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Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System

Kicking off a new ecological corridors modeling project

Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System
Collaborating scientists, land managers, and indigenous community members visit a site in the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System in Ontario, Canada shortly after a controlled burn (bottom right) to remove invasive species. Photo credit: Bronwyn Rayfield, 2023.

Bronwyn Rayfield, a senior landscape ecologist at ApexRMS, recently participated in a kickoff meeting for the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System Ecological Corridors Pilot Project. As part of the new Parks Canada National Program for Ecological Corridors, the focus of this year-long $3.5M project is to develop ecological corridors across the Cootes to Escarpement EcoPark System, located at the western tip of Lake Ontario. The area is a national biodiversity hotspot and provides a critical link between Lake Ontario wetlands and Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment.

In collaboration with Dr. Marie-Josee Fortin of the University of Toronto, ApexRMS is leading the corridor modeling component of this exciting new project, building on their previous assessment in 2020 of the baseline ecological connectivity of the EcoPark System. The objectives of the corridor modeling are to: (1) delineate and prioritize existing ecological corridors; (2) assess the potential of candidate restoration actions – such as removal of invasive species or planting of native species – within these corridors to increase ecological connectivity; and (3) measure the cumulative potential connectivity impacts of all possible management and restoration actions. A key component of this new project will be the development of a user-friendly software tool – built as an open-source package in our SyncroSim software – capable of rapidly undertaking “what-if” analyses of the potential effects of new restoration projects on habitat connectivity for a range of different species.