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Wetlands are havens for biodiversity and enhance landscape resilience to climate change.

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:

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.

Beaver River, Uxbridge © Sean Marshall

Explore our new resource, “A Primer on Wetland Offsetting in Ontario: Practices, Policies and Resources” to learn more about wetland offsetting and the risks involved.

Mer Bleue Bog, Ottawa © National Capital Commission CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Provincially Significant Wetlands No Longer Safe

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.

North Gwillimbury wetland © Tim Hagen

Why It Matters

Wetlands provide myriad values, including flood and erosion control, water filtration, groundwater recharge, carbon storage and 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.

Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve © Noah Cole

Explore our new primer and brochure to learn more about the role of Ontario’s wetlands as nature-based climate solutions.

Lake Nipissing shoreline wetlands © Vanessa Denov

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:

Wetland at VanTil Farm © Lisa Richardson

Conservation Legacy

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.

Killarney Provincial Park Wetland © John Hassell

The Wetlands Campaign is Generously Funded by: