Farmers participating in
the Environmental Farm Planning Program will find it very
complementary to the Carolinian Canada Program.
Farm Planning Program has been developed by a
group of four major provincial farm organizations known as
the Farm Environmental Coalition. It is based on a
workbook containing 23 different worksheets covering every
topic related to the farm environment, from storage of
pesticides to control of soil erosion. A related program
is the Best
Management Practices or BMP publications.
Of particular interest to
the Carolinian Canada program are three worksheets in the Environmental
Farm Plan Workbook:
Each of these three
worksheets consists of a series of questions that farm
operators can ask themselves about their current use and
management of streams, ponds, wetlands and woodlands. The
potential answers are divided into four levels, from
`Poor' to `Best'.
Planting of natural
vegetation buffers and corridors is just one of the key
recommendations of the Environmental Farm Plan Workbook.
Included in the recommendations to achieve the 'best'
rating for farm management are:
- buffer strips of planted
or natural vegetation around ponds and wetlands, and
along streams (fifty feet wide for a 'Best' rating),
- naturally vegetated
floodplains and streambanks (and minimal agricultural
use of these areas; cattle fenced out of streams in
intensive livestock operations),
- retirement of marginal
land, or highly erodible land to trees and shrubs (or
permanent pasture) and expansion of woodlots if
- connection of wildlife
habitat areas by vegetated corridors,
- protection of fields
from wind erosion by windbreaks (every 500 feet for
highly erodible land).
Soil is a living, breathing
biological system and is often referred to as the basis of
the ecosystem. It is a mix of physical particles, tiny
animals and micro-organisms, chemical nutrients, organic
debris and moisture. If soil is exposed to too much stress
through continual ploughing, direct exposure to wind and
running water, or continuous nutrient exports through crop
harvests, it loses its health as a useful resource within
The Environmental Farm
Planning Program emphasizes various forms of conservation
tillage, careful nutrient management, and maintenance of
organic matter content to conserve soil.
The water component of an
ecosystem is best viewed from within the context of the
hydrological cycle. Precipitation carries water from the
atmosphere to the earth, where it then runs across the
surface and eventually accumulates as surface water in
streams, rivers and lakes. However, some precipitation
will infiltrate the soil to provide moisture to vegetation
or act as groundwater recharge.
Slope, in combination with
different soil types, will determine the drainage pattern
within an ecosystem and thus account for the quantity of
water present. However, if all of the vegetation is
removed from an area, surface water will begin to pick up
sediments and contaminants as it moves across the land,
thereby reducing the water quality.
Several techniques can be
utilized to influence the movement of water and curb
erosion. For example, the installation of grassed
waterways involves planting grass strips wherever water
naturally occurs in a concentrated flow across the
Streambank plantings of
trees, along with grass buffer strips, will also enhance
water quality by stabilizing the banks and preventing
excess sediment from entering the water channel. Also,
streambank plantings serve to cool water temperatures and
therefore enhance habitat for cool-water fish species such
As recommended in the
Environmental Farm Planning Program, keeping any wetlands
or ponds, and making sure they are surrounding with a
buffer of natural vegetation will help protect the
diversity of the Carolinian zone.
Vegetation and Wildlife
In the Carolinian zone of
southern Ontario, climatic conditions combined with
topography give rise to an extremely diverse range of
vegetation and wildlife species.
There are many
opportunities for farmers to enhance the Carolinian
features of their property while responding to
recommendations of the Environmental Farm Plan.
In retiring marginal land,
planting buffers along streams, or planting windbreaks and
shelterbelts, it is possible to make some use of
Carolinian species of both trees and shrubs, as described
elsewhere in this factsheet series.
Just planting corridors of
vegetation between existing woodlots or other patches of
natural vegetation will enhance the health of wildlife
populations, but to function most effectively, connecting
corridors must display certain qualities. Often fencerows
containing only coniferous trees and grasses will not
provide a suitable passageway. Plantings of fruit-bearing
shrubs along the corridor will encourage use by wildlife.
Corridors can also entice
predators into an area, which may prove to be undesirable
if livestock safety is a concern. However, predators help
to maintain the balance within an ecosystem, if smaller
mammal populations are high.
Although corridors connect
fragmented areas, the size of these areas themselves can
also be a concern.
When considering woodlands,
it is important to note the difference between edge and
interior habitats. A fragmented landscape provides an
abundance of `edge' habitat, and very little `interior'
habitat. Edge habitat tends to favour species that are
aggressive and opportunistic. Quite often they are
predators or parasites such as the common grackle or
contribution farmers can therefore make is to maintain any
large wooded areas, or retire adjacent marginal land to
make woodlots larger.
This should not detract
from the ecological value of any small remnant wooded
areas in the Carolinian zone. Often they are the only
places left where the Carolinian species can hold onto
their precarious existence.
Conservation Plans for
Rural Non-Farm Landowners
Although they may not be
directly involved in the farm environmental planning
process, rural non-farm landowners who own significant
acreage should also consider developing a conservation
plan for their land. The above requirements of the
Environmental Farm Plan certainly apply to non-farm land
as well, and could also be written into a lease agreement,
if you lease land to a farm operator.
These are the practices
that will lead to maintaining or restoring ecosystem
health in the Carolinian zone. If all rural landowners
were to implement these basic practices and ensured the
use of native species, an immense amount could be
Carolinian Canada will
always have a fragmented rural landscape due to
agriculture and human settlement. However, with care and a
little thought, ecological integrity can be maintained.
For Further Information:
Management Practices publication series.
Hilts, S.G. and Mitchell,
P. 1994. (Forthcoming). Conservation Planning: A Handbook
for Rural Landowners. Centre for Land and Water
Stewardship, Univ. of Guelph, Guelph, Ont.
Hilts, S.G. and Mitchell, P.
1994. Caring for Your Land:
A Stewardship Handbook for Carolinian Canada Landowners.
Centre for Land and Water Stewardship, Univ. of Guelph,
Ontario Farm Coalition.
Farm Plan Workbook. Ontario Soil and Crop
Improvement Association, Guelph.
Riley, J. and Mohr, P.
1994. Values on Southern Ontario's Settled Landscapes.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Aurora, Ontario.
Federation of Agriculture
Farmers Federation of Ontario
Farm Animal Council
[Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the
Soil and Crop Improvement Association
The Centre for Land and
Water Stewardship, University of Guelph, June, 1994.
Updated by Carolinian Canada 2003.
Additional copies can
be obtained from your nearest Conservation Authority or
Ministry of Natural Resources Office. These offices may
also be able to help with further information to assist
Funding for the development
of this factsheet was provided by the Carolinian Canada
Program. Agencies involved include: Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism
and Recreation, Ontario Heritage Foundation, Association
of Conservation Authorities of Ontario, Wildlife Habitat
Canada, World Wildlife Fund, Canadian Botanical
Association, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Federation of
Ontario Naturalists, and Parks Canada.