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VSP Sampling: Science & Research Projects

City of Toronto
City of Mississauga
rare Charitable Research Reserve
Lake Simcoe Natural Cover Monitoring
The Rouge National Urban Park Pilot Sampling
City of Kitchener: Natural Areas Inventory and Monitoring
City of Guelph: Natural Areas Monitoring and Emerald Ash Borer impact on Ash Population in Natural Areas
Nature Conservancy of Canada Eastern Ontario
Ontario Nature Natural Cover Monitoring
Sunnybrook Hospital
VSP on the Niagara Escarpment
VSP Sampling on Georgina Island
Lake Scugog Camp
University of Waterloo Co-operative Education Program

Lake Simcoe Natural Cover Monitoring

The Lake Simcoe Natural Cover Monitoring Project is a research project that is being undertaken as a partnership between the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Science and Research Branch, and Southern Region - Aurora and Midhurst Offices) and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Field sampling related to the project was piloted in 2011, and continued in 2014-2016.

The Rouge National Urban Park Pilot Sampling collaboration with Parks Canada, VSP pilot sampling in the Park was conducted in 2015 by two Master of Forest Conservation students: Suzanne Perry and Emma Bowley. This project enables information about vegetation communities throughout the park to be collected, exploring its applications to vegetation management and comprehensive vegetation monitoring. The modular nature of VSP is adaptable to a wide range of vegetation communities and management objectives, and as such enabled a multitude of vegetation and habitat measures to be collected in 2015. Sampling was also conducted during summer 2016.


City of Kitchener: Natural Areas Inventory and Monitoring

The City of Kitchener maintains a total of 169 natural areas comprising of wetlands, woodlands, meadows, and waterways. This amalgamation of natural areas possess significant wildlife habitat and landforms that are recognized for their ecological value. Due to severe urban pressures such as development, invasive plant and insect outbreaks, pollution, and recreation occurring in these urban forests, it has become important to monitor the effects that these threats are having on the City’s remaining forest communities.
VSP was first undertaken in Kitchener in the summer of 2015. In collaboration with the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the City of Kitchener aims to utilize VSP’s diverse information on the composition and structure of its vegetation communities to improve their future management, land-use planning, and conservation actions.

The 2015-16 field sampling enabled the collection of vegetation information throughout a number of parks and natural areas, as well as setting the stage for comprehensive monitoring of natural areas within the City. This research will provide valuable information to aid in the restoration of woodlands, wetlands and waterways that are being threatened by their urban surroundings. With the assistance of three MFC interns, the City has collected data on 16 of its natural areas. Field sampling in 2015 conducted by Master of Forest Conservation (MFC) students: Emma Thurston, Tania Ramkumar. Field sampling in 2016 was led and managed by Tania Ramkumar with assistance from a MFC intern Joe Scott.

City of Guelph: Natural Areas Monitoring & Emerald Ash Borer Impact on Ash Population in Natural Areas.

VSP sampling was implemented in Guelph in summer 2016 as a proactive response to monitoring natural areas and assessing the impacts and risks on natural areas due to Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) (Agrilus planipennis). Forest monitoring, as a collaborative effort among the City of Guelph, OMNRF and University of Toronto Faculty of Forestry, is envisioned to provide data that supports research but also informs landscape planning, forest management activities, invasive species management, restoration efforts, protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.

Native Ash trees, found in a wide variety of forest and habitat types, are vital to Guelph’s natural areas and urban forests. Thus VSP sampling 2016 targeted stands with a significant component of Ash. The sampling has provided critical, baseline information to quantify the existing and potential loss of Ash associated with EAB. In addition, data collected enabled the impact of Ash loss on forest composition, structure and function to be assessed. EAB, a wood boring beetle, was first detected in Guelph in 2011 and has since affected most if not all of the region’s Ash trees.

VSP sampling found Ash at 83.5% of sampled plots, often comprising a significant component of the total tree count, relative abundance, biomass, and canopy cover. Based on the canopy decline assessment it was found that EAB already affects about 82% of Ash trees. Decline and loss of Ash is therefore expected to have a significant and lasting impact on Guelph’s woodlands. These effects include changes in species composition, loss of native species diversity, colonization by invasive species, inhibition of forest regeneration, increased erosion, sedimentation and stream warming, and reduced carbon sequestration. With the help of VSP data, high risk areas are identified and can be used to inform Guelph’s EAB and Forest Management Plans, aimed to mitigate EAB and other environmental and ecological impacts.

Ash Importance Value (IV) is a measure of the dominance of Ash per Woodland. IV considers a given woody species’ relative frequency and relative basal area within a plot. (Click for enlarged map). 

  • Guelph Natural Areas Monitoring project poster HERE
  • A link to the full Guelph Natural Areas Monitoring Report can be HERE

Nature Conservancy of Canada Eastern Ontario

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) completes vegetation community inventory and classification using VSP on their portfolio of conserved spaces in eastern Ontario.  This is part of the baseline inventory NCC carries out on new acquisitions. Once vegetation communities are classified, NCC uses this information to prepare a property management plan and recommend a suite of stewardship actions. One of the main applications of the classification is in the management of invasive species.

