OUR MISSION: As our climate changes, ACER supports communities with grassroots initiatives to plant trees, and educates on how to measure, monitor and report on tree health and growth.

Individuals, Families



Monitoring our Environment in a Time of Change

Patricia Rhoads: Ecosystem Monitoring and Restoration in Essex County, Ontario


Citizen Ecosystem Monitoring

Citizens can play an enormously important role in observing and recording the effects of climate change on their local ecosystems. That way, as temperatures and weather patterns change over time, the health and well-being of plant and animal species is tracked and recorded. Good data on species health will help guide future human efforts to work with nature in a climate-adaptation process.

Patricia Rhoads and her family are award-winners at monitoring and restoring their local natural heritage the ecosystems in Essex County, Ontario. As part of the southern Ontario life-zone called Carolinian Canada, these ecosystems are among the most affected by human development in Canada: roads, farms, suburbs, shopping malls, agricultural chemicals, and the atmospheric changes brought about by our burning of fossil fuels.

Recognizing the importance of first noticing these changes, and then acting to minimize or reverse damage to ecosystems, Ms. Rhoads and her family set out to set up environmental monitoring and restoration sites. They have been involved in a broad range of activities which include:

  • setting up a series of monitoring sites in their home county
  • protecting a mature forest plot which they own
  • restoring a site by planting shrubs and trees
  • selecting a new site for future restoration
  • becoming co-founders of the Canada South Land Trust, an organization set up to conserve natural areas in Essex County and surrounding areas
  • organizing the first Habitat Restoration Conference for Essex and Kent Counties in March 2002 to provide local landowners information on how to restore natural habitat on their properties
  • Starting a native plant nursery called Woodland Farm. At last count the number of trees, shrubs and wildflowers, all from local seed sources, was over 20,000 and growing!

Ms. Rhoads and her family were the recipients of a Carolinian Canada Conservation Award in 2003.


Activity 1

1. Going to the doctor for an annual checkup is the doctor’s way of monitoring your health. There are several tests that can be done to check you general health. Monitoring ecosystems is useful in a similar way. The health of the ecosystem can be tracked and charted over time so that changes can be noted.
Brainstorm a list of possible things that could be monitored in
a) forest ecosystems and
b) aquatic ecosystems.
(max 10 each)
2. Explain the value of conserving natural areas.
3. List some reasons why it is important to chose native plant species when restoring natural habitat.