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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

Land Use Classification Scheme for ESTR

The proposed classification scheme for ESTR (Figure 1) takes into account the analyses that were provided nationally, as well as other relevant national and international classification schemes. The first level of classification follows the categories used in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment with the exception of “Island”. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005) defines Islands as “Small Island Developing States” which is not an ecological classification and thus not recommended for use in ESTR. Further breakdown has been designed to meet the needs of ESTR.

Figure 1. Proposed ecological land classification scheme for use in ESTR

Long Description for Figure 1

This tree diagram outlines the proposed ecological land classification scheme for use in the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report. The following list presents the scheme

  • 1. Forest
    • 1.1. Boreal
      • 1.1.1. Broadleaf Deciduous
      • 1.1.2. Coniferous
      • 1.1.3. Mixed
    • 1.2. Temperate
      • 1.2.1. Broadleaf Deciduous
      • 1.2.2. Coniferous
      • 1.2.3. Mixed
  • 2. Dryland
    • 2.1. Shrubland
    • 2.2. Grassland
    • 2.3. Barren
  • 3. Inland Water
    • 3.1. Wetland
    • 3.2. Lake
    • 3.3. River/Stream
    • 3.4. Reservoir
  • 4. Polar
    • 4.1. Tundra
    • 4.2. Barren
    • 4.3. Snow/Ice/Glacier
  • 5. Mountain
    • 5.1. Snow/Ice/Glacier
    • 5.2. Alpine (above treeline)
    • 5.3. Montane Belt (below treeline)
  • 6. Coastal
  • 7. Marine
  • 8. Cultivated
  • 9. Urban

*Polar Drylands are covered within Polar Tundra
**Wetlands may occur within other classes and will be covered in detail as a whole (i.e. as a subclass of Inland Waters), not dispersed amongst the various classes they occur in
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The incorporation of national data with defined classification schemes into ESTR technical reports creates a need for a clear description of how these systems crosswalk with the proposed ESTR land cover terminology. Table 6 describes how they fit.

Table 6. Description of the proposed land use classification scheme terminology and crosswalk to land use analyses discussed in this paper.
TermDefinitionWhat’s IncludedNational Analyses that CrosswalkFootnote **National Analyses that do not CrosswalkFootnote **
1. Forest and woodland

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
Lands dominated by trees.
Specifically, areas where tree crown density is greater than approximately 10%.
Note that while the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment uses >40% crown cover as the boundary for classifying forests, >10% crown cover is used in several MEA analyses.
Forests and Woodlands (typically defined as 10-25% tree crown density)1 – Tree crown density > 10%
2 – Tree crown density > 25% (“Tree Dominated”)
4 – Tree crown density % not specified
7 – “Treed”
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Tree crown density % not specified, forest and shrubland combined into  “Forest or Shrub
6 – Not present in this case study
1.1. BorealThis includes forests within the Boreal zone, as defined by Brandt (2009).Taiga (northern Boreal forest), montane forests 1,2,4,7– Only defines forests by dominant tree type
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
1.1.1. Broadleaf DeciduousDeciduous (seasonal shedding of foliage) trees are dominant (> 75% of total tree basal area.
May also be referred to as “Broadleaf” or “Hardwood”.
Note: Basal area is defined as “the area of the circle formed by the cross-section of a tree taken 1.3 m above the ground” (BC Ministry of Forests and Range, 2005).
Broadleaf, hardwood1– Deciduous trees make up > 80 % of the total tree basal area
2
4
– % of deciduous trees not specified
7 – “Broadleaf”
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
1.1.2. ConiferousConiferous (trees classified botanically as Coniferae; cone-bearing trees having needle or scale-like leaves, usually evergreen (National Forest Inventory, 2004)) trees are dominant (>75% of total tree basal area).
May also be referred to as “Evergreen” (though evergreen trees are not necessarily coniferous), “Needle-leaf” or “Softwood”. 
Evergreen, needle-leaf, softwood1 – Coniferous trees make up > 80 % of the total tree basal area
2  – (“Evergreen Needleleaf”)
4 – % of coniferous trees not specified
7
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
1.1.3. MixedMixture of deciduous and coniferous trees where neither tree type is dominant (make up >75% of the total tree basal area). 1 – Neither coniferous nor deciduous trees make up > 80 % of the total tree basal area
2
4
– %  not specified
7
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
1.2. TemperateForests that are located between the tropics and the polar regions and have  moderate climates with distinct seasons of alternating long, warm summers and short, cold winters (Federal Geographic Data Committee, Vegetation Subcommittee, 1997). These are forests that lie outside of the Boreal zone in Canada, as defined by Brandt (2009).Acadian forests, montane forests 1,2,4,7– Only defines forests by dominant tree type
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forest and shrubland, does not define any further
 6 – Not present in this case study
1.2.1. Broadleaf DeciduousDeciduous (seasonal shedding of foliage) trees are dominant (> 75% of total tree basal area.
May also be referred to as “Broadleaf” or “Hardwood”.
Note: Basal area is defined as “the area of the circle formed by the cross-section of a tree taken 1.3 m above the ground” (BC Ministry of Forests and Range, 2005).
Broadleaf, hardwood1 – Deciduous trees make up > 80 % of the total tree basal area
2
4
– % of deciduous trees not specified
7 – “Broadleaf”
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
1.2.2. ConiferousConiferous (trees classified botanically as Coniferae; cone-bearing trees having needle or scale-like leaves, usually evergreen (National Forest Inventory, 2004)) trees are dominant (>75% of total tree basal area).
May also be referred to as “Evergreen” (though evergreen trees are not necessarily coniferous), “Needle-leaf” or “Softwood”. 
Evergreen, needle-leaf, softwood1 – Coniferous trees make up > 80 % of the total tree basal area
2 –  (“Evergreen Needleleaf”)
4 – % of coniferous trees not specified
7
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
1.2.3. MixedMixture of deciduous and coniferous trees where neither tree type is dominant (make up >75% of the total tree basal area). 1 – Neither coniferous nor deciduous trees make up > 80 % of the total tree basal area
2
4
– %  not specified
7
3 – Not present in this case study
5 – Combines forests and shrubland, does not define any further
6 – Not present in this case study
2. Dryland

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment(2005)
Lands where plant production is limited by water availability.
Specifically, areas where tree growth is limited by water availability (tree crown density <10%). In the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), drylands are defined more specifically as lands where annual precipitation is < ⅔ of potential evaporation including sub-humid, semi-arid, arid, and hyper-arid (as defined by the Convention to Combat Desertification). Specific aridity indexes are not required for the ESTR.
Shrublands, grasslands, semi-deserts and true deserts. 
Note: Cultivated lands may also meet the Dryland criteria, however these are discussed under “Cultivated”
 1,2,3,4,5,6,7– Not defined in this way
2.1. ShrublandA given vegetated area (>10% ground cover by vegetation) is considered Shrubland if shrubs compose either:
≥ 10% of ground cover; OR
> ⅓ of the total vegetation cover

 
Heathlands, alpine shrublands, etc.
Note that this includes Shrublands which occur on various landforms e.g. sand dunes/hills, eskers, mountains etc. as well as areas considered as “Parkland” or “Woodland” using other terminology if the total tree basal area < 10% and shrub cover meets the stated criteria. 
2 – “High-Low Shrub Dominated” % Ground cover required not specified.
3 – “Low Shrub” (<40cm; >25%cover); Tall shrub (>40cm; >25% cover); “Prostrate dwarf shrub” (>50%vegetation cover)
4 – % Ground cover required not specified.
7
1 – Shrubs compose > 40% of ground cover
5 – Included with Forest under “Forest or Shrub”
6 – Not included in this case study.
2.2. GrasslandGrass-dominated areas where few or no trees grow.
For the purposes of ESTR, this is a vegetated area (>10% ground cover by vegetation) that does not meet the criteria of either a forest or a shrubland where graminoids make up > 50% of the vegetation cover with forbs dominating the rest of the vegetation.
Mixed grasslands, Fescue grasslands, Tallgrass Prairie, Bunchgrass grasslands, Shrub-Steppe grasslands, alpine grasslands, rangelands etc.
Note that this includes Grasslands which occur on various landforms e.g. sand dunes/hills, eskers, mountains etc. as well as areas considered “Woodland” or “Parkland” using other terminology which do not meet the forest or Shrubland classification criteria and graminoids make up >50% of the vegetation cover.
1 – % Herb vegetation required not defined.
2 – % Herb vegetation required not defined (“Herb Dominated”).
4 – % Herb vegetation required not defined.
5 – % Herb vegetation required not defined.
6 – “Rangeland” % Herb vegetation required not defined.
7
3 – included within Tundra classes: Tussock Graminoid Tundra; Moist to dry non-tussock Graminoid/dwarf shrub tundra; and Dry Graminoid prostrate dwarf shrub tundra
2.3 BarrenDryland regions with limited vegetation.
Specifically, these are Drylands which do not meet the criteria of a Shrubland or Grassland.
This class can be present on various land forms e.g. sand dunes/hills, salt flats, eskers, moraines, rocky cliffs, exposed bedrock etc.1,4 – “Low vegetation and barren”2 – “Sparse Vegetation” (though not necessarily Dryland)
3 – Not included within this study (Arctic barrens covered within the Polar land classes)
5 – “Urban or barren”
6 – Not present in this case study
7 – “Non-Vegetated” (though not necessarily Dryland)
3. Inland Water

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment(2005)
Permanent water bodies inland from the coastal zone, and areas whose ecology and use are dominated by the permanent, seasonal, or intermittent occurrence of flooded conditions.Includes rivers, lakes, floodplains, reservoirs, and wetlands; also includes inland saline systems. 3
3.1. WetlandTerrain affected by water table at, near or above the land surface (< 2m deep) which is saturated for sufficient time to promote wetland or aquatic processes (National Wetlands Working Group, 1997).Peatlands (e.g. bogs, fens and some swamps), mineral wetlands (e.g. marshes, some swamps, shallow water < 2m deep), mudflats/tidal flats and deltas (areas of accumulated sediment deposits located at the mouth of a river)2, 3, 4, 5, 71 – Wetlands are included within other classes (mostly within “Shrubland” and “Grassland” classes)
6 – Not present in this case study
3.2.  LakeA naturally occurring static body of inland water (> 2m deep).Freshwater and saline lakes71 – Does not break down further than “Water”
2 – Does not break down further than “Mixes of water and land”
3
4
– breaks water down instead by “Turbid water”, “Dark water” and “Aquatic vegetation”
5 –  Only defines “Open Water”
6 –  Does not break down further than “Water”
3.3. River/Stream“A watercourse formed when water flows between continuous, definable banks. Flow may be intermittent or perennial, but does not include ephemeral flow where a channel with no definable banks is present. Gravel bars are part of a stream, while islands within a stream that have definable banks are not” (National Forest Inventory, 2004).

 
Rivers, streams and associated floodplains71 – Does not break down further than “Water”
2 – Does not break down further than “Mixes of water and land”
3
4
– breaks water down instead by “Turbid water”, “Dark water” and “Aquatic vegetation”
5 –  Only defines “Open Water”
6 –  Does not break down further than “Water”
3.4. Reservoir“An artificial basin affected by impoundment of water behind a human fabricated structure such as a dam, berm, dyke, or wall” (National Forest Inventory, 2004). 71 – Does not break down from “Water”
2 – Does not break down from “Mixes of water and land”
3
4
– breaks water down by “Turbid water”, “Dark water” and “Aquatic vegetation” only
5 –  Only defines “Open Water”
6 –  Does not break down from “Water”
4.  Polar

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
High-latitude systems frozen for most of the year.
For the purposes of ESTR, this is defined as the region from the North Pole south to the tree line, and is therefore equivalent to the Arctic Ecozone+. It is important to note, however, that in reality the tree line is a transition area that is best described as a band. The boundary for the Arctic Ecozone+ has been delineated with the best information available, however there may still be some discrepancies as to the best location for this line.
Ice caps, areas underlain by continuous permafrost, tundra, polar deserts, and polar coastal areas31,2,7– Not defined in this way
4,5,6– Not included in these case studies
4.1. Tundra

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment(2005)
Treeless regions within the Arctic Ecozone+which contain nearly continuous plant cover.
Specifically, contains >50% ground cover (otherwise classified as “Barren”).
Due to discrepancies in the exact location of the northern tree line, some areas of Tundra may exist in the northern portions of the Taiga Plains, Taiga Shield and Hudson Plains Ecozones+.
Polar grasslands (i.e. Graminoid Tundra), prostrate and erect shrub Tundra’s
This class can be present on various land forms e.g. dunes, salt flats, eskers, moraines, rocky cliffs, etc.
3 – Broken down further into: Tussock Graminoid Tundra; Moist to dry non-tussock Graminoid/dwarf shrub tundra; and Dry Graminoid prostrate dwarf shrub tundra1 – Not broken down further than ‘Shrubland”. May also be included under “Low Vegetation and Barren.”
2 – Not broken down further than “High-Low Shrub Dominated”
4 – Not broken down further than ‘Shrubland”
5 – Not broken down further than “Forest or Shrub”
6 – Not included in this case study
7 – “Shrubland” not broken down this way (only by Alpine, Wetland or Upland)
4.2. Barren

