PROTECTING AND INCREASING NATURAL AREAS
Toronto's Official Plan states that natural areas will be maintained "primarily in a natural state". 86 of these natural areas are designated as Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs), totalling 4% of the city's land area.
However, this principle is not always enforced. In early November 2021, community members were dismayed to find a disc golf course installed within the Woodbine Beach naturalized area. This was done without any study of the impact on the natural environment. A public outcry led to the removal of that installation.
Protection principles do not apply to infrastructure projects. The Metrolinx GO Expansion project includes building transit through several ravines, including Williamson ravine which is an Environmentally Significant Area. This has occurred despite public protest.
Three major projects will add natural areas suitable for bird habitat. The Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project, The Meadoway, and Tommy Thompson Park.
The TRCA has launched the Highland Creek Watershed Greening Strategy (2020) which aims to protect, restore and enhance natural cover and aquatic habitat, and expand the size and connectivity of the natural system.
Toronto Nature Stewards, a citizen-led stewardship program, has the potential to increase the extent of habitat restoration.
Toronto's Biodiversity Strategy aims to support healthier, more robust biodiversity and increased awareness of nature.
The Pollinator Protection Strategy aims to protect Toronto's diverse pollinator communities.
The goal of Toronto's Ravine Strategy is to protect the city's ravine system by maintaining and improving it's ecological health. The ravine strategy received a boost in 2021 with the commitment of an $82.5 million investment in Toronto's ravines.
Monitoring to track changes to biodiversity is carried out by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in partnership with City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation. Recent projects include biological inventories of Beechwood Wetland & Cottonwood Flats (2010), Centennial Park (2007), Colonel Sam Smith Park (2014), Don Valley Brickworks (2009), High Park (2018), Humber Bay Park (2014), Lambton Park (2015), Marie Curtis Park (2015), Mimico Creek (2019), Rouge Urban National Park (2015), Scarborough Shoreline (2012), and Sheppard & Meadowvale Study Area (2007).
Toronto supports the TRCA-led operation of the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, a Canadian Migration Monitoring Network station that carries out spring and fall migration monitoring, and other programs including Project Owlnet, shorebird monitoring and fall hawk migration. TRCA volunteers also carry out breeding bird surveys at Tommy Thompson Park, which help inform habitat enhancement and management of the park.
Breeding bird surveys conducted by TRCA over the past 15 years have shown significant increases in 37 species and significant declines in 10 species. One new species was added to the regional terrestrial fauna list in 2018 when a pair of piping plovers successfully fledged 3 chicks on a Toronto Island beach.
CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION STRATEGY
The Toronto Green Standard mitigates the impacts of new building construction on climate change.
The 3 large green infrastructure projects mentioned above under Natural Areas are examples of nature-based climate solutions that increase the diversity of habitats, including wetlands. Wetlands absorb and retain flood water, and trees create shade and lower the surface air temperature.
The Gibraltar Point Erosion Control Project is a smaller project on the Toronto Islands where shore erosion has been halted by the construction of a groyne and nearshore reef, and new wetland and sand dune habitats have been created.
Humber Bay Park restoration includes shoreline restoration.
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation has adopted a Strategic Forest Management Plan that calls for increasing the number of trees and area of urban forest canopy with a target of 40% tree cover.
Trees in public spaces and on private property are protected by multiple bylaws including the Ravine and Natural Features bylaw, Parks bylaw Municipal Code Chapter 608 Article VII, and the Tree Protection bylaw.
The city of Toronto Urban Forestry carries out prescribed burns to restore 37 ha of tall grass prairie and oak savannah habitats in High Park. They are scheduled so that they do not coincide with bird migration and nesting.
IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREA IN TORONTO
Tommy Thompson Park / Leslie Street Spit is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). It is managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation.
PLANTING NATIVE LOCAL FLORA ON MUNICIPAL LANDS
The Toronto Green Standard includes performance measures to enhance native plant and animal species, habitats and ecosystems on new development greater than 4 units.
WIDESPREAD COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION
The City of Toronto offers people many opportunities to become involved in tree planting or stewardship events. In 2019, over 3,500 volunteers participated in more than 200 events.
Project Swallowtail is a citizen-led initiative that has partnered with WWF (Canada), David Suzuki Foundation, and LEAF to address global decreases in insect pollinator populations through initiatives to preserve, restore and create habitat. More than 100 individuals have been certified as Swallowtail Block Ambassadors in Toronto.
Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) is a non-governmental charitable organization that plants native species in backyards and public spaces and educates people on how to care for trees.
BIRD FRIENDLY CITY PARTNER GROUPS
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has more than 50 years of experience protecting, enhancing and monitoring impaired natural habitats.
The Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond Wetland Conservation Program provides conservation-focused research, restoration and outreach.
Parks Canada works to plant native trees and restore meadow and grassland habitats for threatened species such as bobolink and eastern meadowlark in Rouge National Urban Park.
Many park users' groups have partnered with Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation for consultation and/or stewardship of natural habitats: These include: