Ontario’s Ecological Land Classification Program (ELC): ELC Training schedules and resources

Southern ELC Training courses cancelled until further notice.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has collaborated with Agriculture Canada, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, Conservation Authorities, and Consultants, to prepare and deliver Ecological Land Classification (ELC) Training Courses, along with other related courses.

Ecological Land Classification (ELC) Training

The ELC Training Program is developed and delivered provincially by the Ministry of Natural Resources. The ELC Program and its training courses are provincial in scope, application, and coverage. The ELC training course is delivered across the province, teaching people how to interpret ecosystem boundaries, and how to sample sites, soils and vegetation to meet varied needs and applications. The ELC Training Course is an intensive, five-day field course designed to provide hands-on experience in applying basic field skills, along with the specialized techniques required by the ELC system. Participants will find the wide range of expertise and talents amongst the instructors to be engaging, relevant, and able to address most questions and challenges that practitioners have.

At the end of each ELC Training Course, participants receive a certificate, provided they have met the attendance, skill level, and evaluation requirements during the course

There are two ELC course formats that are run across the province, to meet the varied client needs and applications of ELC. The core of the course is the same across the province, utilizing the same ELC terms, conventions, and standards. The only difference between the course formats is their emphasis on different types of applications and interpretations (Natural Heritage / Biodiversity / Resource Management), along with whether ELC is applied within plots or polygons.

Southern Format ELC course: directed more towards natural heritage and biodiversity applications, and teaches how to apply ELC in Polygons.

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Northern Format ELC Course: directed more towards resource management applications of the ELC, and teaches how to apply ELC using Plots.


Quick Provincial ELC Program Update

Since its publication, the First Approximation (Lee et al. 1998) has become the accepted tool for the identification, description, naming, mapping and monitoring of ecosystems across southern Ontario. It has been adopted by most planning authorities, such as municipalities, conservation authorities, MMAH, MTO, OMNR, and consultants.

The ELC classes, terms and conventions are now common language, and are embedded in databases, digital mapping and GIS, watershed and regional plans (e.g. Green Belt, Oak Ridges Moraine), planning manuals (e.g. Natural Heritage Reference Manual), applied at Ontario Municipal Boards (OMB’s), and in policies, and legislation.

Upon release of the First Approximation SELC in 1998, it was clear that it did a really good job with “natural” ecosystems, since the data to generate the first classification was mainly from our choice natural areas from across the south. Application by local land managers and planners quickly discovered that the First Approximation did not adequately deal with the rest of the southern Ontario landscape. The original framework does not accommodate the range of ecosystem conditions, especially those parts of our landscape that had some sort of land use in the past, yet have since been abandoned, lightly managed or restored. The near natural, naturalized and restoration parts of the landscape, which makes up a lot of southern Ontario, was not adequately addressed within the catch-all “Cultural” label in the First Approximation.

MNR has been re-engineering the ELC over the last 12 years, with the goal of the classification to be provincially standardized and consistent. A Southern Technical Committee was established in 2008, and has been actively involved and overseeing the development and refinement of the new ELC in southern Ontario and across the province. This collaboration will make sure that the ELC fulfills practitioner needs, fill the gaps that have been identified, and is easily related to the older ELC.

The next generation of ELC products is currently being designed, formatted and organized by the provincial ELC Working Group. The biggest challenge remaining is the volume of material, which can no longer fit into one manual, and how to package it that meets most people’s needs. There will be a provincial publication series, primarily to support field applications. There will also be a more open concept of publications as well, where practitioners could download the sections needed and could collate into their own field manuals as needed.

The Provincial ELC Working Group is overseeing the development, design and delivery of consistent products across the province. The proposed southern products are all part of that provincial development, with the southern Technical Sub-Committee providing the necessary local input. Having so many people involved has brought a new level of engagement between ELC and practitioners, making sure we develop manuals and tools that are relevant and accessible to the field.

Current ELC Products and Resources

The ELC program has produced numerous publications across the province over the past decades, including the forest ecosystem classifications up north and south, wetland, and Ecosite classifications, and the southern ecosystem cataloguing approach. The provincial ELC Working Group has been busy re-engineering and designing the new standardized, provincially consistent, and expanded ELC for the province. However, the new ELC can’t be released and implemented until it is all done, and we all make a wholesale change to the new ELC system. So, what products do you use in the meantime, to apply ELC across the province?

Northern ELC Application

Southern ELC Application
All the current ELC resources and products applied in the southern part of the province, or for more Natural Heritage / Biodiversity applications, have been updated and provided here on this web page.

Currently Applied ELC Catalogue for South
You will find on this web site, the 2008 version of the ecosystem catalogue for southern Ontario. This 2008 catalogue is very much a continuation of the 1998 catalogue (Lee et al, 1998).

Important Notes

  • The second version coding was very much an experiment, and is not being followed by the new ELC. So, when coding ecosystems in the field, please use the 1998 code, when there is one. Only when there is no 1st Approx code (1998), meaning the ecosystem has been added to the catalogue since 1998, do you use the 2nd version coding
  • Vascular Plant Species List has been recently updated by David Bradley, and represents some updates to the taxonomy and coding of all southern species, including the generic’s.
  • New Data Cards vs Older Data Cards: until the new data cards are “finished”, please continue to use the older data cards, that we also continue to use at the ELC training courses. The new data cards posted here are the final drafts of the newly proposed ELC data cards, and are in the last stages of finalization provincially. They are posted here to show you the new direction of the ELC data cards: a very much improved re-packaging of what is collected, sorted and packaged according to whether a polygon or plot was used to sample, the level of effort, and the application.

Related courses

This web site will also provide a linkage to other related training courses, including course agendas, dates, and resources.

Those courses include the:

2016 Schedule for ELC Training Courses in Southern Ontario

2016 ELC courses cancelled until further notice.

Last ELC Updates, Products and Resources -right click to download any files