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
Treeless regions within the Arctic Ecozone+which contain < 50% plant cover. Vegetation present is primarily herbs, lichens, mosses and liverworts.Polar deserts, areas of exposed bedrock etc.
This class can be present on various land forms e.g. dunes, eskers, moraines, rocky cliffs, exposed bedrock etc.
31 – Polar barrens not separate
2 – Polar barrens not separate
4 – not included in this case study
5  – Polar barrens not separate
6 – Not present in this case study
7  – Polar barrens not separate
4.3. Snow/Ice/GlacierMass of perennial snow and ice with definite lateral limits, typically flowing in a particular direction, snow or ice that is not part of a glacier but is found during the summer months on the landscape.Glaciers, perennial snow cover31 – Polar ice not separate
2 – Polar ice not separate
4 – not included in this case study
5  – Polar ice not separate
6 – Not present in this case study
7  – Polar ice not separate
5. Mountain

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
Steep and high lands. As defined by Mountain Watch using criteria based on elevation alone, and at lower elevations on a combination of elevation, slope, and local elevation range.
Specifically, classified as mountain if:
elevation > 2500m
elevation 1500-2500m and slope > 2°
elevation 1000-1499m and slope > 5° or local elevation range (7 km radius) is > 300m
elevation 300-1000m and local elevation range >300m
isolated inner basins and plateaus less than 25 km2 extent that are surrounded by mountains
Rocky Mountains, Appalachian Mountains, Laurentian Mountains, Torngat Mountains etc. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
5.1. Snow/Ice/Glacier

(or Nival Belt as it is called in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005))
Mass of perennial snow and ice with definite lateral limits, typically flowing in a particular direction.
On a mountain, this perennial snow/ice is found in the Nival Belt (the terrain above the snow-line which is defined as the lowest elevation where snow is commonly present all year round).
Glaciers, perennial snow cover 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
5.2.  Alpine ZoneTreeless region (i.e. above the treeline) on a mountain between the natural climatic forest limit and the snow line. Refers strictly to a temperature-driven treeless high-altitude life zone.
May also be referred to as Alpine Tundra.
Note: Alpine grasslands and shrublands will be covered under Grasslands and Shrublands, not within Mountains.71, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
5.3.  Montane BeltThe region of a mountain which extends from the lower mountain limit to the upper thermal limit of forest (i.e. below the treeline) irrespective of whether forest is present or not.
Note that information was not organized in this manner for ESTR (i.e. forests which occur in the Montane belt are not separated from forests which occur in the adjacent non-mountain regions) and so there will be limited information reported on the Montane belt.
Note: Montane Grasslands and Shrublands will be covered under Grasslands and Shrublands, not within Mountains. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
6. Coastal

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
Interface between ocean and land, extending seawards to about the middle of the continental shelf and inland to include all areas strongly influenced by the proximity to the ocean. 
Specifically, this encompasses the area between 50 metres below mean sea level to 50 metres above the high tide level or extending landward to a distance 100 kilometres from shore.
Note that the coastal zone may be covered by both terrestrial and marine ecozones+chapters, depending on the particular issue.
Reefs, intertidal zones, archipelago’s estuaries, coastal dunes, coastal aquaculture and seagrass communities.
Note that coastal wetlands (e.g. estuaries and mudflats/tidal flats) are covered within Wetlands (contrary to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment where they were discussed under Coastal).
 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
7. Marine

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
Areas of ocean where the water is deeper than 50 metres.
Note that part of the coastal region (where water is < 50m deep and/or within 100 km of the shore) will be covered in the appropriate marine ecozones+chapters.
  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
8. Cultivated

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)
Lands dominated by domesticated plant species, used for and substantially changed by crop, agroforestry, or aquaculture production.
Specifically, areas in which at least 30% of the landscape comes under cultivation in any particular year.
Orchards, agroforestry, feedlots, etc.

Note that coastal aquaculture will be included within Coastal.
1 – Broken down further into: Cropland; and  Cropland-woodland
2 – Broken down further into ‘High’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Low Biomass Cropland’
5
6
– Broken down further into: Dryland agriculture; and Irrigated agriculture
3 – Not included in this case study
4 – Not included in this case study
7 – Cultivated land not distinguished from natural land
9. Urban

As defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005
Built environments with a high human density.
Specifically, known human settlements with a population of 5,000 or more, with boundaries delineated by observing persistent night-time lights or by inferring areal extent in the cases where such observations are absent.
Human settlements with ≥5000 inhabitants1 – Urban and Built
2 – Urban and Built
6 – Urban Areas
7 – Urban and Built
3 – Not included in this case study
4 – Not included in this case study
5 – Urban or Barren

Footnotes

Footnote *

Numbers in these columns correspond with the Analysis numbers on Table 1.

Return to footnote *

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