What is Natural Heritage?
Natural heritage is comprised of the ecosystems which sustain plants, fish and wildlife, this includes features such as forests, streams, wetlands and regenerating fields and the linkages that connect these features which all support key ecological processes within our watershed.
What is the NVCA natural heritage program?
The NVCA natural heritage program (NHP) involves four key program areas:
- Natural heritage systems
- Conservation land inventories, and
- Natural heritage monitoring
Natural heritage systems (NHS) are a big picture look at the features on the landscape and their interconnections. Like a nature map, NHS show where the forests, wetlands, rivers, prairies, beaches and urban environments are and how they are all linked together by natural corridors. NHS are very important tools for land use planning and environmental management, they show areas in need of protection but also the impacts of policy decisions in matters like urban development. An NVCA watershed-wide NHS is under development.
Wetlands are unique natural environments that provide green infrastructure benefits to our communities through flood protection, draught mitigation, wildfire resilience, water quality improvement and groundwater recharge. They also provide homes for many plant and animals. The NVCA maintains mapping of wetlands in the watershed as part of its regulatory functions proscribed under the Conservation Authorities Act, including on-site verification of features as needed. Watershed Science staff also work on evaluating some wetlands for greater protection. These efforts also enhance the accuracy of the watershed NHS.
The NVCA maintains 13,000 acres of conservation lands in the watershed, in which Watershed Science staff conduct natural heritage inventories document existing conditions, but also tracking changes that are occurring due to recreational use (hiking, biking, etc.), external land use changes, invasive species and climate change.
Natural heritage monitoring at the NVCA allows for the determination of the state of the watershed’s natural resources and changes that are occurring. The current natural heritage monitoring program is limited to annual forest and wetland bird surveys, while informal surveys of plants, herpetofauna (frogs, turtles), and invasive species occur when the opportunity arises.
Another component of natural heritage monitoring is compliance monitoring; measuring environmental change against pre-established criteria. Watershed Science staff currently evaluate the creation or restoration of wetlands under the NVCA Ecological Offsetting program. Compliance monitoring has also included development impact and restoration programs.
Watershed Science staff communicate all the information about watershed natural heritage into the NVCA Watershed Health Checks which are released every five years.
Related Reports and Studies
Natural Heritage Program Strategy (2022)
The guiding document behind the natural heritage program at the NVCA.
Tiffin Conservation Area Forest Bird Monitoring Program: 2005 to 2018 (Oct. 2018)
This report summarizes and assesses the Forest Bird Monitoring Program data collected at the Tiffin Centre for Conservation between 2005 and 2018. It analyzes trends in species presence, species abundance and richness by guilds, indicator species, and species at risk.