HCA Forests

Each year, International Day of Forests is celebrated on March 21. It began in 2012, when the United Nations General Assembly declared the day as such to raise awareness about the importance of all types of forests. What type of forests are in the HCA watershed? What risks are posed to our forests? Does HCA monitor forest health? Learn more below!

What is HCA forest cover?

Forest cover is a measure of an area covered by forest, in this case the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) watershed. HCA’s watershed forest cover is 9,252.46 hectares (22,863.33 acres), or about 19% of the watershed. An ideal forest cover is a minimum of 30%.

What type of forests are here?

The majority of HCA’s watershed is part of Ontario’s Carolinian Zone, which covers the central and eastern sections of HCA’s watershed. The Carolinian Zone is just 1% of Canada’s geographic area, and is only found in the very southwestern portion of Ontario. Carolinian forest are highly diverse, and beautiful as well. There are large Carolinian Forest patches, particularly in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area.

Carolinian forests includes tree species like Tulip tree (Lireodendron tulipifera), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Kentucky coffee-tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), Cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata), Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), and Pawpaw (Asimina triloba); some of which grow within the HCA watershed. These forests are also home to many songbirds, providing breeding grounds and migratory habitat for them as well.

What are the risks posed to our forests?

Urbanization is one one of the biggest threats to our forests. It reduces forest sizes, and fragments it, creating more disturbed edges. In turn, it makes them more susceptible to the introduction of invasive species. Urbanization and change in land use practices also contributes to environmental impacts like Urban Heat island, which cause variation in temperature between built up and natural areas.

Increased off-trail usage, as well as the public unknowingly walking into sensitive habitat, risks the introduction of invasive species and other plant diseases into these natural areas, in addition to disturbing the plant life growing there. This has impacted the biodiversity of this unique forest ecosystem, and reduced mature forest habitat for many species putting their survival at risk. Approximately 25% of Canada’s species at risk live in the Carolinian forest in Ontario. It is important to stay on trail when exploring natural areas to reduce the risk of introducing new species into these areas.

Does HCA monitor forest health?

At HCA, we monitor the health of our forests following the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network protocol, in which various indicators of tree decline are measured. Forest health monitoring is an essential key to assessing tree health, and overall forest health throughout the watershed. To date, HCA has completed monitoring at 40 locations across our watershed. Monitoring forest health can give us early warning signs of change so that HCA can take the appropriate action.


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