November 28, 2005

MNR, Nature Conservancy complete first map-based biodiversity analysis of Great Lakes region

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) have jointly completed the very first map-based analysis of the biodiversity of Canada's Great Lakes region. The result is a Conservation Blueprint for the region that maps key areas of biodiversity significance.

"The Great Lakes Conservation Blueprint for Biodiversity is a valuable tool that governments, organizations and individuals can use in planning and developing strategies to further protect Ontario's rich variety of plants, animals and ecosystems while supporting the region's sustainable development," said Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay.

The Great Lakes region is the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world, and contains the highest diversity of species in Canada. It is the nation's most densely populated area, supporting the heaviest concentration of industrial, urban and agricultural land uses.

Rare habitats and species were critical targets of this analysis, including more than 480 rare species and over 170 habitat types. At the same time, the Conservation Blueprint delineates the best examples of all the ecosystems of the region for which Ontarians have particular conservation responsibilities, such as the best sugar maple forests, white pine forests and coastal wetlands.

The Blueprint also includes the first-ever classification of the aquatic biodiversity of the Great Lakes region. "Aquatic systems are poorly understood in the Great Lakes region, yet also contain some of Ontario's most significant and irreplaceable species and communities," said Jack Imhof, national biologist with Trout Unlimited Canada.

"Unknown to most people, our rivers, streams and lakes, especially in southern Ontario, are not only some of the productive aquatic ecosystems in North America, but these systems also provide critical ecological services that support human health, commerce and recreation. The aquatic component of the Blueprint will be instrumental in better protecting and restoring our freshwater resources," he added.

The results of the Blueprint will be shared as widely as possible among conservation practitioners and decision makers, with the goal of promoting cooperative approaches to biodiversity conservation in the Great Lakes ecoregion.

NCC is developing similar Conservation Blueprints for all of Canada's southern ecoregions. Eight of these Blueprints are already complete, with the remainder slated for completion by the end of 2006.

"The Blueprint helps evaluate how well past and existing conservation efforts have succeeded, and guides us to new areas that should be considered in land use planning, resource management and land securement for conservation," said NCC chief science officer John Riley. "Our hope is that this kind of region-wide analysis will help to achieve consensus among stakeholders on what are the priority areas for conservation and encourage joint action to achieve their protection."

More information is available on the NCC Web site, www.natureconservancy.ca.

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