Linkages Panel: Summaries of presentations

Gray Merriam’s presentation – summary

Gray began by noting two caveats: (1) landscape planning must consider many complex variables including ecological, social, and economic components; (2) sustainability requires more than just survivability — resilience is now the goal, i.e., leaving self-maintenance processes in place. Next, we must distinguish between corridors (things on a map) and connectivity (“the quality of the landscape that allows animals or plants to move through it”). As well, one should be clear about one’s objective: Amenities for humans, or Sustaining ecological systems. He noted that, in the Ottawa context, the landscape is very fragmented. This makes connections very important. Populations may become locally extinct in individual patches, but survive in a set of patches. Note also that how animals move across a landscape is species-specific: e.g., along fence rows or across the open field. The trout lily needs ants to move its seeds. Muskrats move through the sewers, raccoons use human structures (your garage).

Gary Bell’s presentation – summary

Gary presented preliminary results of the Nature Conservancy’s Ottawa Valley Conservation Plan which, like all of its work, is science-driven. Conservation Plans are like a business plan: It focuses in on what the Conservancy can do, based on targets selected. The Ottawa Valley is an overlap of eco-regions: the Great Lakes, the Boreal and the St. Lawrence Lowlands, and the Northern Appalachians. It is a key area for biological diversity for both Ontario and Quebec. It has one of the highest densities of rare species in Ontario. Its primary threat is fragmentation. Two sets of conservation targets were selected: three complexes (forest, wetland, rivers & riparian habitats) and three special cases (karst and alvar ecosystems, dunes and sandy barrens, and grassland birds). Their viability and threats were assessed. For each 400-ha cell, potential conservation actions were then considered and priorized. A least-cost path analysis of connectedness was performed. In the end, five Project Goals and Actions were identified.

François Cyr’s presentation – summary

François reviewed the Greenbelt Master Plan review process which resulted in a green vision and identification of linkages within and outside the Greenbelt — the capital ecosystem network. Inside the Greenbelt, in the revised Plan core natural areas make up 40%, and another 21 % are natural links. He then reviewed the state of connectedness in each of the Greenbelt’s seven sectors. He concluded that the new Plan not only has increased the protected natural areas from 50 to 61% but also allows for more connectivity, more biodiversity and restoration of habitats. He indicated a number of partnerships the NCC is pursuing to accomplish the goals of the Plan.

Nick Stow’s presentation – summary

Nick highlighted the Official Plan policy which declares “forest remnants and natural corridors” as part of the natural heritage system and explained the L Schedules depicting most of the system. He showed a map of regional linkages beyond Ottawa’s boundaries and explained the process of identifying linkages between “core areas” within Ottawa. The GIS-based data were analyzed at the level of 15×15 m rasters. “Movement costs” (resistance costs) for each raster were quantified, ranging from less than 1 to 640 points. This was followed by an overall cost distance analysis and identification of the least cost corridor network. One-kilometre wide corridors were then drawn manually to illustrate potential linkage corridors, and areas that would be added to the L Schedules were identified.

Erwin Dreessen’s presentation – summary

Erwin reviewed provincial policies found in the Planning Act, the Provincial Policy Statement (section 2.1 – Natural Heritage), and the interpretation guidance in the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Reference Manual. In the Official Plan, the recently amended section 2.4.2 defines Ottawa’s natural heritage system. The Manual addresses the question when the natural heritage system should be protected, recommending the “official plan approach.” It provides advice that, if followed, would result in less acrimony and less cost. The Manual specifically advises how to preserve linkages in “Designated Growth Areas:” Identify them in a preliminary fashion first, refine the boundaries later, preferably including adjacent areas.