Canadian Forest Service Publications

Climate change and the Lake Simcoe Watershed: a vulnerability assessment of natural heritage areas and nature based tourism. 2012. Lemieux, C.J.; Gray, P.A.; Scott, D.J.; McKenney, D. W.; MacFarlane,S. Climate Change Research Report CCRR-28. Ontario Forest Research Institute. 33p.

Year: 2012

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34296

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


Climate change presents several challenges to planners and those responsible for managing natural heritage areas and providing nature-based recreational opportunities. We explore the vulnerability of natural heritage areas and nature-based recreation to climate change in the Lake Simcoe watershed in two ways. First, we examine the vulnerability of natural heritage areas to climate change using habitat projections for selected tree species. Second, we explore the vulnerability of nature-based tourism to climate change using ice fishing, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, and snowmobiling season lengths and provincial park visitation patterns. Climate model projections indicate potential for significant change in ecosystem function in natural heritage areas and subsequent effects on nature-based tourism, resulting in many possible management implications. For example, climate conditions that provide habitat for boreal species such as black spruce (Picea mariana) are projected to disappear while those ideal for more southerly species such as willow oak (Quercus phellos) are projected to develop in the Lake Simcoe area. Projections from climate models point towards substantial reductions in the length of ice fishing, alpine and Nordic skiing, and snowmobiling seasons. As temperatures warm, interest in visiting natural heritage areas may increase, especially during the spring and fall shoulder seasons and the peak summer period. For example, annual visits to Sibbald Point Provincial Park are projected to increase 10% by the 2020s, 19 to 28% by mid-century (2050s), and 24 to 48% by the 2080s. Responding to the threats and opportunities resulting from climate change will require commitment, collaboration, and innovation characteristic of an adaptive approach to management.