Natural resource management and climate change
Learn how we are taking action to address climate change by managing Ontario’s natural resources.
How we are taking action
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is building healthier communities and creating a more competitive business environment by managing Ontario’s natural resources as the climate changes.
We are working with stakeholders, the public and Indigenous communities to better understand the impacts of climate change on natural resources, and advance policies and programs that help our communities and landscapes become more resilient.
Our actions support the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to protect Ontario’s air, land and water, as well as reduce litter and waste while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and helping communities prepare for climate change. As part of this plan, we are:
- collaborating with partners to secure and restore natural ecosystems such as wetlands, and ensure that climate change impacts are considered when developing plans for their protection
- protecting against wildland fire incidents through the ongoing development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans
- updating technical guidance to protect people and property from flooding and water-related hazards
We have established an advisory panel to provide the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks with advice on the implementation and development of actions in Ontario’s climate change plan and how you can prepare for the costs and impacts of climate change.
We also initiated the first-ever broad, multi-sector provincial climate change impact assessment to identify where the province is vulnerable to climate change, including the natural resources sector.
Reducing climate change risks
We are working to reduce climate change risks (PDF) to natural resources by:
- integrating climate change into sustainable natural resource management decisions, policies, programs and planning
- helping landscapes, ecosystems and species adapt to changes in climate by facilitating the natural movement of species and maintaining ecological integrity and services
- increasing science, research and knowledge of climate change impacts and sharing information with decision makers, policy makers and resource managers
- increasing awareness of climate change impacts and motivating people to act through education, outreach and information-sharing
- continuing to build capacity for natural hazards and emergency preparedness
Reducing emissions and increasing carbon storage
Managing and conserving our natural resources helps reduce carbon in the atmosphere by increasing the amount of carbon natural systems absorb and store. For example, forests sequester and store carbon in trees, soil and organic matter. Carbon is also stored in harvested wood products. We can also reduce emissions through changes in land use and natural resources management practices, as well as industry innovation.
- working with Indigenous organizations, the forestry industry and communities involved in managing Ontario’s forests under sustainable forest management plans. Ontario will support forest managers to further reduce emissions and increase carbon storage in forests and harvested wood products
- promoting the use of renewable forest biomass, for example, in the steel industry and as heating fuel for northern, rural and Indigenous communities
- improving data and information on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage from forests and other lands, land use change, and permafrost
- increasing the use of Ontario timber in building, construction and renovation to reduce emissions and increase long-term carbon storage
We are also addressing climate change by restoring and enhancing Ontario’s natural features such as wetlands and grasslands to support ecological sustainability and increase their ability to absorb and store carbon.
Produce scientific research reports and tools
Ontario’s scientists are researching the impacts of climate change and ways to reduce emissions in our province. We work with agencies and partners (universities, conservation authorities and other ministries) to advance scientific research, tools and guidance on natural resources and climate change.
This research will help the natural resource sector adapt to a changing climate and enable us to take actions to reduce emissions. Research reports have been published on several topics, including:
- forest composition and productivity
- peatlands and permafrost
- aquatic habitats
Climate modelling is an important part of Ontario’s adaptation efforts.
Benefits of Ontario’s natural resources
The province’s natural resources provide clean water and air, enhancing our quality of life. They do this by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in plants and soils.
Ontario’s natural resources also provide:
- a habitat for fish and wildlife
- opportunities for economic growth
- jobs, recreation and tourism
- Indigenous peoples with traditional use of the land
- natural systems (for example, wetlands filter water, trees filter air) that protect people and property from climate-related hazards, such as floods and storms
Impacts of climate change on our natural resources
Climate change presents challenges for our air, water, lands, homes and businesses. In the future, its effects may be felt through:
- warmer and drier conditions for parts of Ontario's forests, which may affect the future growth of trees and increase the likelihood of wildfires and insect outbreaks
- warming streams and lakes that reduce cold water fish habitats, resulting in a decline in certain fish species and recreational fishing opportunities
- shorter ice cover seasons and thinner lake ice that will affect our winter safety and increase shoreline erosion from waves and storms
- reduced water levels that may eliminate wetlands or affect their ability to reduce erosion, filter contaminants, and provide fish and wildlife habitat
- certain areas, such as peatlands, that may become less effective at absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon as the climate becomes warmer and drier
- warmer and shorter winters that result in movement of some species into new areas, potentially impacting other wildlife populations
What you can do
There are opportunities for all of us to help address climate change. You can:
- learn to manage your woodlot or shoreline property in a changing climate
- plant trees or help clean up a park, ravine or river near where you live to conserve and restore habitats
- choose sustainably grown Ontario Wood building materials
- learn how to apply for the Land Stewardship and Habitat Restoration Program, Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program and Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program
- reduce water use by only watering your garden when necessary. Choose a non-windy day and water during the coolest time of day
- contribute to monitoring programs to help scientists track changes in the environment