While the task of maintaining or enhancing ecological integrity may seem overwhelming and possibly best left to ‘experts’, there are any number of easy things you can do to help. Even the smallest action can make a difference when we work together.
While visiting parks:
Animals that become accustomed to getting food from humans often end up in conflict with visitors and their pets. Protect wildlife from a sad fate by keeping your food to yourself and report bad behaviour to park staff. Watch wildlife from a respectful distance.
Although stumps and logs may seem unimportant or unsightly in the woods or on a beach, they are essential sources of food and cover for countless species. Decaying wood returns nutrients to natural ecosystems, and can be essential to processes such as dune building and shoreline stabilization.
Make sure all camping equipment is set up within the existing footprint of your site; tents and vehicles can crush plants and compact soils, leaving less space for the species around you.
Sadly, thousands of animals are killed every year by visitors to parks when they are accidentally run over by cars. When you drive, watch carefully for turtles, frogs, birds and other animals on park roads. Bring or rent a bike to explore the park in a low impact way that is healthier for you and the park!
Bringing snacks with you on the trail? Respect wildlife and your fellow park users by making sure you take all food packaging home with you, or leave it in the nearest recycling or garbage receptacle. www.leavenotrace.ca
Park trails are designed to avoid harming features like sensitive plants and habitats. Walking off-trail or creating a new trail may fragment habitat and help spread invasive species.
Everyone of Ontario’s provincial parks has natural spaces to explore and many have world class natural heritage education programs. Check with your park for availability to attend a naturalist-led hike or presentation, and stop in at the visitor centre to learn about the rare and not-so-rare species and habitats that call your park home.
Researchers and naturalist organizations are discovering the power of citizens to observe and report on the wildlife they see in their parks and backyards. Consider joining the Lost Ladybug Project, a Christmas Bird Count, the Marsh Monitoring Program, and keep watch for other organizations that could use your help. more information...
Friends organizations support many projects that improve the ecological integrity of parks. Consider becoming an active member, or make a donation to help the Friends of your favourite park continue their important work.
Many parks undertake ecosystem restoration projects to enhance environmental integrity, such as invasive species removal. Speak with a park naturalist or manager if you are interested in finding out about upcoming opportunities.
Ecological integrity isn’t a concept that applies only within provincial parks. The integrity of natural areas within and around your local town or city could also use a helping hand!
Research shows that kids who spend regular time in nature are healthier and happier. Children who are connected to nature grow up caring for the Earth and helping to conserve biodiversity. Visit the Ontario Children’s Outdoor Charter website and learn more!
There are a lot of options to “green up” your yard! Consider minimizing maintenance and making your yard more attractive to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators by having less lawn and more native trees, shrubs, and flowers. Try using rain barrels and composting. Learn more about land stewardship opportunities, and explore green landscaping options!
Experts agree that climate change will dramatically change the environment. Be smart about energy use and learn more about how Ontario can adapt to a changing climate. www.ontario.ca/climatechange
Millions of birds are killed each year because of outdoor housecats and window collisions. Remember to keep your cats indoors and check out the Fatal Light Awareness Program website to find out how you can keep birds from hitting your windows.
Small forests, grasslands, and wetlands are critically important for human physical and psychological wellbeing. Speak out in support of maintaining natural areas in urban, suburban, and rural areas, and look for opportunities to restore ecosystems wherever possible.
People with an interest in nature can be found just about anywhere, and when individuals come together they can achieve great things! Learn from others about Ontario’s natural heritage, and share what you know as well. Visit the Ontario Nature website and find your local naturalist group.
In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, using alternative modes of transportation can reduce the number of animals killed by vehicles each year, and reduce the necessity of road widening and expansion.