Long Term Environmental Monitoring

2016 Long Term Environmental Monitoring Results

Conservation Halton staff have completed their monitoring for 2016 and summarized the results. The following highlight sheets focus on data collected during the 2016 season with special emphasis on any noteworthy sightings. Where appropriate, the health of each biological indicator is explored to provide an understanding of the current state of ecological resources within the watershed.

If you have any questions about the 2016 monitoring results, please contact us at 905-336-1158, or send an e-mail.  

What is Long Term Environmental Monitoring?

Environmental monitoring is essential for properly managing our natural resources. Monitoring provides us with scientifically-based, quantitative information that enables us to make environmentally sound, informed planning decisions and to set appropriate goals for environmental management and rehabilitation.

In 2005, Conservation Halton implemented the Long Term Environmental Monitoring Program (LEMP for short). This program ensures that monitoring is completed in a consistent manner over an extended period of time. It also provides a comprehensive understanding of the structure and function of local ecosystems, which is necessary for assessing the long-term health of the watershed. Designed to monitor species, ecosystems, and changes in the watershed over time, the Long Term Environmental Monitoring Program helps ensure that Conservation Halton’s mission of “protecting and enhancing the natural environment, from lake to escarpment, for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations” is being fulfilled.

Conservation Halton Ecological Monitoring Protocol

Conservation Halton’s Ecological Monitoring Protocols document provides guidance on preferred protocols and information required for submission to Conservation Halton, for monitoring projects that are ongoing in the watershed and are typically related to the plan review process.

Click here to see Conservation Halton’s Ecological Monitoring Protocol.

The Three-Tiered approach

Conservation Halton’s Long Term Environmental Monitoring Program takes a three-tiered approach to monitoring the health of our watershed. All of the monitoring protocols are science-based and follow standardized methodologies.

Tier One

Tier One focuses on using aquatic (water) and terrestrial (land-based) biological communities as indicators of watershed health. The indicators assessed provide current information on species diversity and abundance. This information is used to assess changes in species diversity and abundance (biodiversity) over time.

Aquatic indicators include: the fish community, the benthic community (e.g., organisms living on the bottom of a creek), in-stream habitat, water temperature, and water quality. Terrestrial indicators include: frogs, marsh birds, forest birds, forest health and biodiversity, and ecological land classification. 

Tier Two

Tier Two complements Tier One. Tier Two assessments move up to the landscape scale and focus on physical changes in the landscape over time. This provides information that enables watershed managers to relate the Tier One changes in species diversity and abundance to changes on the landscape. 

Habitat loss and fragmentation is widely recognized as the most significant factor contributing to declining biodiversity; thus, to explain changes in species or vegetation community composition within a given area, changes to habitat should be examined first. Tier Two monitoring is geographic information system (GIS) based, and with the use of aerial photography, Conservation Halton staff can identify changes in the size and shape of natural areas. Other factors evaluated include habitat patch connectivity, patch diversity, and percent cover of various habitat types such as: forest, wetland, riparian (shoreline and stream bank) vegetation, and forest interior. The factors assessed are evaluated against Environment Canada’s habitat rehabilitation guidelines, which provide science-based targets for various attributes related to wetland, riparian, and forest habitats.

A habitat patch is an area that is different from and somewhat isolated by its immediate surroundings (it is fragmented), and is inhabited by particular species; patches are often created in developed areas (such as cities and even rural areas) and can limit biodiversity and the viability of the species that live in these areas.

Tier Three

Tier Three focuses on determining the factors that are driving changes to the landscape. Although it is useful to be able to relate changes in species diversity and abundance to changes on the landscape, it is even more compelling to be able to isolate the root cause of change. Are communities changing as a result of natural processes, or are there specific undertakings that are exerting a dominant influence on the landscape? Tier Three monitoring is intended to help determine what is causing changes to the health of the watershed as well as provide watershed managers with some of the answers needed to set watershed management and rehabilitation goals.

As part of the Tier Three monitoring, Ecological Land Classification information, a Tier One indicator, will be reassessed through GIS to determine if there are any changes in size or composition of the vegetative community; if needed, staff will also go out to the sites in question to verify the data are correct. As a result of the reassessment, any changes in community structure will be attributed to one of the following categories:

  • Succession/reforestation;
  • Residential development;
  • Commercial/ industrial development;
  • Aggregates (quarries);
  • Roads;
  • Fire;
  • Agriculture;
  • Watercourse diversion/damming; changes to water table;
  • Golf courses.

Significant changes noticed in community structure will help direct appropriate management decisions and long-term planning. 

Monitoring results

Monitoring efforts are focused on two watersheds or watershed groups each year, with additional supplemental monitoring completed throughout the watershed. Monitoring reports are completed annually to summarize findings and to examine long term trends in watershed health. Below are links to the Long Term Environmental Monitoring reports, for the following watersheds:

At the end of the five-year cycle, a complete watershed report card is published on the health of the watershed: