Ontario can be divided into four main forest types, which can be further separated into ecological biomes. The map below shows where these forest types can be found in the province, but of course, the change is not sudden like a political border, it is transitional.
This portion of the province contains many major urban areas, including the City of Toronto. Historically, much of the forest was cleared for agriculture. Some woodland remains on land that was considered inadequate for agriculture use.
This zone is further subdivided into Carolinian Forest (South-West portion near to Lake Erie) and The Eastern Great Lakes Lowland Forests (approximately anything North of the southern-most tip of Lake Huron).
This is one of the most ecologically diverse parts of Ontario, owing to the milder climate which is moderated by the presence of The Great Lakes. Many rare species can be found here.
Expect to find: Ash, Birch, Chestnut, Oak, Hickory, and more plentiful Walnut trees.
Rarer species include: Tulip Tree, Cucumber Tree, and Sassafras. Butternut Trees exist here and a little further north. Southern Flying Squirrels can be found, extending into next zone.
The Eastern Great Lakes Lowland Forests
Ranging from Lake Ontario to around Georgian Bay, this is a transitional zone containing a range of habitats. It is mostly a mixed forest zone of broadleaf deciduous trees and conifers, but contains diverse habitats such as bogs, freshwater and conifer swamps.
Expect to find: Pine, Maple, Oak, White Cedar, and Eastern Hemlock. There are White-tailed Deer, Snowshoe Hares, Coyotes, Eastern Grey Squirrels (including many of the melanistic black variety), American Red Squirrels, and Chipmunks. Migrating warblers stop or pass through this area.
Great Lakes/St Lawrence Forest
A large area with a number of urban areas such as Sudbury and North Bay and may popular “cottage country” destinations. This area begins around Georgian Bay (very approximately Midland) and continues North to about half-way up the shore of Lake Superior (around Lake Superior Provincial Park) and everything within this band East to the Quebec border. In addition, a band of land tracing West and South of Thunder Bay as far as the border with Manitoba.
This area of forest can be further divided into two biomes. Between Midland and Lake Superior Provincial Park (approximately) is The Eastern Forest-Boreal Transition. The land adjacent to Thunder Bay is The Western Great Lakes Forest. The biomes are similar, with the latter having a slightly drier climate, so I will list their flora and fauna together.
Habitats vary based on climate and water level. Expect to find many of the trees already mentioned, but with a greater proportion of conifers and conifer-swamps. Specifically Red, White and Jack Pines. Yellow and Paper Birch, Hemlock, Northern Oak and Aspen are more common. Rock protrusions of The Canadian Shield are a frequent sight along with peat mosses.
Predatory mammals are more populous. Black Bear, Coyote and Grey Wolf. Moose are found here and Bald Eagles are more common.
This region ranges from the Northern edges of Lake Superior northwards to a little south of the shore of Hudson’s Bay at James Bay. It is roughly analogous to the Central Canadian Shield Forests biome.
Hills, Lakes, Rocky Canadian Sheild outcrops, and bogs are all common habitats. Black Spruce and Jack Pine are common amongst Aspen, Ontario Balsam Poplar, and Balsam Fir in warmer areas. Moose,
Black Bear, Coyote and Grey Wolf can be found.
Hudson Bay Lowlands
This region encompasses the Northern territory of Ontario, running from Quebec to James Bay on the South shore of Hudson’s Bay, around the bay and as far as the border of Manitoba. It is roughly the same area as The Southern Hudson Bay Taiga biome.
This biome includes one of the largest wetlands in The World, along with peat bogs, salt marshes, sparse forest and taiga (boreal forest). Tundra conditions exist in the Northern reaches. Polar Bears and Wolverine can be found here. Portions of the land are traditional First Nations territory.
I hope you enjoyed this article. I hope to write more about Ontario in the future. If you would like to see some of these biomes, I created a video series called Journey Across Northern Ontario. In it, I hike through some of the above described areas. Check out Journey Across Northern Ontario.