Terrestrial Ecology

Integrated ecological assessment for resource and land use development

Terrestrial ecology investigations are a standard component of many environmental assessment projects. At the regional, local and site-specific scale natural environmental features are functionally integrated with geological and hydrological assessments. Palmer Environmental Consulting Group Inc. (PECG) specializes in applying a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding terrestrial ecosystems, drawing on botany and wildlife expertise that is fundamental to analyzing species interactions with the environment and sensitivities to resource and land development. By identifying potentially sensitive terrestrial elements such as groundwater-dependent wetlands, species at risk, or critical habitat, PECG provides guidance to project development and timing considerations vital for agency approvals. Our terrestrial ecology services include six core disciplines:

Ecosystem Classification

Our terrestrial ecologists conduct ecosystem classification of terrestrial, wetland, aquatic, and coastal systems using a wide range of standardized methodologies throughout Ontario and British Columbia (BC). This baseline information is key in the characterization and analysis of species and natural environment features and functions.

At the project level, PECG terrestrial ecologists work closely with our fisheries and aquatic ecologists, geologists, and hydrogeologists to best understand interactions and associations affecting ecosystem function. This enables a comprehensive analysis to predict potential impacts and develop appropriate protection and mitigation strategies. Ecological land classification descriptions and mapping provide a foundation for identifying wildlife habitat and movement corridors, in support of resource development (e.g., mining) projects in western and northern Canada, and residential development and infrastructure projects in Ontario.

Species at Risk Assessments

Project conformity to environmental legislation and regulation for the protection of Species at Risk (SAR) and their habitats has become a complex process. This involves both specialized expertise in a range of plants and wildlife as well as a solid understanding of the legislative framework. PECG terrestrial ecologists remain current on the status of species and permitting requirements of federal and provincial SAR and Endangered Species Acts. Our expertise includes SAR assessments for plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. PECG utilizes a range of methodologies including specialized surveys and monitoring and habitat-based evaluations. We contribute valuably to our clients’ projects by providing innovative approaches to project permitting, and by minimizing project delays related to environmental compliance.

Wetland Assessment

PECG ecologists have completed wetland assessments throughout Ontario and BC. Studies include the characterization of different wetland types, delineation of wetland boundaries and identification of feature attributes and sensitivities. PECG’s multi-disciplinary team enables us to complete wetland feature-based water balances. For these assessments our ecologists and hydrogeologists collaborate to determine the proportional contributions and seasonal fluctuations in ground and surface water inputs to wetlands. These studies identify environmental constraints and opportunities for land use planning and resource development on lands adjacent to wetlands.

Flora and Fauna Inventory

PECG ecologists apply inventory skills to a range of projects including land development, parks and conservation, and research. As trained plant taxonomists and wildlife biologists, we have over 40 years of combined experience in flora and fauna inventories throughout Ontario and BC. These skills are applied to vegetation community descriptions, wildlife habitat analysis, surveying, monitoring, and ecological restoration.

Natural Heritage Planning

Assessment and identification of natural heritage systems is of particular importance in southern Ontario, where provincial environmental policies require municipalities to take an ecosystem approach to land use planning. PECG staff has extensive experience in natural heritage evaluations and interpretations of key natural and hydrological features related to Provincial Plans such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Greenbelt Plan and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. The systems approach is completed at the regional and local landscape levels for subwatershed and secondary plan studies. The assessment of buffers and identification of appropriate widths is a critical component and can significantly affect other land use opportunities. PECG uses a science-based approach to identify buffers based on the features and functions of natural areas. We commonly apply a variable buffer approach rather than a fixed buffer approach to better account for differences in environmental sensitivies of a feature and the degree of potential impacts from adjacent land uses.

Ecological Restoration

Ecological Restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Activities such as rehabilitation, reclamation, enhancement, reforestation and ecological engineering can be used to aid or complete the restoration, depending on the goals and objectives of the project. Our team approaches restoration through the application of models, concepts, methodologies, and tools based on the science of Restoration Ecology. Objectives will differ by project, but the common theme is to repair or “restore” an environmental setting to varying degrees. Our goal is to understand the ecological processes that have been altered or removed (e.g., loss of surface water contribution to a wetland), as a basis for restoring ecosystem function to the point of ecological sustainability or other desired state. Having project successes to draw upon, our restoration designs enable PECG to provide realistic and cost-effective solutions for varying restoration needs.