In December 1999, the County of Middlesex approached the five Conservation Authorities with jurisdiction within its boundaries to participate in a coordinated natural heritage study in Middlesex County. The study has produced a solid information and policy basis to protect and rehabilitate the County's woodland and wetland features and systems, and fulfills the County's obligations under the Provincial Policy Statement for Natural Heritage (Section 2.3).
Middlesex Natural Heritage Study (2003)
The 2003 Middlesex Natural Heritage Study (MNHS) was undertaken to establish a County-wide comprehensive landscape determination of significant natural heritage features and to map those features. The MNHS was incorporated into the County Official Plan in 2006 and has served as the basis for natural heritage planning at the County and municipal levels.
Middlesex Natural Heritage System Study (2014)
The five local conservation authorities, with the Upper Thames River as the lead, completed the 2014 Middlesex Natural Heritage Systems Study (MNHSS) on behalf of the County. The MNHSS process was overseen by a Steering Committee and assisted by a Technical Advisory Committee with expertise in ecology, biology, mapping and planning. The process included detailed and comprehensive mapping using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based on current aerial photography. This mapping was undertaken at the Vegetation Community level, being the smallest mapped natural heritage feature at half of a hectare in area. 18 Vegetation Community types are found within Middlesex.
Vegetation Groups are the next level of mapping unit that puts together the similar Vegetation Communities for analysis purposes. For example, there are eight Vegetation Communities that make-up the Woodland Vegetation Group. In total, there are eight Vegetation Groups. Finally, Vegetation Groups are then assembled into three Vegetation Ecosystems. The Study included a peer review component whereby information was taken to an outside consulting to review and provide input at two stages of the process before the document was finalized. The MNHSS concluded that 20.1% of the County is in natural cover and that 98% of this natural cover (by land area) meets one or more criteria resulting in 19.7% of the County being significant natural heritage.
County Council has made the following decision: That the October 6, 2014 Final Draft of the Middlesex Natural Heritage System Study be endorsed in principle and be used as the basis for public and stakeholder consultation. The MNHSS will provide the base science to support natural heritage planning within the County; however, this will need to be brought into the County Official Plan, through a public amendment process.