Biodiversity is the rich diversity of life – wildlife, fish, bird, insect and plant species and important ecosystems and habitats such as grasslands, wetlands, lakes, rivers and forests. This mix of ecosystems and species provides us with clean air and water; helps combat pollution, prevents flooding and erosion; and, provides important economic and recreational services and income which we benefit from every day.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources estimates that biodiversity provides about $84 billion dollars each year in ecosystem services. Specific examples of the types of services that forests, wetlands, plants, animals, birds and fish provide include:
Control flooding and erosion
Clean water sources
Recharge water sources
Provide valuable green space
Store carbon emissions
The relationship between climate change and biodiversity is closely interconnected - climate change seriously threatens biodiversity - yet healthy and sustainable biodiversity can help us to adapt to climate change impacts. Climate change impacts such as increased flooding and drought, frequent heat waves, extreme rain events, decreased water flow in our streams, fluctuating lake levels, decreased fisheries, and degraded water quality are being felt here in Ontario. These conditions will continue to significantly impact various types of municipal infrastructures. This includes built systems (roads and bridges) as well as natural systems (wetlands, forests) and people. Northern communities, in particular, are expected to experience significant impacts from climate change. Communities that rely on climate-related economies such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries could be at risk.
Economically, biodiversity helps to produce energy, supplies water to industry and individual households, contributes to tourism, timber, fisheries and recreation industries, provides food and much more. Biodiversity plays a direct and important role in rural and urban economies, our environment and even to us as individuals.
Stewardship practices build biodiversity resiliency. Stewardship initiatives are often a simple and cost effective way to build resiliency in biodiversity. Community groups, all levels of government, Conservation Authorities, environmental agencies and landowners are working together to plant trees, rehabilitate and restore ecosystems, and improve water quality. They also identify and track Ontario’s biodiversity in a wide range of monitoring and reporting programs.
Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities have long recognized the importance of climate change adaptation and are working to address the increasing impacts of climate change on Ontario’s water and related biodiversity. The general goal of Conservation Authority watershed stewardship programs is to care for our land, water, air and biodiversity on a watershed basis recognizing that everything is connected in a watershed and affected by both natural and human activities. Through stewardship initiatives and conservation planning we can:
Protect and restore important wetlands and forests to prevent flooding and erosion, store excess water during intense rainfall events and capture carbon emissions
Rehabilitate and restore important vegetation along river courses to help manage flooding, reduce the flow of sediment and improve water quality
Conserve and keep water in the water cycle through careful planning and stewardship programs
Protect urban green spaces to provide a place for residents to visit and cool off
Work with agricultural producers to implement stewardship activities that promotes better soils, keeps water flowing and protects water quality
Maintain important green corridors and habitats for bird, fish, and animals