Indicators By Theme
While discrete threats to biodiversity can be identified (e.g., the loss of forest habitat to urban development), the overall unsustainable use of biological resources – driven by human population levels and consumption patterns – represents a suite of cumulative stresses on biodiversity and is the overarching factor driving biodiversity loss.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are widely recognized as the main causes of increased species extinction, and are the most important conservation issues in the world today. They are major threats to biodiversity across Canada and around the world.
Invasive species are one of the main threats to biodiversity. With very little limiting their distribution and abundance, invasive species can devastate native species and ecosystems. Invasive species often act together with threats such as habitat loss and climate change to accelerate the loss of Ontario’s biodiversity.
Pollution can have serious effects on biodiversity. Pollutants can kill organisms outright or can cause chronic impacts that affect reproduction or other life processes. Pollutants can also result in systematic changes that degrade habitats and negatively impact ecosystem services.
Climate change is an increasingly important factor in biodiversity conservation. It is affecting the distribution of species, the timing of natural events (e.g., flowering and breeding times) and interactions between species. Stresses from habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and invasive species, may make species and ecosystems less able to adapt to climate change.
Forests cover an estimated 30% of the world’s land surface and play a disproportionate role in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. Globally, forests provide habitat for half or more of terrestrial animal and plant species. Forests provide many ecosystem services, such as recreation, water purification and protection of aquatic habitats, carbon sequestration, soil retention, and the provisioning of fibre and timber.
Wetlands lie at the interface of terrestrial and aquatic habitats and as a result possess a unique mixture of species, conditions and interactions. This makes wetlands among the most dynamic, diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet. Wetlands provide a wide variety of ecosystem services that benefit people and the environment.
Ontario’s diverse ecosystems include some that are uncommon, such as prairies and savannahs, alvars, and freshwater coastal dunes. Although they are generally small in size, these habitats are home to species that are uncommon or absent from other ecosystems in the province. As such, they are fundamentally important for the maintenance of biodiversity in the province.
Lakes and Streams
Ontario has an abundance of water resources with more than 250,000 lakes and 500,000 km of streams. Most of our drinking water, as well as water used for irrigation, industry and hydroelectric power come from Ontario’s freshwater lakes and streams. Ontario’s aquatic ecosystems also provide significant social and economic benefits through recreational and commercial fisheries, transportation, tourism, water-based recreation, and traditional Aboriginal uses.
With more than 30,000 species, Ontario is ranked among the provinces with the highest diversity of known species in Canada. Over two-thirds of these species are insects, and there are more than 800 vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes) and over 5,500 species of plants.
Genetic diversity is the foundation that underpins biodiversity. Diversity at the genetic level allows species to adapt to environmental stressors, such as habitat change, new diseases and climate change, and to persist through time. Populations of most species are genetically adapted to local conditions and climate.
Protected Areas & Conservation Lands
Protected areas and conservation lands include a wide variety of lands that are managed for conservation. A comprehensive and effectively managed system of protected areas and conservation lands is a critical element for the conservation of biodiversity and a cornerstone of healthy, functioning ecosystems.
Stewardship activities are actions that lead to responsible land care and sustainable resource use. Such actions help reduce and reverse biodiversity loss. There is a strong network of individuals and organizations implementing stewardship projects to conserve Ontario’s biodiversity.
Plans and Policies
An effective framework of plans and policies is essential in all sectors to ensure biodiversity conservation. Plans and policies help to guide the protection, sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity from the site level to broad landscape scales.
Use of natural resources can have an adverse effect on biodiversity and, in turn, the economy and community social well-being. To conserve biodiversity, resources must be used in ways that permit them to be used indefinitely. Sustainable use and management is an important pillar of biodiversity conservation.
Education and Awareness
Everyone plays a role in conserving biodiversity. It is important that we understand biodiversity and its importance to our health and well-being. This understanding is being cultivated through classrooms, outdoor experiences and sharing biodiversity knowledge.
Financing Biodiversity Conservation
Biodiversity management and conservation is supported through public spending, charitable giving by individuals, and donations and management activities of business and industry, Aboriginal communities and conservation groups.