontario that extend inland 10 to 40 kilometres, and peninsulas extending into Lake Erie. The only area of the Lake Ontario Shoreline with a 35-48 score is the Prince Edward Peninsula, jutting into Lake Ontario, whose eastern boundary lies 40 km south-southwest of Kingston. The physiographic regions in the 35 to 48 biodiversity scores category are found along the remaining Great Lakes shorelines, the shores of Great Lakes connecting channels and Lake St. Clair, and lake Simcoe, extending from 5 kilometres (along Lake Huron) to 60 kilometres (Lake Erie, lake St. Clair) inland. The exceptions are St. Joseph's, Cockburn and Manitoulin Islands in northwest Lake Huron and an approximately 75 kilometre long section of Georgian Bay shore running form Collingwood to Owen Sound (approximately 100 kilometres northwest and 150 kilometres north-northwest from Toronto respectively) which are in the 15 to 24, 25 to 34 and 15 to 24 categories respectively. The remainder of the physiographic regions in the Mixedwood Plains fall in the 15 to 24 and 25 to 34 categories, with lower scoring regions located further inland from the Great Lakes and from the edge of the Canadian Shield. Inland areas are where the three regions with a 7 to 14 biodiversity conservation score are found in the southwest portion of the Mixedwood Plains and the 2 regions with the same scores are found in the eastern portion of the Plains, south of Ottawa.

The map is oriented to the north with a scale of 1.5 cm = 50 km. Both the Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada word marks are present.

Produced for Environment Canada copyright 2014 under license with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by Nature Conservancy of Canada 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic, NAD83

Data Sources: BSC et al 2008, MNDM 2007. MNR 2006, NHIC 2005, Cadman et al 2004.  Includes material copyright of the Queen in Printer for Ontario. All Rights Reserved.

Table 5. [Part 1 of 3] Regional summary of federal terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation priorities in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone. Scores based on assigning the results of each biodiversity value into quartiles. A value of 4 indicates that a region has a higher score than 75% of all other regions.
[No.]Physiographic region/ landscape unitSpecies at risk (SAR) rich-nessSAR countSAR irreplace-abilityGlobally rare speciesCoastal wet-landsColonial nesting water-birdsLand-bird stop-over
41Iroquois Plain4444444
39Napanee Plain3444444
21Erie Spits4444444
23Haldimand Clay Plain4444443
19St. Clair Clay Plains4444444
22Norfolk Sand Plain4444433
26Huron Fringe4404444
40Prince Edward Peninsula2303444
27Bruce Peninsula3404444
42Leeds Knobs and Flats3303444
35Simcoe Lowlands4304433
36Simcoe Uplands3203444
18Bothwell Sand Plains4444303
53Algonquin Highlands3443000
38Dummer Moraines4303000
43Smiths Falls Limestone Plain2304030
1Niagara Escarpment4403303
20Pelee Island3343344
37Carden Plain2303303
30Oak Ridges Moraine2302000
32South Slope3403000
5Horseshoe Moraines4404000
28Manitoulin Island3304444
31Peterborough Drumlin Field2303000
34Schomberg Clay Plains2202000
49Ottawa Valley Clay Plains2344000
13Arran Drumlin Field2202000
17Ekfrid Clay Plain4403303
25Huron Slope3202303
3Bighead Valley2202303
29St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands1102444
6Flamborough Plain3202000
16Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex4344000
33Peel Plain2202000
2Beaver Valley1102304
7Dundalk Till Plain2202000
11Guelph Drumlin Field3202000
44Edwardsburg Sand Plain2101000
46Glengarry Till Plain2103040
4Cape Rich Steps1101304
9Hillsburgh Sandhills1102000
10Waterloo Hills2202000
8Stratford Till Plain4302000
15Mount Elgin Ridges4303000
50Russell and Prescott Sand Plains2102000
12Teeswater Drumlin Field2202000
14Oxford Till Plain3202000
24Saugeen Clay Plain2102000
45North Gower Drumlin Field1100000
47Winchester Clay Plain1101000
48Lancaster Flats1101030
51Muskrat Lake Ridges1100000
52Petawawa Sand Plain0001000
Table 5. Continued [Part 2 of 3]
[No.]Physiographic region/ landscape unitShore-bird stop-overWater-fowl stop-overForest bird densityOpen-country bird densityShore-bird densityWater-bird densityWater-fowl density
41Iroquois Plain4443344
39Napanee Plain4344444
21Erie Spits4441344
23Haldimand Clay Plain3043434
19St. Clair Clay Plains3332044
22Norfolk Sand Plain3343233
26Huron Fringe4432342
40Prince Edward Peninsula4424444
27Bruce Peninsula4442240
42Leeds Knobs and Flats4343043
35Simcoe Lowlands3432402
36Simcoe Uplands4440340
18Bothwell Sand Plains2042043
53Algonquin Highlands2442233
38Dummer Moraines3344432
43Smiths Falls Limestone Plain2441343
1Niagara Escarpment3032303
20Pelee Island4300000
37Carden Plain3433400
30Oak Ridges Moraine3334333
32South Slope2033344
5Horseshoe Moraines2333203
28Manitoulin Island3000300
31Peterborough Drumlin Field2434402
34Schomberg Clay Plains2424332
49Ottawa Valley Clay Plains1302403
13Arran Drumlin Field3424330
17Ekfrid Clay Plain1043000
25Huron Slope4003202
3Bighead Valley4304000
29St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands4000030
6Flamborough Plain3340004
16Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex1031000
33Peel Plain2031044
2Beaver Valley4001300
7Dundalk Till Plain1304203
11Guelph Drumlin Field3032004
44Edwardsburg Sand Plain2321304
46Glengarry Till Plain1002402
4Cape Rich Steps4004000
9Hillsburgh Sandhills3304004
10Waterloo Hills2303004
8Stratford Till Plain1004003
15Mount Elgin Ridges1022002
50Russell and Prescott Sand Plains1302402
12Teeswater Drumlin Field2004004
14Oxford Till Plain1003003
24Saugeen Clay Plain1004400
45North Gower Drumlin Field1003403
47Winchester Clay Plain1002402
48Lancaster Flats1001400
51Muskrat Lake Ridges2403000
52Petawawa Sand Plain2301000
Table 5. Continued [Part 3 of 3]
[No.]Physiographic region/ landscape unitTotal scoreIndex score
41Iroquois Plain540.96
39Napanee Plain540.96
21Erie Spits520.93
23Haldimand Clay Plain480.86
19St. Clair Clay Plains470.84
22Norfolk Sand Plain470.84
26Huron Fringe460.82
40Prince Edward Peninsula460.82
27Bruce Peninsula430.77
42Leeds Knobs and Flats420.75
35Simcoe Lowlands390.70
36Simcoe Uplands390.70
18Bothwell Sand Plains370.66
53Algonquin Highlands340.61
38Dummer Moraines330.59
43Smiths Falls Limestone Plain330.59
1Niagara Escarpment310.55
20Pelee Island310.55
37Carden Plain310.55
30Oak Ridges Moraine290.52
32South Slope290.52
5Horseshoe Moraines280.50
28Manitoulin Island280.50
31Peterborough Drumlin Field270.48
34Schomberg Clay Plains260.46
49Ottawa Valley Clay Plains260.46
13Arran Drumlin Field250.45
17Ekfrid Clay Plain250.45
25Huron Slope240.43
3Bighead Valley230.41
29St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands230.41
6Flamborough Plain210.38
16Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex200.36
33Peel Plain200.36
2Beaver Valley190.34
7Dundalk Till Plain190.34
11Guelph Drumlin Field190.34
44Edwardsburg Sand Plain190.34
46Glengarry Till Plain190.34
4Cape Rich Steps180.32
9Hillsburgh Sandhills180.32
10Waterloo Hills180.32
8Stratford Till Plain170.30
15Mount Elgin Ridges170.30
50Russell and Prescott Sand Plains170.30
12Teeswater Drumlin Field160.29
14Oxford Till Plain140.25
24Saugeen Clay Plain140.25
45North Gower Drumlin Field130.23
47Winchester Clay Plain120.21
48Lancaster Flats120.21
51Muskrat Lake Ridges110.20
52Petawawa Sand Plain70.13

3.11 Highest-scoring regions overview

Iroquois Plain

This lowland area along the western and northern coast of Lake Ontario includes the past shoreline of post-glacial Lake Iroquois. The narrow band extends inland from the Lake Ontario shore at a distance that varies from a few hundred metres to over 10 kilometres, with a larger inland extension near its eastern boundary. Characteristic features of the region are sandy beaches, clay bluffs and large river-mouth wetlands. The Iroquois Plain includes 57 federal species at risk (species listed at risk under SARA as of 2008–2009), primarily in the Niagara region. The region has some of the largest and most extensive coastal wetlands in the ecozone. It is important for landbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds during migration. The islands near Toronto and Presqu'ile are important for colonial nesting waterbirds. Large areas of this region have been urbanized within Ontario's Golden Horseshoe, and most of the remaining one-third natural cover occurs in forests in the eastern portion of the region and in coastal wetlands.

Napanee Plain

The Napanee Plain is a flat limestone plain with many areas of thin soil or exposed bedrock. This plain runs along the northeastern coast of Lake Ontario and includes Amherst and Wolfe islands. Major relief is limited to valleys cut by the Salmon and Napanee rivers. The poor soils have limited agricultural land use, and 56% of the region remains in natural or semi-natural cover (a large portion of this is open country habitat [agricultural grasslands and bedrock, and meadow alvars] that are likely grazed). Most agricultural use is for pasture, and the Napanee Plain includes some of the most extensive grasslands in the ecozone (total of 45 392 hectares). The 25 species at risk found in the region are primarily associated with alvars and large coastal wetlands (4 776 hectares in total area). The proximity to the coast and high amount of natural cover also make this region important for migratory bird stopover sites.

Erie Spits

The Erie Spits include Point Pelee, Rondeau and Long Point. These spits are very low and dominated by sand beaches, open foredunes, forested backdunes and 3469 hectares of coastal wetlands, including the Long Point and Point Pelee Ramsar sites. These rare and unique Great Lakes coastal ecosystems support 51 species at risk. Over 85% of all rare species occurrences (and 65% of the total area of the region) are within protected areas including Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park and Long Point National Wildlife Area. These spits are well-known for their importance and use as migratory bird stopover sites. Over 97% of the region has been classified as "very high" value for landbirds, which is the highest value for any region in the ecozone.

Haldimand Clay Plain

The Haldimand Clay Plain includes most of the Niagara Peninsula and associated north shore of Lake Erie. It is almost 320 000 hectares, has almost one-third natural cover and includes 3 763 hectares of coastal wetlands. Almost 10% of the region includes habitat for open-country birds. This region ranks third for the richness of species at risk, and includes some irreplaceable species such as Virginia Mallow (irreplaceable species are those species that do not occur in other areas or other parts of an agency's jurisdiction. In the case of Virginia Mallow, it is only found in two Canadian locations, both in the southern portion of the Mixedwood Plains.). Many of the species at risk are associated with the coast of Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Only 0.2% of this region is protected, and a large portion associated with the Niagara River is designated as an Area of Concern.

