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Hardwood Transition / Lower Great Lakes – More Information

Background information on DU's Hardwood Transition / Lower Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Plain - Ontario conservation priority area
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Grassland restoration

Native grasses and forbs provide long-term benefits as upland cover for nesting waterfowl and a wide range of birds and mammals. This technique is used in agricultural landscapes within the Mixed Woodland Plain and Coastal regions to promote permanent retirement of marginal and fragile lands. The native grass program is strategically implemented around critical coastal and inland wetlands providing an important buffer to disturbance, improving runoff water quality and providing important nesting habitat.

Beaver Pond Management

The Beaver Pond Management program is implemented on large blocks of Crown and private land ranging up to 20,243 ha in area and encompassing complexes of 200-500 beaver ponds in various stages of succession. Beaver ponds are considered the most important waterfowl-breeding habitat in Ontario and are greatly influenced by forest management and fire suppression practices. Partnerships and cooperative efforts with Forestry Companies and the Ministry of Natural Resources will focus on modifying current forest management practices, policies and guidelines for the benefit of beaver populations, which in turn benefit wetlands and waterfowl. Small changes in current forestry management activities will have large-scale, significant and sustainable benefits to waterfowl and other wetland dependant wildlife. Direct program techniques under the Beaver Pond Management program will center on addressing waterfowl breeding limitations through nest box placement and upland management.

Mixed Woodland Plain landscape

The Mixed Woodland Plain landscape is located from the southern extent of Ontario northward up to the Precambrian Shield Region of central Ontario. This landscape is tremendously diverse and includes physiographic features such as sand, clay, limestone and till plains, which are interspersed with moraine and drumlin features. Prior to European settlement this region had large areas of seasonally flooded swamps in the southwest and expanses of aak savannah interspersed with tall grass prairie through the southern and central regions. While much of the eastern and central regions were covered by mixed deciduous/coniferous forests. Land use activities with major influences in this region have been agriculture, forestry and urban expansion. There is no doubt that agriculture has had the greatest influence to date, impacting over 3 million ha within the Mixed Woodland Plain. The amount of land in agricultural production varies from 80-90% of the land area in the southwest and east to as little as 5-10% in central and northern portions.

In the past, wetlands in the GLSL have been viewed as wastelands and a hindrance to human progress. Large-scale drainage of the Mixed Woodland Plain landscape began as early as the 1880s with passage of the Ontario Drainage Act that offered farmers financial assistance to drain their lands. Urban development, including transportation and service (hydro, gas/oil) corridors, has also been responsible for high wetland loss and by 1967 over half of the original 2.4 million ha of southern Ontario’s wetlands had been lost (Snell 1987). Loss in areas of the southwest and east has reached 90% and is among the highest loss rates observed in Canada.

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