Lynde Shores Conservation Area © Paul Howard CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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.
Provincially Significant Wetlands No Longer Safe From Development
The Government of Ontario passed legislative changes allowing developers to ride roughshod over protections for Provincially Significant Wetlands.
Wetland losses will only be accelerated if the Government of Ontario moves to accept the erosion of environmental protection and sustainable watershed planning proposed in Bill 23 which was tabled on October 25. Among its many damaging changes, Bill 23 would overhaul the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, making it more difficult to designate and protect wetlands as provincially significant.
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 over $50 billion in economic benefits for Ontarians each year.
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, raising awareness about the many functions wetlands serve, publishing reports and running workshops to bring together members of Indigenous communities, researchers, private landowners, planners, industry leaders and other stakeholders. We’ve also created an online primer to equip readers with the knowledge and tools needed to engage on wetland offsetting project and policy proposals in their local communities.
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.
The Wetlands Campaign is Generously Funded by:
The John and Pat McCutcheon Charitable Foundation