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Shoreline of Lake

The Global Commitment

The significant and increasing loss of biodiversity and natural heritage areas has created widespread global concern, and is generating a new commitment to conserve and protect threatened species and spaces. The roles and responsibilities of Ontario Parks respond to the international call to increase the protection of natural heritage areas and biodiversity around the world.

Over the past decade, a succession of world charters have called for accelerated protection efforts. As part of this growing movement, Canada and 159 other countries signed the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity at the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992. Among other things, they pledged to establish more protected areas, and to find new ways of managing these areas while promoting environmentally sound and sustainable development of natural resources.

Ontario's provincial parks system makes a significant contribution to Canada's commitment. Ontario Parks will continue to make a contribution to providing leadership for its partners, and for other agencies and organizations within Ontario, in the establishment of new protected areas.

IUCN Protected Areas Management Categories

Earth Sciences

Provincial parks protect a representative sample of Ontario's earth science features. To help achieve this task, geological features have been defined as the physical elements of the natural landscape, created by geologic processes and distinguished by their age, stratigraphy (layering) and topography (shape). Representative, features have been organized into 44 geological themes, while more than 1200 typical rock types, fossil assemblages, landforms and related geologic processes have been identified for protection. Close to one half of all these features already have been captured in our park system.

Geological research in provincial parks is encouraged. Researchers must submit an Application to Conduct Research and receive approval.

Life Sciences

Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves protect representative samples of life science features from Ontario’s 14 Ecoregions and 71 Ecodistricts within their regulated boundaries.  Ecoregions are broad climatic zones distinguished by their north-south temperature and east-west precipitation gradients.  Ecodistricts are distinctive physiographic areas found within Ecoregions.  Each Ecodistrict contains landform patterns and biological productivity traits that distinguish it from other Ecodistricts.  Finer landscape units are defined in each Ecodistrict based on recurring landform patterns.  Close to one half of these landform patterns and the vegetation and species they support are found within Ontario’s provincial parks and conservation reserves.

Non-destructive biological research in provincial parks is encouraged.  Researchers must submit an Application to Conduct Research and receive approval.

Biological research in provincial parks is encouraged. Researchers must submit an Application to Conduct Research and receive approval.

Cultural Sciences

Provincial parks protect significant historical resources in open space settings. The selection of areas for protection is guided by 13 historical themes and 115 specific theme segments encompassing all aspects of Ontario's history. Themes span more than 10,000 years of human history, from Ontario's earliest post glacial immigrants, through European contact and settlement, to day-to-day aspects of contemporary life. Almost one third of all historical themes and theme segments are currently found within our provincial parks.

Archeological and historical research in provincial parks is encouraged. Researchers must submit an Application to Conduct Research and receive approval.

Social Sciences

Social science research in provincial parks can be divided into the following two categories: research conducted by Ontario Parks and research conducted by other agencies. Staff from the Planning and Research section of Ontario Parks have conducted the Park User Survey since 1974. The goal of the Park User Survey is to provide information about campers, day visitors and interior users for a variety of planning, operational and management functions. In addition, each year researchers from other agencies such as universities conduct social science research in provincial parks. Researchers must submit An Application to Conduct Research and receive approval.

Environmental and Economic Studies on Cottages in Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park currently has over 300 private cottages located on lots that are held by leases or other forms of land tenure. In 2013, MECP commissioned scientific reports to provide information on these arrangements. The economic study also addresses private cottages located on leased lots in Rondeau Provincial Park.

Environmental and Economic Studies on Cottages in Algonquin Provincial Park (MECP website)

Forest Fire Research and Monitoring

Nature Fire Regimes in Ontario

This Natural Fire Regimes in Ontario report will help inform decisions regarding preliminary fire management goals, objectives and options for maintaining and restoring fire-dependent ecosystems in protected areas. This report provides a summary of how ecosystems interacted with fire in the past, under a minimum of human influence, and how fire processes can be used as a tool to help restore ecological integrity to protected area landscapes. It has been prepared as part of a tool kit supporting fire management planning for provincial parks and conservation reserves.

The report provides a compilation and synthesis of existing research based on a comprehensive literature review. It uses Ontario’s Ecological Land Classification (ELC) framework to analyze and describe natural fire regimes and fire effects for relatively homogeneous groupings of ecosites (based on similar site, vegetation, and fire regime characteristics) in the broad forest regions in Ontario. Results are discussed by forest region and are presented in a table summarizing fire regime characteristics by homogenous fire group. These tables are followed by more detailed descriptions of the fire group and its natural fire regime characteristics, vegetation responses to fire, succession following fire, and management considerations.

This report should assist park planners, ecologists, and fire managers in developing management direction for fire use and fire response by providing answers to critical restoration questions regarding the natural role of fire on the landscapes throughout Ontario. Other issues to consider when managing fire on the landscape are also discussed.

Download Nature Fire Regimes in Ontario (17 MB)