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Technical Thematic Report No. 3. - Guidance for the preparation of ESTR products – Land classification scheme for the ecosystem status and trends report

Other Land Cover/Vegetation Classifications

This section outlines other national classification schemes or legends that were not used directly in national land cover analyses produced for ESTR but are still relevant for consideration in an overall land cover classification scheme for use in ESTR reports.

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Canadian Wetland Classification System

The Canadian Wetland Classification System (National Wetlands Working Group, 1997) has three levels:

  1. Wetland Class: distinguished based on “properties of the wetland that reflect the overall genetic origin of the wetland and the nature of the environment” (Bog, Fen, Swamp, Marsh, or Shallow Water).
  2. Wetland Form: “Subdivisions of each class based on surface morphology, surface pattern, water type, and morphology characteristics of underlying mineral soil” (for example, Blanket Bog, Basin Bog, Collapse Scar Bog).
  3. Wetland Type: “Subdivisions of Wetland Form and Subform based on the physiognomic characteristics of the vegetation communities” (for example, Forb, Graminoid). Wetland types can apply to more than one class.

As discussed above, wetlands in the NFI can be differentiated by land cover and vegetation type which corresponds directly with the third level of the Wetland Classification System (Wetland Type, Table 3); however, differentiation between Wetland Classes and Forms is not always possible for NFI data (Table 4). Wetland Classes may correspond to a number of NFIwetland polygons. Generally, the Canadian Wetland Classification System classifies wetlands in finer detail than is necessary for the purposes of ESTR.

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Canadian National Vegetation Classification

The Canadian component of the International Vegetation Classification, the Canadian National Vegetation Classification was launched in 1998. Development of the Canadian National Vegetation Classification system is ongoing and is based on the revised version of the FGDC-NVCS (which was not yet implemented in the U.S. at the time of writing this paper). At the time of writing, work was completed on defining the broadest level classification and was ongoing at the association level for forests and woodlands through the Canadian Forest Ecosystem Classification of the Canadian Forest Service (see Table 5). The divisions within the rest of the hierarchy had not been determined and formalized.

Table 5. Status of categorization for the Canadian National Vegetation Classification hierarchy.
LevelStatus of Categorization
Upper Levels (based primarily on physiognomy)
Formation ClassPredefined in to 5 growth form units: mesomorphic , xeromorphic, cryomorphic , lithomorphic, and hydromorphic
Formation SubclassNot categorized at time of writing
FormationNot categorized at time of writing
Mid levels (based on both floristics and physiognomy)
DivisionNot categorized at time of writing
MacrogroupNot categorized at time of writing
GroupNot categorized at time of writing
Lower levels (based primarily on floristics)
AllianceNot categorized at time of writing
AssociationWork underway categorizing forest and woodland associations through the Canadian Forest Ecosystem Classification

Source: Baldwin (2008, pers. comm.). For current information, go to

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National Land and Water Information Service

The National Land and Water Information Service (NLWIS) is an internet-service being developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in close collaboration with other federal departments, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, producer and industry groups, and academic institutions to provide easy access to agri-environmental information, including land use, soil, water, climate, and biodiversity (Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, 2008). At the time of writing, NLWIS has completed Phase 1 of 4, and was due to be complete in 2009.12

Land cover classes provided through NLWIS for agricultural land for the year 2000 were:

  1. Water bodies
  2. Exposed land
  3. Developed or built-up land
  4. Shrubland
  5. Wetland
  6. Native grassland
  7. Annual crops
  8. Perennial cropland and pasture
  9. Coniferous forest
  10. Deciduous forest
  11. Mixed forest

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Earth Observation for Sustainable Development of Forests

The Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EOSD) of Forests is a Canadian Forest Services project in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency aimed at mapping Canada’s forested land cover using satellite imagery. A map of the land cover of Canada’s forested ecozones (all except for the three arctic ecozones, the prairies, and the mixedwood plains) circa 2000  has been produced based on landsat data as part of this project (Wulder et al., 2008). The legend used for the EOSD was developed to work with the NFI Land Cover Classification Scheme (see page 6), and is considered a closed legend which aims to be applicable throughout Canada for a breadth of different land cover products (Wulder and Nelson, 2003).

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Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

In Volume 1 of The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), ten reporting units are used. These units are referred to as “systems” as opposed to “ecosystems” and they are:

  1. Marine
  2. Coastal
  3. Inland water
  4. Forest and woodland
  5. Dryland
  6. Island
  7. Mountain
  8. Polar
  9. Cultivated
  10. Urban

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Footnote 12

NLWIS was completed in March 2009 and has turned into an ongoing service known as Agri-Geomatics.

Return to footnote 12