The terrestrial natural heritage program is concerned with woodlands, wetlands and grassland habitats and their associated species. The quantity, quality, and arrangement of these on the landscape ultimately affect water quantity and quality and provides many other ecological goods and services.
The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority completely revised its ecological land classification system mapping for the entire watershed region. Through interpretation of the latest available colour air photos the end product is mapping of all major habitat and land use types. This can be used for plan review, to undertake hydrological modelling, and to monitor changes in the landscape. It also forms the basis for defining natural heritage systems to aid in watershed planning, and to help municipalities comply with provincial policies for natural heritage protection.
GRCA began working with the Municipality of Clarington to define a natural heritage system for their official plan review process. This involved working closely with neighboring conservation authorities to merge their already defined watershed based natural heritage systems and ecological land classification mapping. A draft discussion paper was submitted that summarizes current natural heritage conditions and provides background information and an argument for the systems approach. The GRCA also worked with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to study the feasibility of combining aquatic and terrestrial models for an integrated approach to defining natural heritage systems.
The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority collaborated with the Municipality of Clarington on a Natural Heritage System Discussion Paper as a background document for their Official Plan. The previous year GRCA had provided data and mapping products to help the municipality define a proposed natural heritage system, and the discussion paper reviews what a natural heritage system is, the values of defining one within the context of Provincial policy, and proposes policy direction to protect the features that make up the Clarington natural heritage system.
A milestone for the Natural Heritage program in 2013 was completion of the GRCA Natural Heritage Strategy, which was approved by the Full Authority in June. The strategy outlines the current status of, and issues affecting biodiversity within the watershed, and it sets the direction for GRCA action through a series of recommendations. The strategy also outlines the methodology and results for defining target natural heritage systems that provide a framework for conservation and stewardship decision making to improve biodiversity and ecological function within the watershed.