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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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Assumptions

  • A recovery of beaver populations has resulted in colonization of most lowland basins. In recent times, this has resulted in near maximum waterfowl production in this landscape.
  • Waterfowl capabilities or carrying capacities are not equal across all of the Shield landscape.
  • Disturbances such as fire and disease are much less frequent and effect smaller areas now than occurred historically.
  • An average annual disturbance of 2% of the total riparian zone within the Shield landscape will simulate historical disturbance frequency and sustain current beaver populations.
  • Appropriate forest management activities within riparian zones can mimic natural disturbances.
  • Forest management practices such as those that support pileated woodpecker will create conditions that will benefit cavity-nesting waterfowl.

Strategies

  • Mimic natural forest succession, especially in the riparian areas and areas immediately adjacent to beaver pond habitats by working closely with the forest industry, provincial government policy makers and planners and by working with the public that will play an increasing role in forest management planning.
  • Identify research and evaluation needs to support this approach.

Coastal landscape

The Coastal landscape exists along the shores of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence lowlands. These coastal wetlands are associated with the largest freshwater system in the world being comprised of 5 lakes with an associated shoreline of more than 15,000 km, and an area of 246,568 km2. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system is highly dynamic with its own set of coastal processes, functions and features. Water levels within Great Lakes basins are regulated through a variety of human interventions. There are seasonal fluctuations, annual variations, and long-term cyclic fluctuations. The Great Lakes are also subject to temporary seiches that commonly occur on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair causing water levels to be altered by up to 2.6m. The GLSL coastal habitats are diverse in nature being based largely on the shoreline morphology, water depths and their associated vegetation communities.

These coastal areas proved historically attractive to early European settlers and their affects on the system date back to the late 18th century. Human impacts on wetland and wildlife habitat in many areas of the Great Lakes ranks with the highest on the continent. Losses of more than 90% of the wetland habitat base have been recorded in some areas. Outright loss has been extensive and remaining habitats face continuing threat from urbanization and intensive agricultural land uses. Impacts range from the indirect regulation of water regimes and introduction of exotic invasive species throughout the system, to the more direct drainage and degradation for agriculture, industry and urbanization. Shoreline hardening and dyking associated with urbanization and agriculture, in conjunction with water level regulation, has restricted the dynamic movement of the shoreline wetland habitat thereby limiting its abundance and quality. Recreational uses also impact both wetland and wildlife through marina development in wetlands and disturbance.

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