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Carolinian Forests    
Wetlands, Lakes, Rivers & Shorelines in Carolinian Canada

Bowfin - Wisconsin DNR Lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and shorelines help define Carolinian Canada. Indeed, it is the ameliorating influence of the surrounding Great Lakes that gives the Carolinian zone its milder climate than the rest of Ontario. This milder climate allows many more southern species to occur here but not elsewhere in Canada. 

Lakes, Rivers and Streams

The aquatic ecosystems of lakes and rivers and those of wetlands harbour much of Carolinian Canada's unique natural diversity.  For example, the Sydenham and Thames Rivers support many Carolinian aquatic species-at-risk, particularly fish and molluscs

Lakes Ontario, Erie, St. Clair and Huron and connecting channels of the Niagara, Detroit and St. Clair Rivers define many of the boundaries of the Carolinian zone. Lake Erie has a number of unique species such as the Lake Erie Water Snake, endemic to the lake. Several fish species endemic to the Great Lakes occur in one or more of Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron including the Bloater (Coregonus hoyi).

The Carolinian zone forms part of the watersheds of Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. Water quality in the lakes and their watersheds has been a concern for decades. Efforts to restore water quality in the Great Lakes basin have led to improving water quality, but more action is needed.

Satellite photo - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Many rivers flow through the Carolinian zone, the Thames and the Grand Rivers are among the longest. A map of major watersheds in the region can be found here.


Wetlands--marshes, swamps, slough forests, bogs, fens--dot the Carolinian landscape. Huge coastal marshes sprawl out into the lakes at Long Point, Rondeau, Point Pelee and Walpole Island, to name a few. Many slough forests are found on the Haldimand Clay Plain in Niagara and Haldimand. 

At the time of settlement, wetlands covered 26% of the Carolinian zone, but this has dropped to 5% today and continues to drop. Wetland conservation policies and programs have slowed the loss.

Carolinian forest types include many wetland swamp types. The plants of Carolinian wetlands include many forest species such as Black Gum, Pumpkin Ash and Kentucky Coffee Tree.


Great Lakes shorelines, dunes, swales and other habitats are showcased at Long Point, Rondeau, Pinery, and Point Pelee. The sand spits and dunes of Lake Erie and Lake Huron harbour other unusual species such as the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. 

Species of Wetlands, Lakes, Rivers and Shorelines

Fish species of Carolinian Canada's wetlands, lakes, rivers and shorelines include a number found more widely in the Mississipi River basin and other water bodies in the eastern U.S. 

Freshwater native clams are the most endangered animal group in North America (Source: United States Geological Survey). Over the past century, native clam species have suffered severe declines in diversity and abundance due to human impacts on aquatic habitat, commercial harvesting, the introduction of carp, water pollution, and the recent invasion of zebra mussels. Many of the native clams of the Carolinian zone have distributions centred in the Great Lakes and Ohio and Mississipi Rivers.

A number of wetland and aquatic plant species have ranges centred in the eastern U.S. including species such as Swamp Rose Mallow, Black Gum and Pumpkin Ash.

Birds of Carolinian wetlands, lakes, rivers and shorelines include species such as the Great Egret and King Rail.

Numerous species of reptiles and amphibians make their home primarily or entirely in wetlands, lakes, streams and shoreline habitats of the Carolinian zone, including the Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, the Eastern Fox Snake, the Hognose Snake, the Queen Snake, and Fowler's Toad. 

Tall Grass Prairie & Savanna    
Wetlands, Lakes, Rivers & Shorelines    
Fish & Invertebrate Species    
Wetland & Aquatic Plants    
Birds, Reptiles & Amphibians    
Rare Species & Ecosystems    
Uniqueness of Carolinian Canada
Carolinian Indicator Species

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