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The Canada Land Inventory (CLI) for the Montréal Map 31 H

The Canada Land Inventory provides one of the most comperhensive digital map sources for resource planning ad management in Canada. The area covered by the CLI is indicated in the index map. For each of the map sheets areas land capability is mapped at 1:250'000 scale and usually at a 1:50'000 scale. This is an example for Mapsheet 31 H, Montreal. The index map on the right shows the areas mapped for land capability under the CLI. The left image shows an example of a number of overlays displayed on Google Earth.

Each of the 1.250'000 scale maps has an extensive description of the lanscape ecosystem and capability perspectives. Below is an example for the Montreal map area.


Table of Contents


The area covered by the Montreal map sheet is in south-central Ouebec. Montreal and its suburbs are highly industrialized and densely populated. A well-developed road system provides good access throughout the area. The economy is based on numerous industries that process raw materials from other regions. In rural parts of the area, farming is important to the economy.

The area comprises three physiographic regions. The St. Lawrence Lowlands are in the central part of the area and are underlain by Ordovician bedrock. This region is covered by argillaceous and silty sediments as a result of inundation by the glacial Champlain Sea. Plateaus, beaches, banks and sandy terraces were formed along the shores of the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries when the waters receded. Some modified glacial tills are found along the edge of the Laurentian Plateau and the hills that rise above the plains. Except for a few volcanic hills, the relief is generally Rat and rarely exceeds 600 feet. A narrow strip of the Canadian Shield is found in the extreme northwestern part of the St. Lawrence Lowlands. The rocks in this vicinity are Precambrian in origin and are covered by glacial tills of varying depth. The relief of this region is very uneven and is characterized by numeorous hills. In the southeast, the northern boundary of the Appalachian region forms the dividing line between the highlands and the Sutton Mountains. These rock formations of Cambrian and Ordovidcian origin are covered by tills and glaciofluvial deposits. The relief is undulating and the elevations average 500 to 1500 feet.

The main bodies of water in the area are the St. Lawrence River in the northwest and Lake Memphremagog in the southeast. The main tributaries flowing into the St. Lawrence from the north are the Chicot, aux Chiens, Mascouche, and Assomption rivers. To the south, most of the territory is drained by the ChBteauguay, Richelieu, Yamaska, Saint-Francois and Nicolet rivets.

The soils were developed from glacial or postglacial deposits. The entire series of Gleysolic soils occur on fine deposits of marine or lacustrine origin. Orthic or Gleyed Podzols are found on sands of marine, fluvial, or alluvial origin. Podzols, Orthic Dystric Brunisols and some types of aeolian soils are predominant in the Precambrian Shield and Appalachian regions.

[Table of Contents]

The area has good potential for ungulate production. Class 2 lands, which are located mainly in the southeast, cover about 20 percent of the area. The main limitations are shallow soil depth and excessive or deficient soil moisture. Class 3 lands are located mainly in the northeast and cover about 35 percent of the area. The main limitations are poor drainage, adverse topography, and shallow soil depth.

Class 3W lands are found in a few regions that provide good potential for food and shelter. The potential of these lands is limited by excessive soil moisture and adverse topography.

Class 4 habitat covers 35 percent of the area. The limitations in these regions include low fertility, excessive or deficient soil moisture, shallow soil depth, and adverse topography.

Small regions of Class 5 and 6 lands occur in the southwest and northeast. The habitat is restricted by soil moisture and low fertility. A few small swamplands are rated Class 7. There is no Class 1 habitat in the area.

Most of the St. Lawrence Lowlands are still being farmed, or were farmed until recently, and therefore the region is not being used to its fullest potential for ungulates. In other regions fires have destroyed the natural habitat. Except in the St. Lawrence Lowlands which are natural farmlands the potential of the area to support ungulates could be improved by an appropriate development program.

The Eastem Townships Section in the east is in the uplands of the Appalachian Plateau. Sugar maple, yellow birch, white spruce, balsam fir, white pine, hemlock and red spruce are found on well-drained sites. White spruce, balsam fir, and white birch predominate in the more exposed regions and on shallow soils. In poorly drained depressions cedar, tamarack and black spruce are abundant. After fires trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), white birch, form the first stages of forest succession.