St. Clair Clay Plains

At almost 500 000 hectares in size, the St. Clair Clay Plains is one of the largest regions in the ecozone, and one of the most heavily impacted. Only 8% of the region remains in natural cover (the lowest of all regions), and one quarter of this natural cover is concentrated in the Lake St. Clair delta. The remaining natural cover supports a high richness of species at risk. With 86 different species at risk (as of 2009), this is the highest number of any region in the ecozone. The St. Clair Clay Plains are also rich with globally rare species that are primarily associated with lake-plain prairies. In addition, the region has notable aquatic habitats and contains 9 184 hectares of coastal wetlands, including the St. Clair National Wildlife Area Ramsar site. The remaining natural cover is important landbird stopover habitat. This cover, in addition to poorly drained agricultural fields that are often flooded in the spring, also provides habitat for migrating shorebirds. This region has few protected areas; the St. Clair National Wildlife Area (over 350 hectares) is one of the largest.

Norfolk Sand Plain

The Norfolk Sand Plain is a large region that extends from the shore of Lake Erie near Long Point, north to the Brantford area. Approximately 25% of this region is in natural cover, primarily as forest, but it also includes sand barrens and some relatively large areas of prairie and savannah. There are over 70 different species at risk associated with the forests and grasslands. The proximity to the coast and high amount of natural cover also make this region important for migratory bird stopover sites, and it has a high density of BCR 13 priority forest species. The Long Point Biosphere Reserve includes part of this region.

Huron Fringe

The Huron Fringe is a narrow coastal band that extends from Sarnia to Stokes Bay on the Bruce Peninsula. It is characterized by terraces of glacial Lake Algonquin and Lake Nipissing, and includes active sand beaches and dunes, forested dune ridges and swales, and coastal fens. These coastal ecosystems support a large number of species at risk including Spotted Turtle, Dwarf Lake Iris and Tuberous Indian-plantain. This region has a relatively high amount of natural cover (49%), including over 4000 hectares of coastal wetland. The dry sandy soils and shallow bedrock make much of this region unsuitable for agriculture. The large areas of forest and proximity to the coast make this an important migratory corridor for landbirds. Shorebirds and waterfowl also use this coast. Colonial nesting waterbirds use the Fishing Islands and the Chantry Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Prince Edward Peninsula

The Prince Edward Peninsula is a low limestone plain that extends into eastern Lake Ontario, and is almost entirely separated from the mainland by the Bay of Quinte. The irregular shoreline results in an extensive coast, and approximately 20% of the entire Lake Ontario coastline occurs in this region. The soils include deeper tills that are suitable for agriculture and shallow, sometimes exposed limestone bedrock. Natural cover occurs on 57% of the Prince Edward Peninsula, and there are over 16 000 hectares of grassland. Approximately 2% of the region is within parks and protected areas, including Sandbanks Provincial Park and Prince Edward Point and Weller's Bay National Wildlife Areas. Species at risk are associated with the grassland (including alvars), sand beaches and the more than 6 400 hectares of coastal wetlands. This region is one of the most important for migratory stopover sites for all bird groups. The offshore islands support colonial nesting waterbirds.

3.12 An example of program investment: The distribution of Canadian Wildlife Service conservation incentive programs in the ecozone

CWS has invested resources in various locations within the ecozone under various programs and partnerships and through internal funding. Examples of partnership programs include the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture and the Black Duck Joint Venture, which fund site and regionally specific habitat restoration and securement initiatives. Examples of geographic allocation of internal resources include the numerous species and habitat monitoring and assessment activities (e.g., avian monitoring programs, coastal wetland monitoring and assessment) that CWS conducts.

The Ecological Gifts Program (EGP) and Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) are two relatively new federal incentive programs that directly support partner and citizen habitat stewardship and protection actions. To help assess and guide these programs, and to provide an example of how landscape assessments can be used for program assistance, properties donated through EGP ("ecological gifts") and HSP project sites were geospatially assessed in terms of the terrestrial biodiversity suite. Based on data from 2009, these programs combined had allocated resources to all but seven regions in the ecozone. The distribution of allocation had been focused in a few areas, with 60% of the regions having fewer than 10 ecological gifts and HSP project sites. Regions with the greatest number of total and HSP project sites were the St. Clair Clay Plains, Stratford Till Plain, Horseshoe Moraines, Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex, and the Ekfrid Clay Plain. This is primarily a result of the high number of HSP project sites for species at risk. Regions with the highest number of ecological gifts were the Oak Ridges Moraine, Simcoe Lowlands, Iroquois Plain, Niagara Escarpment, Horseshoe Moraines and Norfolk Sand Plain. Given that HSP is focused upon species at risk, Table 6 below shows the ranking for regions based on both species at risk richness and total number of HSP projects. Other biodiversity elements were excluded from Table 6.

Table 7 provides a list, in descending order, of the total number of HSP and EGP sites, and Table 8 lists projects by biodiversity ranking. The eight regions with the top five biodiversity scores had 35% of the HSP projects, 19% of the ecological gifts, and overall 32% of all HSP and EGP sites. The seven regions with the five lowest overall biodiversity scores had 5% of the HSP project sites, 2% of the ecological gifts, and 4% of the combined total of EGP and HSP sites. If the Oxford Till Plain is eliminated from the analysis, the remaining lowest-ranked regions had 2% of all ecological gifts but only 0.1% of the HSP project sites, and a combined total of only 1% of all EGP and HSP sites.

Table 6. Comparison of species at risk richness and HSP projects by physiographic region
Species at risk richness (ranked)Habitat stewardship program projects (ranked)
1. St. Clair Clay Plains1. St. Clair Clay Plains
2. Norfolk Sand Plain2. Stratford Till Plain
3. Haldimand Clay Plain3. Horseshoe Moraines
4. Bothwell Sand Plains4. Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex
5. Iroquois Plain5. Ekfrid Clay Plain
6. Erie Spits6. Napanee Plain
7. Horseshoe Moraines7. Oxford Till Plain
8. Huron Fringe8. Oak Ridges Moraine
9. Ekfrid Clay Plain9. Bothwell Sand Plains
10. Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex10. Peterborough Drumlin Field
11. Mount Elgin Ridges11. Norfolk Sand Plain
12. Stratford Till Plain12. Haldimand Clay Plain
13. Niagara Escarpment13. Mount Elgin Ridges
14. Simcoe Lowlands14. Huron Fringe
15. Pelee Island15. Iroquois Plain
16. Napanee Plain16. Pelee Island
17. South Slope17. South Slope
18. Oxford Till Plain18. Carden Plain
19. Simcoe Uplands19. Dundalk Till Plain
20. Leeds Knobs and Flats20. Niagara Escarpment
Table 7. HSP and EGP projects (sorted by total number of projects [2009])
Biodiversity score rankRegion no.Physiographic regionFederally protected landNumber of ecological giftsNumber of HSP projectsTotal number of project
419St. Clair Clay Plains0.00%8184192
2410Waterloo Hills0.00%3165168
1237Carden Plain0.00%118596
1220Pelee Island0.00%06363
1649Ottawa Valley Clay Plains0.00%15354
139Napanee Plain0.00%54247
145Horseshoe Moraines0.00%40343
2550Russell and Prescott Sand Plains0.00%04343
1138Dummer Moraines0.00%53641
1428Manitoulin Island0.00%73037
526Huron Fringe0.00%53136
540Prince Edward Peninsula0.00%102636
2714Oxford Till Plain0.00%53035
323Haldimand Clay Plain0.00%32730
141Iroquois Plain0.00%131023
1332South Slope0.00%61521
121Niagara Escarpment0.00%51116
1531Peterborough Drumlin Field0.00%51116
2311Guelph Drumlin Field0.00%21315
836Simcoe Uplands0.00%14014
1053Algonquin Highlands0.00%11314
216Flamborough Plain0.00%01111
835Simcoe Lowlands0.00%909
422Norfolk Sand Plain10.00%718
1143Smiths Falls Limestone Plain0.10%718
1717Ekfrid Clay Plain0.00%808
2346Glengarry Till Plain0.00%088
1713Arran Drumlin Field0.00%527
918Bothwell Sand Plains0.00%606
193Bighead Valley0.00%066
2344Edwardsburg Sand Plain0.00%426
221Erie Spits53.80%055
742Leeds Knobs and Flats1.40%505
1634Schomberg Clay Plains0.00%404
249Hillsburgh Sandhills0.00%134
2612Teeswater Drumlin Field0.80%404
1330Oak Ridges Moraine0.40%303
2216Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex0.10%123
232Beaver Valley0.00%213
1825Huron Slope0.00%202
2029St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands0.00%202
244Cape Rich Steps0.00%202
2724Saugeen Clay Plain0.00%202
258Stratford Till Plain0.00%101
2845North Gower Drumlin Field0.00%101
2948Lancaster Flats0.00%101
627Bruce Peninsula0.50%000
2233Peel Plain0.60%000
237Dundalk Till Plain0.00%000
2515Mount Elgin Ridges0.00%000
2947Winchester Clay Plain0.00%000
3051Muskrat Lake Ridges0.00%000
3152Petawawa Sand Plain0.00%000
--Total-2369231159
Table 8. HSP and EGP projects (sorted by biodiversity rank [2009])
Biodiversity score rankRegion no.Physiographic regionFederally protected landNumber of ecological giftsNumber of HSP projectsTotal number of projects
141Iroquois Plain0.00%131023
139Napanee Plain0.00%54247
221Erie Spits53.80%055
323Haldimand Clay Plain0.00%53136
419St. Clair Clay Plains0.00%8184192
422Norfolk Sand Plain0.00%102636
526Huron Fringe0.00%32730
540Prince Edward Peninsula0.50%000
627Bruce Peninsula10.00%718
742Leeds Knobs and Flats1.40%505
835Simcoe Lowlands0.00%14014
836Simcoe Uplands0.00%909
918Bothwell Sand Plains0.00%53641
1053Algonquin Highlands0.10%718
1138Dummer Moraines0.00%606
1143Smiths Falls Limestone Plain0.40%303
121Niagara Escarpment0.00%11314
1220Pelee Island0.00%61521
1237Carden Plain0.00%51116
1330Oak Ridges Moraine0.00%40343
1332South Slope0.00%51116
145Horseshoe Moraines0.00%118596
1428Manitoulin Island0.00%527
1531Peterborough Drumlin Field0.00%73037
1634Schomberg Clay Plains0.00%404
1649Ottawa Valley Clay Plains0.00%808
1713Arran Drumlin Field0.00%202
1717Ekfrid Clay Plain0.00%15354
1825Huron Slope0.00%01111
193Bighead Valley0.00%202
2029St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands0.60%000
216Flamborough Plain0.00%426
2216Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex0.00%06363
2233Peel Plain0.00%088
232Beaver Valley0.00%000
237Dundalk Till Plain0.00%21315
2311Guelph Drumlin Field0.00%066
2344Edwardsburg Sand Plain0.00%101
2346Glengarry Till Plain0.80%404
244Cape Rich Steps0.00%000
249Hillsburgh Sandhills0.00%202
2410Waterloo Hills0.00%134
258Stratford Till Plain0.00%3165168
2515Mount Elgin Ridges0.00%53035
2550Russell and Prescott Sand Plains0.10%123
2612Teeswater Drumlin Field0.00%101
2714Oxford Till Plain0.00%04343
2724Saugeen Clay Plain0.00%202
2845North Gower Drumlin Field0.00%213
2947Winchester Clay Plain0.00%000
2948Lancaster Flats0.00%101
3051Muskrat Lake Ridges0.00%000
3152Petawawa Sand Plain0.00%000
--Total-2369231159

4 Discussion

The Mixedwood Plains within Ontario is a diverse yet highly fragmented ecozone with biodiversity values scattered across the region. Many of these values are associated with fragmented natural cover, but there are also a number of species and habitats, such as grassland birds, that are located within the dominant agricultural land-use matrix. This fragmentation also geographically fragments Environment Canada mandate-related conservation and protection activities, with Environment Canada resources being spread across the ecozone. The results of this analysis can be used to better understand this complex landscape and identify areas with multiple, overlapping biodiversity values.

