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
- Drainage for development and agriculture
- Invasive species
- Climate change
- Artificial modification of water levels
Wetland loss and degradation continue. Increasingly, authorities are looking to wetland offsetting as a means of compensating for damage done. 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.
The Government of Ontario passed legislative changes in 2021 allowing developers to ride roughshod over protections for Provincially Significant Wetlands. Since then, the trend of undermining wetland protections has only continued.
Wetland losses will accelerate with the passing of Bill 23 and its suite of accompanying policy changes. Among the many damaging changes is an overhaul of the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, making it more difficult to designate and protect wetlands as provincially significant.
Why It Matters
Wetlands provide myriad values, including flood and erosion control, water filtration, groundwater recharge, carbon storageand wildlife habitat. Many of these benefits become even more significant under future climate scenarios, positioning wetlands as a valuable nature-based climate solution.
For example, wetlands act like giant sponges during heavy rainfall events, significantly reducing flooding and related damage. They also play a critical role in carbon storage. The benefits provided by wetlands have been valued at over $50 billion per year in southern Ontario alone. In addition, they provide habitat for over 20 percent of Ontario’s species at risk.
What We Are Doing
Ontario Nature is 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, raise awareness about the diverse values of wetlands, publish reports and run workshops to bring together members of Indigenous communities, researchers, private landowners, planners, industry leaders and other stakeholders. We’ve also created online resources to equip readers with the knowledge and tools needed to engage on wetland conservation and offsetting in their local communities:
Ontario Nature has a long history of engagement on wetlands. We began documenting the decline of wetlands in 1937.
Our Wetlands Campaign launched in 1979 to advocate for greater protection, which successfully led to the Ontario Wetlands Policy in 1992.