In winter, ungulates shelter beneath the conifers and feed on white birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, basswood, trembling aspen, eastern white cedar, and balsam fir. Shrubs included in their diet are mountain maple (Acer spicatum), striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum), viburnums (Vibumum spp.), cherries (Prunus spp.), honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), rebberried elder (Sambucus pubens), Canada yew (Taxus canadensis), and hazel (Corylus cornuta). Aquatic plants that supplement the ungulates' diet include bulrushes (Scirpus spp.), pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.), bur-reeds (Sparganium spp.), and tape-grasses (Vallisneria spp.).

The ungulates found in the area are white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and moose (Alces alces). White-tailed deer concentrate in forests throughout the area whereas moose are found in the small regions of Boreal Forest in the Precambrian Shield.

Capability classification by R. Bouchard and J.-M. Brasserd, Quebec Department of Tourism Fish and Game, 1972.


The main physiographic site types in the Upper St. Lawrence Section include black willow stands near rivers and streams; silver maple - red maple groves, elm - ash bur oak stands or swamp white oak - walnut

and elm - ash stands on silty clay depwits; maple - yellow birch tracts on fine and moist sandy soils; white pine - red pine stands on sandy teraces; Laurantian maple basswood - white ash tracts on deep tills; and maple red oak stands and white pine - red pine stands in the uplands. ·Because they are not important, black willow stands and white pines growing on rode outcrops are not classified.

Silver maple - red maple stands include silver maple, red maple, and often hybrids of these species, occasionally in association with elm. These stands generally occur on recent alluvium where periodic inundation occurs. The soil profiles are poorly defined and soils are classified as Gleyed Regosols or as Rego Humic Gleysols. The humus is a well-developed hydromull. Soil texture varies from sandy loams to clay loams. Drainage conditions also vary because of changes in soil structure and texture, as well as irregular periods of inundation. Although most forest types adapt poorly to such moisture conditions the silver maple thrives particularly well. The average annual growth may reach 105 cubic feet per acre in soils having a sand-clay loam texture with good to imperfect drainage. On soils having a higher clay content and less favorable drainage conditions, annual may barely reach 75 cubic feet per acre. Depending upon drainage conditions, silver maple stands aretherefore rated Class 21 or Class 31.

In elm - ash - bur oak tracts, white elm and black ash are the main species. Bur oak, swamp white oak butternut, and red ash occur to a lesser extent and are occasionally associated with shagbark hickory and slippery aim. Although such stands are now seldom found, they covered the greater part of the Ottawa River valley and smaller regions in the tributary valleys before the land was cleared for settlement.

Deposits supporting this type of vegetation are clayey or loony. Humic Gleysols or Glayay Melanic Brunisols with a hydromull surface horizon have developed. Drainage varies from good to imperfect. On poorly drained sites, growth is slower end the sites are therefore rated Classes 2C and 3W.

In aim - ash stands white elm and black oh predominate and are sometimes associated with red oh, bur oak and buttenut. This site type occurs on the same type of:deposits as elm - ash - bur oak tracts; however, drainage conditions vary greatly. Here, the water table remains high throughout most of the year and growth is slower. These sites are rated Class 4W.

Sugar maple and yellow Mrch are essentially the only species growing in maple yellow birch stands. These species are occasionally found in association with basswood, beach, black ash, fir, hemlock and white pine where moisture conditions permit particularly in the fins sandy soils that are poorly drained because of an impervious underlying layer. Soils are Clayed Humo-Farric Podzols and the humus is a well-decomposed mor. Depending upon drainage conditions maple - yellow birch stands may reach an average annual growth of 50 to 75 cubic feet per acre. These sites are rated Classes 3W/F and 4W/F.

Pure stands of easten white pine and red pine, sometimes mixed with hemlock, grow well on sandy or sandy to gravelly deposits. Moderately well drained to rapidly drained sites favor the development of Humo Ferric Podzols. On the basis of tree diameter measurements on natural and raforastad sites fine to medium sandy soils with good drainage are rated Class 1 and coarse to gravelly sandy soils with rapid drainage are rated Class 2W/F.

