High Quality Natural Cover in the Lake Simcoe Watershed Zones de couverture végétale naturelle de grande qualité dans le bassin versant du lac Simcoe

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Abstract:
The High Quality Natural Cover in the Lake Simcoe Watershed layer is a vector dataset derived by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). It identifies high quality natural cover areas that are 25 hectares or greater within the Lake Simcoe watershed. Natural cover includes areas that have been mapped as woodlands (including plantations and hedgerows), wetlands and other rare vegetative cover communities. High quality with respect to natural cover means that the cover demonstrates a number of characteristics that influence the functional ability of a feature such as shape, age, structure and area of cover (LSPP 2009). As stated in the policy, areas of high quality natural cover must be 25 hectares or greater. Natural cover features were merged and internal boundaries dissolved to obtain continuous natural cover polygons before their size was determined. Subsequently, natural cover polygons with an area smaller than 25 ha were excluded. Other patch-based metrics that characterize polygons based on their spatial characteristics and their surrounding matrix were not used to further exclude features because of the uncertainty surrounding their interpretation without referencing information that is not currently available. Ideally, natural cover quality should be evaluated through site level assessment, which would enable determining whether a natural cover feature has structural and compositional characteristics that indicate it serves ecological functions at a higher level when compared to other natural cover features. Given that it is not feasible to perform the required site level evaluations for all natural cover features that are 25 hectares or greater in the watershed, identification, in the near term was restricted to the size criteria only. Natural cover features beyond the Lake Simcoe Protection Act watershed boundary were considered when calculating the total area for continuous natural cover areas. As long as the area is 25 ha or greater and a portion of the area is within the Lake Simcoe watershed it is included in the identified areas of high quality natural cover that are 25 hectares or greater in the watershed.