These clusters of multiple biodiversity values present opportunities for protection and restoration and show where a single investment will potentially result in many measurable benefits. For example, a project that restores forest habitat for species at risk on Pelee Island will also create "high priority" stopover habitat for landbirds. There is also an opportunity to better target programs to areas that have "under-serviced" biodiversity. This could include building capacity in local land trusts through training and the development of site-based conservation plans, or identifying priorities for biodiversity designations. Results could also be used to support actions for BCR 13 and assist in multi-species and ecosystem-based recovery strategies and action plans.

Before identifying potential areas of conservation concern and action, it is important to understand the assumptions and considerations behind this mapping project.

One approach to conservation is to compare biodiversity values for each physiographic region of the Mixedwood Plains to the corresponding CRI values. A consideration is that the CRI measures protection by the existence of federal and provincial protected areas, which account for only a small portion of the ecozone. As a result, it is also important to look at local stewardship activities and land use planning designations and the varying degrees of habitat protection they provide. Furthermore, CRI cannot be calculated where no regulated protected areas exist in a region, which leaves many regions unrepresented for comparison purposes. Also, CRI does not count agricultural land uses--such as pasture and hay--as habitat, which many open-country bird species rely upon, so using CRI alone will not present a fully balanced assessment. Comparing biodiversity values against present and predicted conservation risks, such as development pressures found in provincial or local planning documents or general declines in forest or grassland cover, will also help to assess the extent to which biodiversity elements are at risk.

It is important to consider the technical limitations of maps produced by this project and maps in general. Maps are an abstraction of the actual land surface and ecological attributes. For example, the GIS used to create the maps in this project shows only discrete lines between regions and natural phenomena, where in reality boundaries are more diffuse. As a result, this exercise does not represent ecotones, and it presents an even-value surface across a region, patch or distribution, where this may not be the case. The project also only uses comprehensive and sometimes generalized data sets. Therefore, finer-scale site- and species-specific information must be employed to make conservation decisions. Also, while there is a great difference in the value of conservation scores between the top- and bottom-scoring regions (e.g., the Iroquois Plain and the Petawawa Sand Plain have scores of 54 and 7 respectively), there is little difference between any region and the next highest- or lowest-scoring region (e.g., the Haldimand Clay Plain is the third-highest scoring region at 48 points, the St. Clair Clay Plains and Norfolk Sand Plain are tied for fourth-highest score at 47, and the Huron Fringe and Prince Edward Peninsula share the fifth-highest score at 46: altogether representing a range of only 3 points). Therefore, care must be taken when attempting to rank similarly scored regions for conservation purposes, as the differences between regions may be nominal.   

In terms of overall results, this study confirms the influence of landscape features and phenomena operating from an ecozone to continental scale.

  1. A latitudinal influence is exhibited, with species at risk being concentrated in the southern physiographic regions. The 10 physiographic regions with the greatest richness of species at risk are all fully or partially located in the Lake Erie Lowland Ecoregion/Carolinian Canada life zone, the most southerly division of the Mixedwood Plains. These areas have a greater richness of all species because they have a higher number of species that reach their northern range limit in southern Ontario, including many species that are not at risk in other parts of their range (e.g., Blue Ash). There also appears to be greater richness of species at risk within Great Lakes coastal areas.
  2. When the overall terrestrial biodiversity portfolio is considered, a strong association between it and the Great Lakes coast can be observed. This is seen in the presence of multiple, overlapping biodiversity features such as species at risk, migratory stopover habitat, waterbird nesting sites, as well as the presence of existing federal protected areas and designations. There are also additional federal lands near the Great Lakes coast, including Department of National Defence (Cape Rich), First Nations communities and Transport Canada (associated with Great Lakes navigation).
  3. There is also a strong association between biodiversity and the zone of transition to the Canadian Shield. Mapping of biodiversity attributes on the Shield showed corresponding higher values immediately north of the Mixedwood Plains transition that diminished northward, which suggests an ecotone effect of higher diversity. This relationship, along with the high values along the Great Lakes, may reflect the positive effect on biodiversity of adjacent terrestrial and aquatic ecozones.
  4. Conversely, the higher inland elevations in southwest Ontario and the far eastern counties and Ottawa valley have lower biodiversity scores. For southwest Ontario, this may be a reflection of climate changes with elevation, the absence of a fertile coastal plain (Riley 2013) and a dampening of the effect of the Great Lakes with elevation and distance. Lower levels of biodiversity in eastern Ontario may be due to the effect of latitude and lack of an ecotone effect with an adjacent ecozone.

The relationship between conservation programming and biodiversity values, as exemplified by the distribution of ecological gifts and HSP project sites, is not always straightforward. When HSP and EGP locations are looked at broadly, it appears that incentive funds (match funds for HSP, income tax deductions for EGP) were generally allocated to the regions with the highest biodiversity values. For example, of the 1159 HSP projects and ecological gifts included in this analysis, approximately 32% occurred in the 8 regions with the highest overall biodiversity scores. In contrast, only 4% of the projects occurred in the 7 regions with the lowest total scores. When HSP and EGP are looked at separately, the relationship between conservation programming and biodiversity values changes. HSP projects did largely appear to be located in regions with higher biodiversity scores (35% of projects in the 8 highest-ranked regions for biodiversity, 4% of the 7 lowest ranked, and 0.1% of 6 of the 7 lowest ranked) but are even more closely related to species at risk richness. This seems obvious, as HSP is a species at risk focused program. However, this relationship cannot be assumed, as there are other factors to consider. For example, the infrastructure to carry out projects (e.g., number of capable recipients, conservation groups and networks) is not evenly distributed across all physiographic regions. This unevenness does show up in some notable disjuncts between species at risk richness, biodiversity scores and number of projects. For example, the Oak Ridges Moraine and Peterborough Drumlin field had respectively the 8th and 10th most HSP projects (as of 2009) but are only the 34th and 33rd highest-ranking regions for species at risk richness. And there is also a matter of applicability: the Erie Spits has high species at risk and biodiversity scores, but 65% of the region is within federal or provincial protected areas, which are ineligible for program funding. These few regions would appear to be exceptions and generally, resources had matched species at risk richness and overall biodiversity. Shortly after 2009, CWS-Ontario began using terrestrial biodiversity data to help select Habitat Stewardship Program project locations according to biodiversity value. Therefore, HSP project locations after this date are now correlated to regional biodiversity scores. Any subsequent analysis using post 2009 data can not be used to assess any independent relationship between HSP locations and biodiversity values.

