Since the beginning of the European settlement, the landscapes and natural ecosystems of southern Ontario have been altered and fragmented more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period in history. For over a century, conservation and natural resource managers in these settled landscapes have tried to mitigate the negative impacts caused by the loss and fragmentation of natural vegetation cover.
The concept of regional systems of ecological networks was introduced to bridge the gap between land use planning and conservation initiatives; to design and establish "green systems" or landscapes made up of core conservation lands and waters linked by natural corridors or restored connections. As landscape networks, they are vital for the conservation of biological diversity, natural processes and viable populations of native species and ecosystems. The methods and approaches used to delineate these green systems need to consider the regional context, explicit conservation targets, stakeholder engagement and scenario planning.

Green Systems Design Planning

A number of local organizations, partners and stakeholders from across southern Ontario are working together regionally to design and plan green systems for their local landscapes. Their efforts to conserve and wisely manage the natural areas on their local landscapes help to maintain a good quality of lif
e for people living in their region.

  • Nature for Niagara's Future evaluated the natural features identified and classified through the Natural Heritage Areas Inventory (2006-2009) for their individual and collective contributions to the health and resilience of the local ecosystem. This has led to an improved understanding of the condition of Niagara’s existing natural heritage resources and how they work together.
  • Sustaining What We Value project is a collective of several non-government organizations and government agencies working with the communities of South Frontenac, Lanark and Leeds and Grenville Counties to assist the region in identifying and protecting their cultural, social, environmental and economic values.
  • Kawarthas, Naturally Connected project is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders who are working together to create a Natural Heritage System made up of connected areas that will help maintain the ecological, social, and economic values of the region. The project area is based on two large watersheds that span The City of Kawartha Lakes, The County of Peterborough and The City of Peterborough.
  • Releaf Hamilton is a unique network of stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, all of whom have an interest in the future of Hamilton's natural heritage and landscape. Their strength lies in the partnerships and in-kind support provided by these groups. Together they are working to strategically plan for the future of Hamilton’s natural landscape.