Historical vegetation and soil maps for Southern Ontario

During settlement of Upper Canada (now Southern Ontario) from 1784 to 1859, land surveys were conducted along transects at one mile intervals. These hand-written notes and a few maps are housed in various locations and have been used only sparsely in modern research. This information is applicable as a pre-European settlement baseline in such fields as, land-use and heritage planning, forestry, archaeology, and agriculture.  Though early survey data (ESD) exhibit deficiencies and surveyor bias, they comprise a unique source of spatial environmental data that is best suited to large-scale resolution studies. Only a few researchers have generated pre-settlement vegetation maps from ESD, each using independent methodologies. 

This work is the result of unpublished Masters (MES) research by Karrow, Thomas (2013), a published article by Thomas Karrow and  Roger Suffling (2015) along with expertise from the staff at the University of Waterloo, Geospatial Centre. In the article, we investigate the availability and usefulness of existing methodologies for early survey data-based GIS maps using GIS-based meta-maps.  We consider issues pertaining to: low map resolution, cartographer interpretation, map access, permissions and rights, and computing technicalities, which have all challenged use of early survey data, generation of vegetation maps from the data sets, and creation of vegetation meta maps. The article concludes with a commentary on our methods as well as recommendations for future work.   

This website provides a database of known pre-settlement vegetation maps, created from early survey data. Three distinct 'metamaps' represent cartographic endeavours from different sources. 

The first metamap is a comprehensive database of pre-settlement vegetation coverage maps generated by Lamb and Dorney (1973) at the University of Waterloo. 

The second metamap is a comprehensive database of pre-settlement vegetation coverage maps generated by Peter Findlay (1973) at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation. Peter was a summer student hired by Archaeologist William Fox, who was assessing archaeological potential through vegetation coverage. Anecdotal accounts of interactions with first nations peoples also exist within survey log books and Peter made note of these contacts in his accompanying records. Original maps are housed at the London, Ontario archaeology division under the care of resident archaeologist, Sherry Prowse.

The third metamap is a comprehensive database of pre-settlement vegetation coverage generated by several other cartographic sources including Artus et al (2009), Franscecut (1978), Heidenreich (1973) and Puric-Mladenovic (2003-2013, along with various co-authors/cartographers).

It is our hope that through providing access to these metamaps and the maps therein, scholars will see merit in using early survey data and vegetation maps generated from these data, for research purposes. We also hope to periodically update these files when previously "lost" maps become available or new cartographic methodologies arise thus establishing news maps sets.