What is Ecological Land Classification?
The study of ecology generally examines the interactions between organisms and their environment. Ecological Land Classification (ELC) specifically looks at the distribution and groupings of plant species and attempts to understand them according to ecosystem patterns and processes. Ecological Land Classification also helps to establish patterns among vegetation, soils, geology, landform and climate, at different scales. When complete, ELC can be used to improve our collective ability to manage both natural resources and the information about those resources.*
*credit: 1 Lee, H.T. et. al. 2001. Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario: Training Manual. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, SCSIS Training Manual TM-01.
How Will the RVCA use this Information?
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority intends to assemble a map of the terrestrial resources of the Rideau River Watershed. When completed, this information will provide an ELC inventory for use in subwatershed, watershed and municipal planning. Eventually, as detailed information is collected at the ecosite/ecoelement classification unit (fine) scale of detail, ELC will be used to help facilitate planning/regulations, ecosystem management and conservation objectives at the RVCA. It will also be used in conjunction with other aquatic and terrestrial information collected by the RVCA to establish monitoring strategies to gauge the health of the Rideau Valley Watershed.
Ecological Land Classification
Ecological Land Classification tries to organize, categorize and name ecosystems, similar to the way that plant characteristics are used to distinguish individual plant species. Using the factors described below (under geology, soils, physiography and vegetation), ELC can be used to map vegetation communities at varying organizational scales.
The Rideau Valley Watershed is primarily located within Site Regions 6E-11 and 6E-12 and can be further organized into three major Systems: Aquatic, Wetland, and Terrestrial (using the ELC framework for Southern Ontario). From this, terrestrial systems can, for example, be mapped into deciduous and coniferous forests and then further defined as a community such as a Fresh-Moist Sugar Maple Deciduous Forest Ecosite. The most detailed information that can be presented is for individual Ecoelements (i.e., Vegetation Types) that are most similar, based on the dominant plant communities and soil types. Using the above example, one could refine the identity of the sugar maple community as a Fresh-Moist Sugar Maple-Yellow Birch Deciduous Forest Type.