Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve is defined by the Niagara Escarpment Plan Area, stretching 725 km from Lake Ontario (near Niagara Falls) to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula (between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron). The biosphere reserve consists of the provincially adopted Niagara Escarpment Plan Area (194,555 ha) including two national parks. The area covered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan is located within portions of eight counties or regions, which include 22 local municipalities.
Much of the Escarpment corridor is forested and crosses two major biomes: boreal needle leaf forests in the north and temperate broadleaf forests in the south. The biosphere reserve also includes wetland complexes, cliff faces, slopes and aquatic ecosystems.
Biosphere reserves demonstrate a balance between conservation and development. A reserve must have one or more protected core areas that conserve significant ecological features.
Ontario's Niagara Escarpment is well suited for biosphere reserve designation. There is a backbone of heavily protected lands at and near the cliff face. Moving away from this area, there is a series of land use designations with decreasing levels of protection, corresponding to the core, buffer and cooperation zones of a biosphere reserve.
The core area consists of areas designated "Natural" by the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP), portions of the Bruce Peninsula National Park of Canada and Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada. The Escarpment's 141 existing or proposed parks and open spaces are a key component of the Biosphere Reserve. Most importantly, the core area includes natural land cared for by thousands of individual private landowners.
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve also involves a buffer area of limited resource use and consists of areas designated "Protection" and "Rural by the NEP.
The area of cooperation (also known as the transition area) involves the NEP designations of "Urban," "Minor Urban," "Recreation", and "Mineral Resource" . The cooperation zone is the large outer part of the biosphere reserve where people live and work, using the natural resources of the area in a sustainable manner.
Visit these links to learn more about the biosphere reserve program, how biosphere reserves help create and maintain healthy environments for communities: