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Lynde Shores Conservation Area © Paul Howard CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Issue

Wetlands are diverse and delicate ecosystems that are both ecologically and economically valuable. Despite this, less than 30 percent of our original wetlands remain in southern Ontario. In the Niagara and Greater Toronto Area, that number drops to 10 percent. Many factors contribute to wetland loss, including:

  • Land conversion for other uses
  • Drainage for development and agriculture
  • Invasive species
  • Pollution
  • Climate change
  • Artificial modification of water levels

The government of Ontario is proposing to develop a wetland offsetting policy to enable compensation for the negative impacts of development through the restoration and creation of new wetlands.

If done effectively, wetland offsetting could be a positive force for conservation, helping to reverse the ongoing trend of wetland loss in the province. If done poorly, however, it will do more harm than good.

Beaver River in Uxbridge; Sean Marshall

Read our newest report

Navigating the Swamp: Lessons on Wetland Offsetting for Ontario” explores both the promise and the pitfalls of wetland offsetting, with the aim of informing policy development.

Coastal wetlands of Lake Superior; Justin Meissen

Why it Matters

Wetlands are critical to water filtration, flood retention, erosion control, carbon storage, nutrient cycling and groundwater recharge. They also provide habitat for specialized wildlife communities. Over 20 percent of the province’s species at risk are directly dependent on wetland habitats.

Wetlands enhance landscape resilience to many of the anticipated impacts of climate change, including flooding, drought and the loss of biodiversity. They play a critical role in carbon storage.

Acting as a form of natural infrastructure, wetlands also contribute about $14 billion in economic benefits for Ontarians each year.

Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve © Noah Cole

What We Are Doing

We are committed to protecting and restoring wetlands, which are vital to conserving biodiversity and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

We advocate for stronger wetland policy, educating the public about the many functions wetlands serve, publishing reports and running workshops to bring together researchers, private landowners, planners, industry leaders and other stakeholders.

Ontario Nature began documenting the decline of wetlands in 1937. We launched our Wetlands Campaign in 1979 to advocate for greater protection, which successfully led to the Ontario Wetlands Policy in 1992.

Wetland at VanTil Farm; by Lisa Richardson

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