Thousand Islands National Park of Canada

Mapping it out

Partnership highlights biodiversity of our young forests

Technician Janice Ball (left) demonstrates the use of a soil auger for visitors on Mermaid Island.  Soil samples are used to help classify the diverse vegetation communities in the 1000 Islands ecosystem.
Technician Janice Ball (left) demonstrates the use of a soil auger for visitors on Mermaid Island. Soil samples are used to help classify the diverse vegetation communities in the 1000 Islands ecosystem.
© Parks Canada

Research crews measured more than 9000 trees and identified hundreds of other plants in the 1000 Islands region as part of the Species at Risk Habitat Availability Project last summer.

Preliminary results of the study show that our forests are young and that they are very diverse. In the 220 plots surveyed, 272 distinct plant species were identified—and that’s just looking at the most dominant plants in each plot.

For the many organizations involved in the study, including the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Parks Canada, and the Biosphere Network, the preliminary results are evidence that the 1000 Islands are indeed a place of high biodiversity.

In addition, the relatively small tree diameters show that forest management and allowing abandoned agricultural fields to revert to forest over the past several decades has resulted in many relatively young forests in this area.

The main purpose of the three-year study is to create fine-scale vegetation maps that will be used to identify habitats that are critical for the survival of species at risk in the 1000 Islands.

With the mapping of vegetation communities, local organizations can focus their efforts to protect the biodiversity of the region. For community members and landowners, the study will also provide valuable information for a wide range of development and conservation projects – everything from site rehabilitation to land use planning.

“This study will give a broad view of the landscape, narrowed down to where trees should be planted on a site,” said Gary Nielsen, Leeds County Stewardship Council Coordinator.

The fine-scale maps, which should be available in June 2007, will actually identify “vegetation communities” through a process called Ecological Land Classification (ELC). ELC takes into account not only vegetation, but also soil type and moisture and the slope and aspect of the land. The end result is the classification of a vegetation community.

Last summer, research crews surveyed only public lands, including parts of Thousand Islands National Park, Landons Bay, Jones Creek, and Charleston Lake Provincial Park. Because of the huge variety of vegetation in this area, surveys also need to be done with the cooperation of private landowners. Surveys have a very low impact on vegetation and can be completed in less than a day.

To learn more about participating or for more information about the Species at Risk Habitat Availability Project, call 613-923-5261.