A multi-criteria wetland suitability index for restoration across Ontario’s Mixedwood Plains

Authors: Richard Shaker*, Ryerson University, Greg Rybarczyk, University of Michigan-Flint , Sally Medland, Ryerson University, K. Wayne Forsythe, Ryerson University, Brian mackay, Ryerson University
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: wetlands, multi-criteria evaluation, ecological restoration, analytical hierarchy process, landscape planning, land-use change, soil drainage, spatial analysis, scoping review, weighted index
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 56
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Significant wetland loss (~72%; 1.4 million hectares) in the Province of Ontario, Canada, has resulted in damage to important ecosystem services that mitigate the effects of global change. In response, major agencies have set goals to halt this loss and work to restore wetlands to varying degrees of function and area. To aid those agencies, this study was guided by four research questions: (i) Which physical and ecological landscape criteria represent high suitability for wetland reconstruction? (ii) Of common wetland suitability metrics, which are most important? (iii) Can a multi-criteria wetland suitability index (WSI) effectively locate high and low wetland suitability across Ontario Mixedwood Plains Ecozone? (iv) How do best sites from the WSI compare and contrast to both inventories of presettlement wetlands and current existing wetlands? The WSI was created based on seven criteria, normalized from 0 (low suitability) to 10 (high suitability), and illustrated through a weighted composite raster. Using an analytical hierarchy process (AHP), and importance determined from a scoping review of relevant literature, soil drainage had the greatest meaning and weight within the WSI (48.2%). The Getis-Ord Gi* index charted statistically significant “hot-spots” and/or “cold-spots” of wetland suitability. Lastly, the overlay analysis revealed greater similarity between high suitability sites and presettlement wetlands supporting the severity of historic wetland cannibalization. In sum, this transferable modeling approach to regional wetland restoration provides a prioritization tool for improving ecological connectivity, services, and resilience.

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