Predicting wetland plant community responses to proposed water-level-regulation plans for Lake Ontario: GIS-based modeling

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Geography and Geology


Integrated, GIS-based, wetland predictive models were constructed to assist in predicting 14 the responses of wetland plant communities to proposed new water-level regulation plans for Lake Ontario. The modeling exercise consisted of jour major components: 1) building individual site wetland geometric models; 2) constructing generalized wetland geometric models representing specific types of wetlands (rectangle model for drowned river mouth wetlands, half ring model for open embayment wetlands, half ellipse model for protected embayment wetlands, and ellipse model for barrier beach wetlands); 3) assigning wetland plant profiles to the generalized wetland geometric models that identify associations between past flooding / dewatering events and the regulated water-level changes of a proposed water-level-regulation plan; and 4) predicting relevant proportions of wetland plant communities and the time durations during which they would be affected under proposed regulation plans. Based on this conceptual foundation, the predictive models were constructed using bathymetric and topographic wetland models and technical procedures operating on the platfrom of ArcGIS. An example of the model processes and outputs for the drowned river mouth wetland model using a test regulation plan illustrates the four components and, when. compared against other test regulation plans, provided results that met ecological expectations. The model results were also compared to independent data collected by photointerpretation. Although data collections were not directly comparable, the predicted extent of meadow marsh in, years in which photographs were taken was significantly correlated with extent of mapped meadow marsh in all bat barrier beach wetlands. The predictive model for wetland plant communities provided valuable input into International Joint Commission deliberations on new regulation plans and was also incorporated into faunal predictive models used for that purpose.