The EGP projects showed less of a relationship with biodiversity scores. Nineteen percent of the ecological gifts were in the eight highest ranked regions. In comparison, 22% of the ecological gifts would be randomly expected to occur within any eight regions. However, only 5% of the ecological gifts were made in the lowest scoring regions, showing that ecological gifts at least tended to not occur in the less biodiverse regions. As with HSP, local opportunities and resources play a role. For example, there needs to be local land trusts or other conservation bodies to donate land to and there need to be groups of willing rural land donors. Also, the EGP is a far more applicant-driven program, and the threshold for participation (i.e., presence of ecologically sensitive land) is more commonly found across the ecozone than are species at risk habitats.

As an initial step towards mapping terrestrial biodiversity values, it is hoped that this project will provide a coarse filter across the Mixedwood Plains to help CWS and its partners prioritize conservation activities. The next phase (Tier 3) of this project is under way to identify local landscape features within the 53 physiographic regions that are potentially influencing the distribution and density of migratory birds, species at risk, and other elements of the biodiversity portfolio. It is intended that the maps will be at a resolution and in a format that allow their use by local decision makers for local planning. This finer-resolution assessment addressing habitat patches and local landscape attributes will be the third tier of analysis, building upon the coarser-scale ecozone and the physiographic region assessments (respectively Tier 1 and Tier 2 assessments) that have been outlined and presented in this report.

5 Acknowledgements

This is a collaborative project. It was the result of an initial project completed by NCC-Ontario Region under contract to Environment Canada-Ontario. Environment Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) subsequently collaborated to expand upon the original product.

This report is based upon the following report:

Federal Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone of Ontario.
G. Bryan, A. Hebb, K. Holmes and D. Kraus. Unpublished. October 2011.

This report and ecozone-scale maps are copyright of Environment Canada; the physiographic regions map series is used in agreement with NCC. Data for this project were provided by the Natural Heritage Information Centre, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Canadian Wildlife Service, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Tallgrass Ontario and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network. Thanks to Marie Archambault (Environment Canada-CWS) for refinement of the original ecozone-scale maps and production of French-language versions.

Dave Ewert of The Nature Conservancy provided advice on how to model migratory bird stopover sites for this project.
Thanks to Nancy Patterson of Environment Canada-CWS for review and guidance, to John Brett and Jocelyn Sherwood (Environment Canada-CWS) for review, and to Dan Kraus and Andrea Hebb (NCC-Ontario) for helping place the Environment Canada wildlife and habitat mandate into spatially based conservation planning.

6 Bibliography

Australian Government. 2006. Biodiversity Hotspots. (Accessed February 7, 2009).

Burnett, J.A. 2003. A Passion for Wildlife: The History of the Canadian Wildlife Service. Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press.

Canadian Wildlife Service. 2004. Focus on the Canadian Wildlife Service. No longer in print.

Chapman, L.J. and D.F. Putnam. 1984. The physiography of southern Ontario, 3rd ed. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 270 pp.

COSEWIC. December 2008. Canadian Wildlife Species at Risk. (Accessed January 7, 2009).

COSEWIC. May 2012. Canadian Wildlife Species at Risk [PDF; 703 Kb].

Department of Justice Canada. 2000. Canada National Parks Act. (Accessed January 6, 2009).

Department of Justice Canada. 2002. Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. (Accessed January 7, 2009).

--. Canada Wildlife Act. 2005. (Accessed January 7, 2009).

--. Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. 1994. (Accessed December 23, 2008).

--.Species at Risk Act. 2002. (Accessed January 7, 2009).

Environment Canada. July 24, 2008. Areas of Concern.

--. Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. September 11, 2007. (Accessed January 19, 2009).

--. Mixedwood Plains Ecozone. April 11, 2005. (Accessed January 19, 2009).

--. The Ontario Ecogifts Program. December 17, 2007. (Accessed January 19, 2009)

Ewert, D.N., G.J. Soulliere, R.D. Macleod, M.C. Shieldcastle, P.G. Rodewald, E. Fujimura, J. Shieldcastle and R.J. Gates. 2005. Migratory bird stopover site attributes in the western Lake Erie basin. Final report to The George Gund Foundation.

Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). 2008. ArcGIS Desktop 9.3. Redlands, California: ESRI.

Government of Canada. Species at Risk Public Registry. February 27, 2008. (Accessed January 7, 2009).

Government of Canada. 1991. The Federal Policy on Wetland Conservation. Ottawa: Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, 13 pp.

International Joint Commission. 1987. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. (Accessed January 9, 2009).

Knight, A.T., R.J. Smith, R.M. Cowling, P.G. Desmet, D.P. Faith, S. Ferrier, C.M. Gelderblom, H. Grantham, A.T. Lombard, K. Maze, J.L. Nel, J.D. Parrish, G.Q.K. Pence, H.P. Possingham, B. Reyers, M. Rouget, D. Roux and K.A. Wilson. 2007. Improving the key biodiversity areas approach for effective conservation planning. BioScience 57:256-261.

Margules, C.R. and Pressey, R.L. 2000. Systematic conservation planning. Nature 405:243–253.

Microsoft. 2007. Microsoft EXCEL. Redmond, Washington: Microsoft Corporation. 

Myers, N., R.A. Mittermeier, C.G. Mittermeier, G.A.B. da Fonseca and J. Kent. 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Mixedwood Plains. November 28, 2008.

Parks Canada. National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada. November 10, 2008. (Accessed January 7, 2009).

Ramsar Convention Secretariat. 2007. What is the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands? Ramsar Information Paper no. 2 [PDF; 521 Kb]. (Accessed January 6, 2009).

Ricketts, T.H., E. Dinerstein, D. Olson, C. Loucks, W. Eichbaum, D. DellaSalla, K. Kavanagh, P. Hedao, P. Hurley, K. Carney, R. Abell and S. Walters. 1999. Terrestrial Ecoregions of North America: A Conservation Assessment. Washington: Island Press.

Riley, J.L. The Once and Future Great Lakes Country: An Ecological History. 2013.McGill-Queen's Press.

United Nations Environment Programme. 1993.Convention on Biological Diversity. (Accessed January 6, 2009).

UNSECO. MAB Biosphere Reserves Directory. January 8, 2009. (Accessed January 9, 2009).

Appendix A: Land cover and conservation

Land Cover and Conservation (sorted by physiographic region number)
[No.]Physiographic
region/landscape unit
Total area
(ha)
Land cover
agriculture
Land cover
urban
Land cover
natural
Area protectedgConservation risk indexh
01Niagara Escarpment58 237.243.3%4.1%51.4%3.4%13.9
02Beaver Valley15 861.760.7%0.5%38.4%0.0%0.0
03Bighead Valley26 357.356.5%0.9%42.4%0.0%0.0
04Cape Rich Steps21 498.640.2%3.5%55.5%0.4%104.7
05Horseshoe Moraines622 676.764.8%0.4%34.1%0.2%381.4
06Flamborough Plain42 452.443.2%0.0%55.1%0.0%0.0
07Dundalk Till Plain248 785.971.3%0.2%27.6%0.0%0.0
08Stratford Till Plain333 409.188.5%1.2%9.9%0.0%0.0
09Hillsburgh Sandhills15 072.255.9%2.1%41.0%0.0%0.0
10Waterloo Hills44 248.869.8%13.8%15.7%0.0%0.0
11Guelph Drumlin Field115 074.362.6%5.0%30.2%0.1%569.5
12Teeswater Drumlin Field130 309.377.3%0.3%22.0%0.0%0.0
13Arran Drumlin Field55 406.257.0%0.0%41.2%0.0%0.0
14Oxford Till Plain117 024.583.6%2.8%12.8%0.0%11 164.9
15Mount Elgin Ridges129 335.085.4%3.2%11.1%0.0%0.0
16Caradoc Sand Plains and London Annex38 308.969.9%11.3%17.8%0.5%162.1
17Ekfrid Clay Plain125 201.382.2%0.4%17.2%0.0%1 947.5
18Bothwell Sand Plains124 449.085.5%0.4%13.8%0.0%17 224.9
19St. Clair Clay Plains498 159.388.6%2.2%8.3%0.2%456.6
20Pelee Island3 624.072.1%5.2%22.4%3.3%23.8
21Erie Spits6 137.313.9%0.0%68.6%64.8%0.2
22Norfolk Sand Plain258 081.573.0%1.6%24.8%0.2%443.7
23Haldimand Clay Plain319 331.866.6%3.1%29.2%0.2%283.6
24Saugeen Clay Plain35 660.569.7%0.5%29.5%0.0%0.0
25Huron Slope134 357.684.0%0.5%15.3%0.1%637.2
26Huron Fringe55 061.041.1%5.5%49.0%5.5%8.5
27Bruce Peninsula151 938.912.5%0.3%83.0%11.5%1.1
28Manitoulin Island280 363.90.0%0.1%86.4%0.4%0.2
29St. Joseph and Cockburn Islands48 382.10.0%0.1%95.5%0.6%0.2
30Oak Ridges Moraine115 156.942.9%0.5%54.6%0.0%8 595.8
31Peterborough Drumlin Field409 900.147.7%1.0%46.1%0.2%296.3
32South Slope199 261.155.9%17.0%27.0%0.2%311.2
33Peel Plain86 363.449.4%36.9%13.6%0.0%0.0
34Schomberg Clay Plains71 280.858.5%3.6%29.4%0.0%0.0
35Simcoe Lowlands277 680.936.8%1.6%36.8%0.6%60.0
36Simcoe Uplands119 557.035.5%1.6%61.6%1.6%22.9
37Carden Plain90 475.014.3%0.0%76.2%1.4%10.4
38Dummer Moraines188 842.815.7%0.1%77.2%0.6%27.9
39Napanee Plain213 713.636.4%3.2%56.8%0.0%1 508.5
40Prince Edward Peninsula97 427.938.7%0.0%56.5%2.1%18.7
41Iroquois Plain247 905.342.2%20.4%35.2%0.1%490.3
42Leeds Knobs and Flats60 327.130.7%0.4%65.9%1.4%22.5
43Smiths Falls Limestone Plain260 728.616.4%0.6%80.0%0.6%28.9
44Edwardsburg Sand Plain75 256.126.2%0.4%72.2%0.1%234.1
45North Gower Drumlin Field45 658.854.3%0.7%43.9%0.0%0.0
46Glengarry Till Plain202 180.927.4%0.4%71.5%0.8%36.7
47Winchester Clay Plain85 619.271.5%0.2%28.1%0.0%0.0
48Lancaster Flats36 804.846.9%4.0%48.2%0.0%0.0
49Ottawa Valley Clay Plains286 975.738.6%5.9%53.1%0.4%119.0
50Russell and Prescott Sand Plains109 089.530.5%1.9%66.8%0.6%50.2
51Muskrat Lake Ridges27 396.517.3%0.0%78.2%1.0%16.6
52Petawawa Sand Plain7 433.844.9%7.3%47.0%1.6%32.5
53Algonquin Highlands130 322.211.1%0.0%70.8%5.3%2.1
-Total7 500 16452%3%41%0.7%75.8

g Regulated Protected Areas includes provincial parks, conservation reserves, national parks, national wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries

h Conservation Risk Index is a ratio of converted land to protected habitat; the average for the temperate forest region in North America is 2.2 (Hoekstra et al. 2005).

