Ecosystem services provided by Ontario’s Greenbelt

In Southern Ontario, where the rapidly growing urban area is home to more than one third of the Canadian population, there is concern associated with development risk to forests, wetlands and agricultural lands, which provide key food provisioning, carbon sequestration, water filtration and key habitat, including for species at risk. The Government of Ontario’s Greenbelt Act (2005) led to the production of a land-use plan covering 7,200 km2, which extends 325 km from the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine in the east to the Niagara River in the west. Although the Ontario Greenbelt was primarily created to guard against urban sprawl, it is aligned with Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy. The Greenbelt, while sensitive to changes in climate, also plays a role in adaptation by helping to protect biodiversity, allowing agriculture and food systems to adapt to climate change and providing a refuge from the heat of urban centres. While ecosystem valuations vary in their methodologies, one study has estimated the value of additional ecosystem services provided by the Greenbelt, including recreation, carbon sequestration and flood protection for private property to be over $3.2 billion dollars per year.

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