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Peterborough Old Growth Forest Project

In March 2019, AFER launched the Peterborough County Old-Growth Forest Project, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. With assistance from our partners, citizen scientists and property owners, we located, mapped, and described ancient forests and other old-growth stands throughout the County. Critical to this effort was the recruitment, training, and collaborative efforts of volunteer citizen scientists. This new approach to the conservation of old-growth forests will eventually be refined and expanded from Peterborough County and applied to the remainder of Ontario's Temperate Forest Region. 

Research Sites

Catchacoma Old-Growth Forest

Mark S. Burnham Old-Growth Forest

Jackson Park Old-Growth Forest

Stewart's Woods Old-Growth Forest

Jeffrey Cowan Old-Growth Forest


The Catchacoma Old-Growth Forest

One of the most significant findings from the Peterborough County Old Growth Forest Project was the discovery of Canada's largest documented stand of old-growth eastern hemlock: an area known as the Catchacoma Old Growth Forest. Despite its national significance, this forest remains unprotected and open to contingency logging. AFER's research in the Catchacoma Forest is therefore tied closely to advocacy aimed at protecting this significant old-growth forest. To undertake these advocacy efforts, AFER has partnered with the Ontario Wilderness Committee and helped to establish and participate in the Catchacoma Forest Stewardship Committee (CFSC). Learn more about research and advocacy in the Catchacoma Forest in the documentary, Conserving Catchacoma:

Research Highlights

Significant findings from AFER's research in Peterborough County include: 

AFER identified and characterized Canada’s largest known old-growth eastern hemlock forest located at the north end of Catchacoma Lake, Ontario (1,655 acres), which remains unprotected.

A total of 14 old-growth forest types across 18.1% (34,333 ha) of northern Peterborough County, Ontario were identified and mapped by AFER using digital imagery data (provincial government) including those dominated by balsam fir, black ash, black spruce, eastern hemlock, poplar, red maple, red oak, red pine, sugar maple, tamarack, white birch, white cedar, white pine, and white spruce.

26% of the old-growth area in northern Peterborough County is protected (8,817 ha) and a total of 74% is unprotected.​​​

Ontario’s natural eastern hemlock forests have declined to less than 0.09% of the Managed Forest of Ontario (44 million ha/110 million acres), and if current logging trends continue, these rare, unique, and valuable forest ecosystems could be lost completely by 2075.

To date, AFER has obtained documentation for 656 species that occur in the Catchacoma Forest including 194 animal species, 349 plant species, 106 fungi (including lichens), and 7 slime molds.​

AFER has obtained documentation for 14 species-at-risk that are found in the Catchacoma Forest including the endangered black ash and four threatened species including Algonquin wolf, Blanding’s turtle, cerulean warbler, and eastern hog-nosed snake.

Forest Conservation Achievements

Some of the more significant forest conservation gains in the Algonquin Region include:

AFER and the Wilderness Committee-Ontario teamed up with local citizens to form the Catchacoma Forest Stewardship Committee (CFSC), which advocates for the protection and wise management of the Catchacoma Forest.​

The CFSC has obtained a moratorium on further logging in the Catchacoma Forest.​

AFER has contributed to the development of a field-based protocol being produced by the provincial government to identify the presence of old-growth forests in Ontario.​

The Catchacoma Forest has become the most significant old-growth forest component of the Highlands Wildlife Corridor designed by the Haliburton Land Trust.​

Using open public meetings, the CFSC has begun the process of bringing together the non-destructive users (e.g., cottagers, hunters, trappers, etc.) to develop management practices that maintain the recreational, educational and scientific values of the Catchacoma Forest.


Methods and Concepts
Comparing Stand Ages Using Tree Cores and Forest Resource Inventory Mapping from 1987 and 2007 in the Catchacoma Forest  (PRB #10, 2021)
Definitions and Types of Old-growth Forests  (FLB #38, 2020)
Minimum Diameters for Old-growth Trees in Ontario's Temperate Forest Region  (FLB #36, 2020)

Rare, Threatened and Endangered Forests in Ontario's Temperate Forest Region  (FLB #34, 2019)

Peterborough County Old-growth Forest Assessment Project Description  (FLB #33, 2019)

Old-growth Forest Sites
Rapid Assessment of Mother Trees to Identify Biodiversity Hotspots, Create a GIS Database and Document Old-growth Forest Standards: Central Catchacoma Eastern Hemlock Forest  (RR #46, 2024)
Rapid Initial Ecological Survey of Wetlands in the Catchacoma Forest  (FLB #39, 2023)
Catchacoma Forest Species Inventory 2022 Field Season  (RR #45, 2023)
Environmental Education and Public Outreach: Catchacoma Forest, PART 2 only  (RR #44, pt 2 2023)
Environmental Education and Public Outreach for the Stewardship of Primary Forests: The Catchacoma Old-  growth Forest (full report) (RR #44, 2023)
Carbon Storage and CO2 Produced by Logging in the Catchacoma Forest (RR #43, 2023)
Mother Tree Survey in the Central Portion of the Catchacoma Forest, Update (PRB #13, 2022)
2022 Field Season Results Update, Catchacoma Forest, Trent Lakes, Ontario (PRB #12, 2022)
Establishing a Long-term, Permanent-Plot Research Program - REPORT  METHODS (RR #42, 2022)
Natural Heritage Values of the Unprotected Catchacoma Forest (RR #41, 2021)
Rapid Old-growth Survey in the Heart of the Catchacoma Forest by YLS Students (PRB #11, 2021)
Rapid Assessment of Old-growth Characteristics in the Catchacoma Forest (PRB #09, 2020) 
Mapping Old-growth Forests in Northern Peterborough County (RR #40, 2020)

Catchacoma Forest Species and Habitat Inventory (RR #39, 2020)

Ages of Large Trees at Mark Burnham Provincial Park (PRB #08, 2020)

Catchacoma Forest Natural Capital vs Timber (Logging) Value (FLB #37, 2020) 

An Inventory of Old-growth Eastern Hemlock Forests in Canada (FLB #35, 2019)

Jackson Park Old-growth Forest Survey (RR #33, 2016)

Other Non-AFER Publications

Forest Certification Public Report: Bancroft Minden Forest (FSC 2021)

Catchacoma Forest LV Map: Landform/Vegetation Association Achievement Level (OMECP 2020)

Southern Ontario’s Disappearing Forests (Env. Commissioner of Ontario 2018)

Managing New Challenges: Annual Report 2013/14 (ECO 2014)

Ontario Natural Heritage Planning Manual (2010)

Management of Algonquin Park’s West Side Forests (ArborVitae 2010)

The Ecosystems of Ontario, Part 1: Ecozones and Ecoregions (Crins et al. 2009)

Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park Access Road Study (Stantec 2008)  

Natural Heritage Gap Analysis Methodologies Used by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Version 3.0.  (Crins & Kor 2006)

State-of-the-Wilderness Reporting in Ontario: Models, Tools and Techniques (Davidson et al. 2000)

Clear Lake Conservation Reserve Statement of Conservation Interest (Moroz 1999)

The Woodland Heritage [Old-growth Forests] of Southern Ontario (Larson et al. 1999)

See More Publications


Northern Peterborough County, ON

Bancroft-Minden Forest Region

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