Conserve Ontario's Carolinian Forests: preserve songbird species at risk, chapter 1

Ontario’s Carolinian Zone

Ontario’s Carolinian Zone lies south of an imaginary line between Grand Bend on Lake Huron and Toronto on Lake Ontario. This region enjoys warmer year-round temperatures than any other part of Ontario. The climate supports ecosystems found nowhere else in Canada, along with levels of biological diversity unsurpassed elsewhere in the province.

“Carolinian” is a name coined by early botanists, who observed that hardwood forests in southwestern Ontario share many characteristics with forests as far south as North and South Carolina in the United States. Forests in Ontario’s Carolinian Zone are populated with trees having a strong southern affinity, such as tulip tree (Lireodendron tulipifera), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Kentucky coffee-tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), and pawpaw (Asimina triloba).

It has been estimated that more than 50% of the federally-listed species at risk occur in Ontario’s Carolinian Zone. Throughout this region, pressures from urban expansion, increased industrialization and intensified agricultural practices have caused extensive wildlife habitat destruction. In parts of this zone, over 90% of the original forests are gone. Most of the remaining forests are too small and isolated to accommodate at-risk forest bird species and other species that depend on the specialized habitats found in larger forest tracts.

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