Maple - elm tracts are mainly composed of sugar maple associated with white elm, black ash, basswood, and occasionally slippery elm and buttamut where calcaraous rocks occur. These stands are situated between tracts of elm - ash - bur oak and Laurentian maple tracts. They are found at the foot of slopes especially on tills and sometimes on plain alluvium adjacent to glacial tills. The soils are usually derived from Clayed Melanic Brunisols and have a well-developed mull horizon. Drainage is good moderately good, or imperfect. These sites are rated Classes 2C, 3W, and 4W.

In maple - basswood tracts sugar maple predominates in association with white ash, basswood, and sometimes beech, bittemut hickory, and butternut. The soil profile is an Orthic Melanic Brunisol derived from well-drained moderately deep till containing calcareous rock. The humus is a well-developed mull. Class 2C is found on well-drained calcareous tills and Class 3F MI well-drained tills where no calcareous rock is present.

Thin and outwash tills as well as tills with poor water-retentionproperties, are covered mainly by stands of sugar maple and red oak. In these tracts ironwood, white ash, basswood, and beach occur but to a lesser extent. Bitternut hickory and blue beech occur on these sites when undarlain by calcareous rock. Outwash tills adjacent to the clay plain are rated Class 3M; well-drained tills are rated Class 4M/R; shallow, rapidly drained tills are rated Class 5M/R; and summits are rated Class 6M/R.

Red oak tracts are almost pure stands of red oak interspersed with small amounts of white oh, easten white pine, red pine, ironwood, and red maple. Red oak occupy the shallow soils on hilltops in the plain and on the edge of the Laurantian Plateau. The soil is very dry and many rock outcrops occur. These tracts are rated Classes 6M/R and 7M/R.

The Middle St. Lawrence Section is a continuation to the east of the Upper St. Lawrence Section. The surface deposits and drainage classes vary greatly according to the topography of the area Forest types are more contrasting than in other regions. Site types are described according to drainage conditions from the driest to the wettest soils.

White pine and red pine tracts generally occur on the same type of deposits as those in the Upper St. Lawrence Section. Drainage conditions and soil types are generally similar. Fine and medium textured, well to rapidly drained, sandy soils are rated Class 1; coarse textured, rapidly drained, sandy soils are rated Class 2M/R; and well-drained gravelly soils are rated Class 2F. These tracts also occur M1 the rocky uplands where there is a limited amount of loose soil. These much less productive sites are rated Class 4M/R.

In maple - white ash tracts sugar maple and white ash are the main species, frequently in association with yellow birch end occasionally with beech. These tracts occupy wail-drained morainic deposits that have generally developed on Orthic Sombic Brunisols. These tracts are usually fairly productive and are rated Class 3M.

Maple - basswood sites are also similar to those in the Upper St.Lawrence Section. Soils are also Orthic Melanic Bruniols in deep, shallow, or outwash tills originating from a calcereous parent rock. These stands are also found on sandy loams with a high pH where drainage varies from good to moderate.These sites are rated.Class 3M for well-drained deep tills Class C for well-drained loams and moderately drained outwash tills Class 3M/R for moderately drained shallow tills end Class 4M/R for well-drained shallow tills.

On shallow or outwash tills with an acidic pH and good drainage conditions, tracts of sugar maple and beech are generally associated with yellow birch and occasionally with ironwood. These soils are Lithic or Orthic Humo-Ferric Podzols and have a low productivity. These sites are rated Class 4M/R for shallow deposits and Class 4M/F outwash tills·

Although the maple - yellow birch tracts are identical to those in the Upper St.Lawrence forest section, such tracts occur on a greater variety of soil deposits in this section. In addition to moderately drained, fine textured sandy loams moderately to imperfectly drained, shallow or deep, acidic tills also support maple - yellow birch stands Soils are generally Orthic or Gleyed Hum-Ferric Podzols. Deep and shallow tills, loams, and fine sandy soils with moderate drainage are rated Class 3C, and moderately drained outwash tills are rated Class 3F. Impecfectly drained deep tills and outwash tills are rated Classes 4F and 4W/F respectively.

Maple - elm tracts where sugar maple and white elm predominate with some yellow birch, red maple, and black ash, occupy small sites of moderately drained sandy loams. These soils are generally Brunisols and are rated Class 3W or 3C depending upon the depth of the surface deposits.

