By Jasnoor Kang – The 3rd finalist for the YRE 2019-2020, age group 11-14.
YRE Canada is a national environmental journalism competition for writers, photographers and videographers aged 11-18.
People travel from around the globe to experience the natural wonders of Ontario, that we often take for granted. The natural spaces across Ontario include wetlands, forests and parks which all play a vital role in our province. Our natural spaces provide purification of our air and water, support indigenous traditional practices, provide recreational opportunities and protect our biodiversity!
Yet, climate change and human actions pose a tremendous threat to our natural spaces. The loss of our natural spaces has led to the loss of our biodiversity which has significantly damaged our environment. Our biodiversity has helped to shape our history, identity and economy. Biodiversity provides us with irreplaceable ecosystem services, including clean air and water, productive soils, food, timber and renewable energy. Ontario’s people are healthier, and our quality of life is better, because of our biodiversity. Due to the indispensable role of our biodiversity in our lives, we must preserve it by preserving our natural spaces!
Ontario’s landscape is 66 % forested, accounting for over 1⁄4 of Canada’s woodlands. Ontario’s forest industry is a key component of the provincial economy, for instance, it contributes over $12 billion to our economy and supports approximately 150,000 direct and indirect jobs! Although forestry has improved our economy, it has influenced our ecosystems too.
From roughly 1900 to 1940, the forestry industry grew dramatically in Canada. During this time, forestry primarily occurred in the Maritimes, Ontario, Québec and British Columbia. However, over time, interest grew and between 1940 and 1970, immense expansions were made. Technology was enhanced in every aspect of forestry and new products were produced! Steps were also taken by the federal government, for example, they conducted research into the nature of our trees and established new facilities across Canada’s different forest regions. As a result, due to forestry greenspaces have reduced throughout Ontario.
Ontario is also losing its greenspaces to climate change. Warmer climates will have extreme effects on Ontario’s forests including both disturbances (e.g. insects, fire,) and biotic responses (genetics and plant succession). The most evident climate-related impacts are the changes in fire and pest outbreaks. Warmer winter temperatures have changed the timing of insect outbreaks such as the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect who has spread from Michigan to southern Ontario! This invasive species has significantly damaged Ontario’s natural spaces. More impacts have also been observed such as increased forest fires.