May 22nd is the International Day for Biological Diversity. First created in 1993 by the United Nations to highlight the creation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the annual event aims to increase the understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues around the world.
Ontario is an extremely ecologically diverse region of Canada, stretching from the northern Arctic tundra on the shores of Hudson Bay to the remnants of Carolinian forest bordering the southern Great Lakes. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario is home to approximately 2,900 species of vascular plants, 160 species of fish, 80 species of amphibians and reptiles, 400 species of birds, and 85 species of mammals.
Biodiversity is threatened on numerous fronts, from habitat alteration and loss, climate change, invasive alien species, and pollution. In 2010, Canada met with nearly 200 nations in Nagoya, Japan, and agreed on 20 biodiversity conservation targets—known as the Aichi Targets—to be achieved by 2020 under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Ontario has an obligation to the world to do its part to help Canada meet international targets for biodiversity protection. In my 2012 Special Report to the Ontario legislature, Biodiversity: A Nation’s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario, I highlighted the need for the Ontario government to take responsibility for biodiversity, to develop a strategic plan to meet the international Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and to act immediately.
Since then, the Ontario government released its implementation plan Biodiversity: It’s in Our Nature. I am pleased that the government has finalized a new plan for biodiversity in Ontario, one that brings together 16 ministries and outlines 24 government actions and 115 specific activities. Biodiversity is one of the most pressing issues of our time and touches nearly every aspect of our lives. The next few years will show how serious the government is about its commitments to protecting biodiversity.
For more resources on biodiversity in Ontario, you can check out the the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s previous reporting on biodiversity.