Natural Communities

Ecological Lands Classification Map

Approximately 34 percent of the Credit River Watershed is covered by natural vegetation : plant communities that have developed without being planted or maintained by people. These natural areas include forests, meadows, ponds, lakes and wetlands among others.

Ecological Land Classification of Natural Communities

Field biologists at CVC record and map the types of plant associations or communities that make up each natural area through the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) system.  ELC is a standardized hierarchical classification system that is used for the description, inventory and interpretation of these ecological units.

The information helps us to understand the ecology of these areas, because the same groups of species occur together repeatedly in other locations under similar conditions of climate, soils and geology, drainage and with a similar history. Knowing which communities are present in a natural area allows us to make predictions on how a natural area will be affected by various kinds of change and what the natural area may look like in the future. It also allows us to estimate how the natural area is working to do things like clean air and water, sequester carbon, retain soil moisture, build up soil richness and provide habitat that supports biodiversity.

Download the file below for more information about Ecological Land Classification and the natural communities you will find within the Credit River Watershed.  The next time you go for a walk in a park, along a trail or on your own property, see if you can recognize some of these communities. To read profiles of some communities such as forests, marshes and swamps, visit our Natural Areas Inventory microsite.

Wetland Evaluation System

Wetlands are those lands where the water table is close to the surface and/or those lands that are seasonally or permanently flooded by shallow water. Common terms for wetlands include swamp, mire, marsh, bog, peatland and fen. Wetlands have numerous ecological, economic and social values. Because of the important functions that wetlands serve, the Provincial Policy statement prevents development and site alteration in provincially significant wetlands.

Since 2002, CVC staff members have been assessing wetlands in the Credit River Watershed using the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System. This approach permits the scoring of wetlands based on such criteria as their size, complexity, productivity, hydrologic function and biological diversity. In that time, approximately 630 ha of wetlands have been surveyed by CVC researchers, resulting in the identification of six new provincially significant wetland complexes and the addition of wetland areas to 10 existing wetland complexes.