Ontario Nature Natural Cover Monitoring

Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 150 member groups from across Ontario.
Ontario Nature has been protecting significant natural areas with its nature reserve system founded in 1961, preserving some of the province’s best remaining examples of imperiled and vulnerable habitats. Today, with 24 properties totalling 2,788 hectares, Ontario Nature is committed to protecting wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and engagement.

Ontario Nature uses Vegetation Sampling Protocol (VSP) to collect detailed information about key habitat features on each nature reserve to help to inform management practices and long-term monitoring goals.
More information about Ontario Nature’s nature reserves can be found here

Ontario Nature Citizen Science Initiatives:

Ontario Nature’s largest citizen science project is the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (ORAA). Led by Ontario Nature since 2009, the goal of the ORAA is to improve our knowledge of the distribution and abundance of Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians by engaging the public in reporting their sightings. Participants can also contribute by participating in annual monitoring programs, such as the Backyard Frog and Salamander Surveys as well as Vernal Pool Mapping.

In 2016, Ontario Nature launched the Directory of Ontario Citizen Science (DOCS). DOCS is an online platform that connects seasoned and aspiring citizen scientists with volunteer opportunities across the province. This tool creates a centralized location where people can access information about citizen science programs across the province.

VSP monitoring pilot on the Niagara Escarpment

VSP sampling was piloted on the Niagara Escarpment in 2011 and 2012. As a result, over 130 plots were sampled across mature forest stands previously sampled by Steve Varga (OMNRF) 30 years ago. VSP plots were piloted to test monitoring applications and a comprehensive vegetation inventory, as well as to support the diverse management, planning, and conservation needs on the escarpment.

This research project is a collaborative effort between the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, OMNRF - Science & Research Branch (Started with the former OMNR - Southern Science & Information Section), and the Niagara Escarpment Commision & Niagara Biosphere Reserve.

VSP sampling on Georgina Islands

VSP sampling on Georgina Island was a partnership project among the Georgina Island First Nation, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Science and Research Branch, and Southern Region - Aurora and Midhurst Offices). A set of VSP plots were sampled on Georgina Island during the summer of 2014. Field data was collected between July and August 2014 by a University of Toronto Masters student (Gilles Pansin) and a Georgina Island First Nation summer student (Stephen Porte). A subset of VSP plots was selected from a sampling VSP grid that covered the Lake Simcoe watershed and Georgina Island. The VSP field data was tested for its diverse applications to: subwatershed planning, monitoring and planning for climate change and adaptation, natural cover monitoring as part of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, science and research, quantitatively characterizing vegetation communities on the islands, quantitatively describing wildlife and species at risk habitats, and establishing a baseline condition for long-term monitoring.

University of Waterloo Co-operative Education 

Program 2014, 2015 and 2016

Summer 2014

Three groups of students carried out VSP field sampling in natural areas near Huntsville, Ontario between July and August 2014 as part of a four week long field course, ERS 341 and their summer Co-op program. The summer Co-op program provides students the unique opportunity to lead and complete real projects for community organizations while honing their skills as field ecologists. The University of Waterloo provides students with VSP training through the Waterloo Summit Centre for the Environment in Huntsville (also open to the public). Through this field training and Co-op program, students gain knowledge about how to conduct vegetation inventory and monitoring of settled landscapes, while collecting the field information and supporting VSP projects.

Group 1: Justin Maddalena, Cheryl Reyes and Timmy Nassar used the VSP methodology to survey the in Huntsville, Ontario. This site serves as an inactive cemetery and recreational area for the town of Huntsville under the ownership of the Muskoka Conservancy. The reserve encompasses approximately 3 kilometres of the Big East River shoreline, a mix of deciduous andvspsupports.html coniferous forests, and an oxbow pond that provides habitat for amphibians and other wetland plants and animals. The property has been certified as “Ecologically Sensitive” and property management focuses on conservation and landscape management with the help of volunteers to help protect and build heritage for future generations.

Group 2: Kyle Wang and Angela Zhou used the VSP methodology to survey the Nelson Head Nature Reserve in Huntsville, Ontario. This 9 acre nature reserve, owned by the Muskoka Conservancy, has gently rolling terrain with mature trees, a stream and exposed bedrock. The nature reserve is in an urban area surrounded by residential development and supports several vegetation communities including forest areas with a mix of tolerant and mid-tolerant trees, an herbaceous open area (an old homestead site) and recently planted sites which contain young tree species. The property also contains a fern grotto and Marsh Marigold at its northern limit.

Group 3: Ian Blainey, Carly Van Daele, Cassandra Weins and Jessica Williamson carried out VSP sampling on a 1000 acre private property on Pond Meadows Road, just off of Brunel Road, in Huntsville, Ontario. The forest on this property is characterized by a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees on the Precambrian Shield, including sugar maple, red maple, black cherry, yellow birch, basswood, balsam fir and white pine. The site also contains some lake ecosystems and trails. There are sandy soils on the property which is typical of the area where soils are unproductive and have low buffering capacity and lay on top of various gneisses.