Historical vegetation (Upper Canada 1784 - 1859)


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 in Ontario 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.

Pre-settlement vegetation map: Esquesing township:

Esquesing Township 1819

acronym/ full name acronym/ full name acronym/ full name acronym/ full name
Vegetation symbols/ full name
Ab: Ash Black Ce: Cedar Mh: Maple Hard T: Thickets
Al: Alder Ch: Cherry Ms: Maple Soft Ta: Tamarack
Aw: Ash White Dg: Dogwood Md: Meadow Th:Thorn
B: Birch E: Elm Ms: Maple Soft W: Willow
Bd: Basswood Ha: Hazel Ow: Oak White Wa: Walnut
Be: Beech He: Hemlock Pw: Pine White Wf: Windfall
Bu: Butternut Hi: Hickory Sa: Sassafras  
C: Chestnut Ir: Ironwood Sy: Sycamore  

This mapping surveys (PDF) document describes methodologies for transcribing Survey notes into both paper maps and digital formats (using ArcGIS and Quantum GIS {QGIS} mapping applications).

Data access

As listed on this master_inventory list (PDF)  the Geospatial Centre's historical vegetation collection contains surveyor notes (JPG), pre-settlement vegetation maps (JPG), photo negatives of surveyor maps (JPG) and tabulation tables (JPG) .

The historical vegetation collection is freely available for researchers to view or copy during regular business hours.


Seneca township vegetation: James Kirkpatrick (surveyor) 1842.

1842 Seneca township vegetation

   Data courtesy of James Kirkpatrick {surveyor}