Defining Our Natural Heritage System
We are strategists, advisors and stewards of the Credit River Natural Heritage System.
What is a natural heritage system? It is a network of natural areas linked by corridors. These areas:
- Collectively support and conserve plant and animal populations and ecosystem integrity
- Can include both publicly and privately owned land
- Are mostly made up of natural areas, but can contain some non-natural lands with potential to be restored or serve an important ecological role
Benefits of Natural Heritage Systems
Protected natural heritage systems provide many benefits to people and the natural world. These benefits include:
Woodlands absorb carbon dioxide and store it as carbon, helping to combat climate change. They also provide shade and cool the environment.
Natural areas provide opportunities for walking, biking, fishing, and other outdoor activities that improve our health and well-being.
Natural areas are home to most of the watershed’s native plants and animals. They help to protect rare and sensitive species.
Valleys and streams connect natural features and provide important corridors for animals to move through the landscape.
Wetlands moderate the intensity and negative impacts of flooding. They collect and slowly release water during rainstorms. Valleys help to moderate flooding through infiltration, storage and conveyance of water.
Plants naturally filter water, removing sediment and pollutants. This helps make drinking water safe.
What is Included in the Credit River Natural Heritage System?
The Credit River Natural Heritage System includes:
Natural heritage features, such as valley lands, wetlands, woodlands, aquatic habitat, the Lake Ontario shoreline, significant wildlife habitat and habitat of endangered and threatened species. Together, these features provide important ecological functions needed to sustain life in the watershed.
Buffers around valley lands, wetlands, woodlands and aquatic habitat. Buffers help to protect these features and their functions and reduce the negative impacts of any nearby developed areas.
Centres for Biodiversity are large areas with a concentration of important ecological features and functions. These areas are biodiversity hotspots, and contain a high proportion of significant and sensitive plant and animal species in the watershed. There are 11 Centres for Biodiversity in the Credit River Watershed.
Protecting Our Natural Heritage
We developed a Natural Heritage System Strategy to connect natural areas across the landscape. It identifies areas for protection of biodiversity, water quality and water supply over the long term. Together, these areas maintain native species diversity and healthy ecosystems, and also provide benefits to local residents.
We are using the Natural Heritage System Strategy to:
- Guide our research, restoration, stewardship and land securement in the Credit River Watershed
- Support technical input we provide through development plan review
- Coach and inform municipalities developing or refining their own natural heritage systems