By Cherish Elwell, Niagara Restoration Council
Last summer, natural areas in the Port Colborne and Wainfleet areas along the Lake Erie shoreline received some special attention. These areas where among the first surveyed under the Peninsula Field Naturalists and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA)’s three-year Natural Heritage Areas Inventory project.
There are many Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) within the Niagara Watershed that support a rich diversity of significant habitats and geological formations, rare plants and animals, and important wildlife corridors. The Natural Heritage Areas Inventory involves using industry standard, scientifically defensible protocols to inventory natural areas in the Niagara Region. The inventory will provide invaluable information for developing environmental awareness within communities, prioritizing restoration opportunities and protection activities, and guiding planning decisions and policy development. It is especially exciting because there has never been a comprehensive inventory of these natural areas, and the only formal documentation for planning purposes is over 25 years old.
In 2006, support and property access was requested of landowners whose properties include natural areas, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. In mid-august the NPCA, in partnership with the Peninsula Field Naturalists, began inventorying properties in Port Colborne and Wainfleet. Staff have inventoried close to 150 properties in these areas, primarily under private ownership, totaling more than 2,000 acres of land.
Using the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) System Protocol, workers have documented over 35 plant communities and many significant species such as Pumpkin Ash and Purple Milkwort. The most common plant community inventoried in 2006 was the Red Maple Mineral Deciduous Swamp Type, and the most common shrub dominated communities were the Grey Dogwood Cultural Thicket Type and Meadowsweet Mineral Thicket Swamp Type. Species of interest include Four-flowered Loosestrife and Cutleaf Grape-fern. Also noteworthy, remnants of unique alvar-type vegetation communities were found on limestone outcroppings along the north shore of Lake Erie.
By employing the Ecological Land Classification protocol, the Natural Heritage Areas Inventory will identify, categorize, and organize ecosystems based on vegetation, soils, geology, landform and climate. These data will then be used to establish and understand ecosystem patterns and processes, and to inform planning and regulations, ecosystem management, and conservation objectives.
Currently, field crews are inventorying areas in Wainfleet, South Niagara Falls and Haldimand. The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority plans to make the final report available on its website.
For more information of the Natural Heritage Inventory,
please contact: BrianneWilson,
Project Coordinator (905) 788-3135, Ext. 237,