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Northern Ecosystems and Nature-based Climate Solutions

Wabakimi Provincial Park © Kieran McMullen


Ontario’s northern forests and wetlands – spanning 70 million hectares – provide us with many crucial ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and climate regulation.

Since 1970, minimum temperatures have risen by 2.6°C in northern Ontario (and by 1.4°C in southern Ontario), and now pose a serious threat to biodiversity and human well-being. Many species, including moose, migratory birds and cold-water fish are already experiencing negative impacts.

Moose © Pembleton CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Protected Areas as Climate Action

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that immediate action is needed to limit global warming. One way to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss is through the protection of natural areas, as nature-based solutions to climate change. As part of the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, the federal government has recently committed to investing in these solutions, particularly to conserve wetlands and peatlands to store and capture carbon.

Canada has also committed to protecting 25% of lands and waters by 2025, and 30% by 2030. Around 13.5% of Canada’s land mass and freshwater are protected, and about 10.9% is protected in Ontario.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park © Permavultur CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

FSC Designated Conservation Lands

An important opportunity for increasing protected areas with potential climate co-benefits is through the permanent protection of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) designated conservation lands. FSC requires FSC-certified forestry companies to identify 10% of their managed forests for protection (in regulated protected areas that are recognized by governments and/or designated conservation lands that are voluntarily set aside by forestry companies). They are required to work within their “sphere of influence” (e.g., relationships with governments) to seek permanent protection of the designated conservation lands.

There are over 147 designated conservation lands that have been identified through FSC certification in Ontario, which span more than 1 million hectares.

FSC-identified Designated Conservation Lands © Ontario Nature

What Are We Doing

  • Exploring accessible and credible tools and approaches to assessing carbon storage in areas of conservation interest, including FSC designated conservation lands and other candidate protected areas. This work will help to ensure forests protect wildlife habitat, and store carbon while continuing to provide benefits to local communities.
  • Working with Indigenous and conservation partners to explore what Free, Prior and Informed Consent and Land Back means for our conservation work. The Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership co-hosted a Land Back webinar with David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature, and Decolonizing Water. We discussed how to support just and ecologically healthy futures when relationships are redefined and Indigenous sovereignty, rights, and responsibilities are respected.
Farabout Peninsula, Eagle Lake/Migisi Sahgaigan © Anne Bell

This project is funded by the Metcalf Foundation, the Career Launcher Internships program supported by the Government of Canada, and an anonymous donor:

Metcalf Foundation logo
Government of Canada logo
Max Bell Foundation logo

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