Fir - red maple tracts composed mainly of balsam fir and red maple often associated with black ash, cedar, and hemlock occur on medium textured sandy soils moderately to imperfectly drained, which have developed onOrthic or Gleyed Humo-Ferric Podzols. These soils are fairly productive and are rated Classes 3W and 3W/F for imperfectly drained sandy soils, and Class 4X/F for moderately drained, medium textured sandy soils.

Elm - ash tracts are similar to those in the Upper St. Lawrence Section, except that red maple rather than white ash and bur oak grow. These site types are found on imperfectly drained, fine textured clay or silt deposits, and occasionally on welldrained clay, calcareous tills and shallow, poorly drained organic deposits. These soils are generally Gleysols and Humisols. Depending upon drainage conditions, which vary from moderately good to poor, these sites are rated Class 2C for welldrained silts Class 2W for imperfectly drained loams and silts, Class 4W for imperfectly drained calcareous tills and organic soils and Class 4W/F for loams subject to erosion.

Fir - yellow birch stands are composed mainly of fir and yellow birch with a few red and sugar maples and occasionally hemlock and cedar. These stands generally occupy poorly drained sandy loams which are Gleyed numo-ferric Podzols. These sites are rated Class 4W.

Silver maple and white elm are the main species in silver maple - elm stands in association with red maple and some black willow. These stands are found on clay loams, which are frequently inundated in spring.The water table in these soils, generally Regosols, varies considerably. Drainage conditions are generally poor during most of the year, which hinders tree growth. These sites are therefore rated Class 21.

Fir - cedar tracts composed almost exclusively of balsam fir and eastern cedar occupy moist sites, such as poorly drained deep or outwash tills and very poorly drained, well-decomposed organic soils. Sites of tills are rated Class 5W and sites of organic soils are rated Class 4W.

Black spruce and tamarack in equal proportions compose the black spruce tamarack tracts growing mainly in peaty bogs. Because of poor soil and drainage conditions average annual growth is very low and these site are therefore rated Class 6W.


The area has a subhumid, moderate continental climate, characterized by cold winters and warm summers. Of the three physiographic regions in the area, the Central St. Lawrence Lowland has the most favorable climate, with a mean annual temperature of 400F to 430F, a total of 3000 to 3400 degree days above 420F, and a frost-free period of 125 to 150 days. The mean annual temperatures of the Eastern Quebec Uplands and Laurentian Highlands are 390F and 390F to 400F respectively. A growing season of 2700 to 3000 degree-days above 420F and a frost-free period of 115-125 days in the Highlands and 115-120 days in the Uplands, restrict the agriculture capability of the highland regions. Average annual precipitation varies little throughout the area, and is 36 to 40 inches on the Lowland, 34 inches in the Highlands, and 40 to 42 inches in the Uplands.


Following glaciation of the entire area, the Lowland was flooded by the sea. Glaciation left morainic deposits, which the sea covered with deep layers of clay and later, with sand and silt. As a result, most soils developed on morainic, clay, sand, or silt parent material. Clay, sand, and silt sediments are found almost entirely in the Central St. Lawrence Lowland, together with a few morainic ridges around organic deposits. However, most morainic material is in the Laurentian Highlands and Eastern Quebec Uplands.

The soils that developed from sand deposits are mainly Humo-Ferric Podzols, and some of them have an ortstein (hardpan) layer. The main limitations are low soil fertility (F), poor water-holding capacity (M), and poor drainage (W). Most soils are rated Class 4, except for loamy soils on fine-textured sands, which are rated Class 3.

Soils formed on clay deposits are mainly Humic Gleysols. The main limitations for these soils are poor drainage (W) and lack of subsoil permeability (D). Along the rivers, some alluvial deposits over clays that do not have these limitations are rated Class 1 and 2X. However, most clay soils are rated Classes 2 and 3.

Because of the variety of parent materials and natural drainage conditions, the morainic deposits have formed a variety of soils. Moderately well- or well-drained morainic soils are Melanic Brunisol (Brown Forest) soils where parent materials are dolomitic or calcareous, and Dystric Brunisol (Acid Brown Wooded) or Humo-Feric Podzols soils where parent materials are acid. Imperfectly and poorly drained morainic soils are Humic Gleysols or Eluviated Gleysols. Stoniness (P) or shallowness to bedrock (R) are the main limitations of all morainic soils. Such limitations are often associated with rugged relief (T) or poor drainage (W) and result in soils of varying capability for agriculture. When stone-free, Melanic Brunisols are rated Class 1 and 2 and the best Dystric Brunisols and Humo-Ferric Podzols are Classes 2 and 3. All Class 4 soils are marginal for cultivated crops.

Most soils of the Laurentian Highlands and Eastern QuBbec Uplands are only suitable for growing perennial forages and are rated Class 5, or they are totally unsuited for agriculture and are rated Class 7. Unfavorable relief, excessive stoniness, and shallowness are the main limitations. Sand and gravel are taken from most of the outwash deposits and important gravel pits are located south of Waterloo and Brome lakes. Although the soil removal and scarred relief are man-made, these regions have no capability for agriculture and are rated Class 7E/T. Because of steep slopes, the other nonagricultural areas are rated Class 7T. Organic soils are presently only partly used for agricuIture. The improved organic soiIs around Sainte-ClothiIde-deChateauguay and Sherrington are intensively used for vegetable production.


It was only after the peace treaty with the Iroquois that agriculture spread to the area, along the river valleys. The shores of the Richelieu and Yamaska rivers were partly settled in 1760, and by 1800 the best clay soils, located near waterways, and the rich soils in the center of the plain were largely occupied. Permanent settlement on the shores of the Chgteauguay River took place later. The Scottish and Irish immigrants who settled here replaced the original American settlers who were expelled after the 1813 defeat. At the same time, British immigrants and United Empire Loyalists colonized the Eastern Townships, no longer under the range system but according to the township organization. From 1831 to 1931, the population of the plain increased from 160.000 to 260,000. By about 1900, all the best lands were occupied and new settlers occupied the poorer agricultural lands at the edge of the Lowland and in the foothills. At this time, depopulation of the rural areas began as the towns encroached on neighboring fertile lands. Housing developments, highways, airports, industrial parks, and real estate speculation all reduced the farmlands.


More recently, smaller farms, especially in the Lowland, have been consolidated and the poorer agricultural lands, especially in the Eastern Townships, have been converted to other uses. Despite these changes, however, agriculture in the area is still favored by the proximity of the Montreal market. The climate and the variety of soiIs support all types of farming, such as dairying, vegetable, fruit, poultry, livestock, cash crop, and mixed farming. This area produces over 80 percent of the fresh and processed vegetables, apples, early potatoes, and sugar beets, and over 70 percent of the fresh vegetables grown in the province. In 1966, the area, which represents only 22 percent of the total farms in the province, produced 34 percent of the total marketable agricultural products. However, this area, which is the most important agricultural region in the province, is losing the most land to urban expansion.

Capability classification by P. G. Lajoie and A. Meilloux, based on information contained in Quebec soil survey reports.


The Champlain lowlands are developad mainly for agriculture. On the undeveloped agricultural lands forest cover is composed of sugar maple (Acer sacchorum Marsh.). bur oak (Qvercus macracarpa Michx.). red ock (auercur rvbra L.), white elm (Ulmur omaricana L.), basswood (Tilia americana L.) and hickory species (Caryo spp.), while on the sandy soils, pine (Pinus spp.) and aspen (Populus spp.) are the dominant trees.

The lowlands are also characterized by the presence of many bogs. those formed on clay being less acid than there formed on sandy terrain. Because of the flat topogrophy, wetlands are rertricted to the Richelieu and St. Lawrence river basins. The characteristic aquatic plants include the following genera: sweetflag (Acorus), bulrush, (Scirpus), waterlily (Nuphar and Nynrphaea), many specias of pondwaed (Potamogeton), burreed (Sparganium), waterplantain (Alisma), flowering rush (Butamus), waterweed (Anacharis), wild celery (Vallisneria), mare's tail (Hippuris), watermilfoil (Myriophyllum), bushy pondweed (Najas), cattail (Typha), wildrice (Zizania), and smartweed (Polyonum).

Areas of high capability are found mainly on the numerous islands of the St. Lawrence, but some of the isolated bays along the St. Lawrence and the secondary rivers also have a high capability. Seasonal fluctuation of water level in the St. Lawrence River lower the production potential of the islands.

In the southeast, the rolling topography of the Appalachian mountain range is more suitable than the lowlands to the formation of wetlands, but they are less extensive than in the St. Lawrence basin. It is a well-forested region: sugar maple, yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britt.), white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.), white pine (Pinus strobus L.), and hemlock (Tsuga sp.) are the trees associatad with the richer, welldrained sites. On more exposed sites, where the soils are thinner, the dominant species are white spruce, balsam fir, and white birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.).

The vegetation associated with good-quality wetlands in the upland area is very diversified; the most abundant plants belong to the following genera: cattail. pickerelweed (Pontederia), pondweed, coontail (Ceratophyllum), waterlily, duckweed (Wolffia and Lemna), reed grass (Phragmites), bulrush, rush (Juncus), sedge (Carex), water arum (Calla), and waterweed.

Many marshes in the southeast corner are used during migration, and rank among the most potentially productive sites in the region. The northwest corner has a lower capability primarily because of topography. Wetlands are few and unproductive.

In general, waterfowl hunting is, confined to the St. Lawrence River, the southern part of the Richelieu River, and some of the marshes of the southeast corner.

Capability classification by C. A. Drdet and G. Arsenevb. Canadian Wildlife Service


In general, the highest recreational capability in the area is for water-oriented activities, which are possible mainly around Montreal and in the Richelieu Valley. A few noteworthy beaches are also found in the St. Lawrence Plain, but the shoreline sites are limited essentially to Lake Champlain and the St Lawrence and Richelieu rivers. As a result of seaweed, pollution, and muddy water, the use of these areas is limited. However, there are two beaches on Lake Champlain and a few on Bizard Island.

Camping is already fairly well developed in this area but this can be attributed more to the increase in campers than to the natural potential. There are some noteworthy campsites ar the Richlieu River and Lake Champlain. There are many limitations to cottage building, most important being weeds and pollution.

Fishing is good in the St. Lawrence, the Richelieu, and Yamaska rivers. Elsewhere the drop in water level in summer is very detrimental to fish populations. The natural habitat of these rivers seems to favor rapid and abundant spawning.

The Mount Royal Hills are steep, enough for skiing, but the slope and snow conditions are Unfavorable. The.scenic lookout points offer excellent viewing.

Numerous lakes that are very favorable for outdoor recreation are found in the Appalachian region. Many sites for beach-related activities are found on Memphremagog. Montjoie, Stukely, Brome, Massawippi (2 beaches), D'Argent and Brompton lakes. The shores of these lakes are almost ideal, the water temperatrue is comfortable, pollution negligible and weeds less plentiful then in the shoreline areas along the lowland plains. Because of very high slopes and greater snowfall, skiing conditions are much more favorable here than in the Lowland. Mounts Sutton, Orford, Owl Head and Bromont have outstanding potential. In some locations complexes combining winter skiing and summer water sports could easily be established for example, in the vicinities of Mounts Orford end Owl Head and Lakes Memphremagog and Stukely.

All the lakes in this area are favorable for fishing. Sport fishing is very popular in the arse as a result of the rapid end politic spawning of fish spades in the warm waters. Hurting potential is limited.

Thus part of the area in the Appalachian region is suitable for recreational activities almost year round because of its potential for skiing in winter, sugaring-off parties in the spring, swimming, yachting, and fishing in the summer, end foliage viewing and small game hunting in the fall. In the Lowland region, the main recreational potential is found along the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers, Lake Champlain, a few smaller rivers, and the Mount Royal Hills. The greatest tourist potential is h the Appalachian region in the south and the Laurentian Highlands in the north. Rapid highways connect Montreal to attractive sites, such as Lake Memphremagog, Lake Massawippi, and the skiing centers at Mounts Orford, Bromont and Sutton. It can be predicted that these sites with very high recreational potential will develop in time because of their accessibility and their proximity to large urban centers in the Province of Quebec end the United States.

Capability classification and text by F. Gagnon, Y. Rancourt, H. Chapdelaine for the Canada Land Inventory, Ouebec Department of Tourism Fish end Game.


Jean Thie, Ecoinformatics International Inc.