Appendix B: Priority bird species

Priority bird species for BCR 12 and 13.
Note: Provisional list as of 2009, not final list.

Priority landbird species in Ontario
SpeciesBCR 12BCR 13ForestOpen countryiNotes – forest/open country guild
Acadian Flycatcher-X---
American KestrelXX-X-
Bald EagleXX---
Baltimore Oriole-X---
Bank SwallowXX-X-
Barn Owl-X-X-
Barn SwallowXX-X-
Bay-breasted WarblerX-X--
Belted KingfisherXX---
Black-billed CuckooXX---
Blackburnian WarblerX-X--
Black-throated Blue Warbler>X-X--
Black-throated Green WarblerX-X--
Blue-winged Warbler-X---
BobolinkXX-X-
Broad-winged HawkX-X--
Brown ThrasherXX-X-
Canada WarblerXXX--
Cerulean WarblerXXX--
Chestnut-sided Warbler-----
Chimney SwiftXX---
Cliff Swallow--X--
Common NighthawkXX---
Common YellowthroatX----
Connecticut WarblerX-X--
Eastern Kingbird-X-X-
Eastern Meadowlark-X-X-
Eastern TowheeXX---
Eastern Wood-PeweeXXX--
Evening GrosbeakX-X--
Field SparrowXX-X-
Golden EagleXX---
Golden-winged WarblerXX-X-
Grasshopper Sparrow-X-X-
Gray CatbirdX----
Great Gray OwlX-X--
Henslow's Sparrow-X-X-
Hooded Warbler-XX--
Horned LarkX--X-
KilldeerX----
Kirtland's WarblerXXX-No records in BCR 13
Least FlycatcherX-X-Forest edges
Loggerhead ShrikeXX-X-
Louisiana WaterthrushXXX--
Mourning WarblerX----
Nashville WarblerX-X--
Northern Bobwhite-X-X-
Northern FlickerXX---
Northern GoshawkX-X--
Northern Harrier-X-X-
Northern Rough-winged SwallowXX---
Olive-sided FlycatcherXXX-Open boreal wetlands
Peregrine FalconXX---
Prairie WarblerXX---
Prothonotary Warbler-XX--
Purple FinchX-X--
Purple MartinXX---
Red CrossbillX-X--
Red-headed WoodpeckerXX---
Rose-breasted GrosbeakXXX--
Rudy-crowned KingletX-X--
Ruffed GrouseX-X--
Rusty BlackbirdXX--Open boreal wetlands
Sandhill CraneX---Open boreal wetlands
Savannah Sparrow-X-X-
Sedge WrenX----
Short-eared OwlXX-X-
Song SparrowX----
Swamp SparrowX----
Tennessee WarblerX-X--
Tree SwallowX----
VeeryX-X--
Vesper Sparrow-X-X-
Whip-poor-willXX---
White-throated SparrowX-X--
Willow FlycatcherXX-X-
Wood ThrushXXX--
Yellow-bellied SapsuckerX-X--
Yellow-breasted Chat-X---
Total644827 in BCR 12/11 in BCR 1312 in BCR 12/19 in BCR 13-

i Based on Beacon 2009. Only includes species for which open country is likely essential to maintain habitat.

SpeciesBCR 12BCR 13Open countryj
Upland Sandpiper-XX
Blue-winged Teal-XX
Total-22

j Based on Beacon 2009. Only includes species for which open country is likely essential to maintain habitat.

Priority waterbird species in Ontario
Note: Based upon provisional list as of 2009, not final list.
SpeciesBCR 12BCR 13Notes
American Bittern-X-
American CootXX-
American White PelicanXX-
Black-crowned Night-HeronXX-
Black TernXX-
Bonaparte's GullX--
Caspian TernXX-
Common Loon-X-
Common GallinuleXX-
Common TernXX-
Forster's TernXX-
Great Black-backed GullXX-
Great Blue Heron-X-
Great Egret-X-
Green HeronXX-
Herring GullXX-
Horned GrebeXX-
King RailXX-
Least BitternXX-
Little GullXX-
Pied-billed Grebe-X-
Red-necked GrebeXX-
Ring-billed GullX--
Virginia Rail-X-
Yellow RailXX-
Total1923 
Priority shorebird species in Ontario
Note: Based upon provisional list as of 2009, not final list.
SpeciesBCR 12BCR 13Notes
American Golden-Plover-X-
American WoodcockXX-
Black-bellied Plover-XNo records
Buff-breasted Sandpiper-XNo records
Eskimo CurlewXXNo records
Piping PloverXX-
Red KnotXXNo records
Solitary SandpiperX--
Spotted SandpiperX--
Upland Sandpiper-XAlso included in open country analysis
Total68-
Priority Waterfowl Species in Ontario
Note: Based upon provisional list as of 2009, not final list.
SpeciesBCR 12BCR 13Notes
American Black DuckXX-
Blue-winged Teal-XAlso included in open country analysis
Canada Goose (Ontario Resident)X--
Canvasback-X-
Common GoldeneyeXX-
Common MerganserXX-
Green-winged TealXX-
Hooded MerganserXX-
Lesser Scaup-X-
MallardXX-
Redhead-X-
Ring-necked DuckXX-
Tundra Swan-X-
Wood DuckXX-
Total913-

Footnote

Footnote 1

Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern. Canadian total does not include marine species. Some species recently designated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (e.g., Snapping Turtle, Canada Warbler) were not included in the analysis because no element occurrence information has been assembled. Based on 2009 status information.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Date modified: