Our planet is going through an undeniable biodiversity crisis, and Ottawa is no exception. Animal and plant species around the world are going extinct at 1,000 times the natural rate.

In Canada, over 700 species have been classified as at risk and about 60 of them live in Ottawa. Most species at risk are found in the most densely populated areas of the country, which means that cities have an essential role to play in conserving biodiversity.

Biodiversity is nature. Healthy and biodiverse ecosystems provide services that we depend on for healthy communities and a strong economy. It is clear that conserving biodiversity is in everyone’s best interest.

Unfortunately, we are experiencing an unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss as a result of human-caused threats, including habitat destruction, overexploitation, invasive species, pollution and climate change. We see examples of this within the City of Ottawa, as new development projects often take advantage of large areas of greenspaces at the expense of vulnerable species and ecosystems.

In response to the global biodiversity crisis, Canada has followed the lead of the United Nations and released 4 goals and 19 targets to improve biodiversity conservation throughout the country by the end of 2020. By the end of this year.

The only way for Canada to meet these goals is for municipalities to include and prioritize biodiversity management into their governing practices. Not only does this mean protecting nature, but also incorporating nature into urban planning. It is essential for cities to step up because they are the areas with the least amount of habitat left. This also means that cities are where conservation efforts can be most effective. Cities like Edmonton, Toronto, Guelph and Montreal and are leading the way with ambitious policies.

The City of Ottawa has implemented some policies that support urban biodiversity, such as the Greenspace Master Plan, Wildlife Strategy and Urban Forest Management Plan. However, we are only halfway there.

In fact, we are missing one of the most important steps of effective urban biodiversity conservation: monitoring and revision.

Biodiversity monitoring involves data collection and assessment. This information then needs to be reviewed by conducting further analysis and research. Once these steps are complete, policy makers will be able to update and improve biodiversity conservation practices through the city.

We need this information to understand the abundance and status of our urban biodiversity. Additionally, it essential for us to know if the policies in place are accomplishing their goals or not. Without this critical information, we are not able to celebrate our conservation successes or improve our tactics where needed.

In 2006, the City conducted the Urban Natural Area Environmental Evaluation Study (UNAEES) which identified areas within the urban boundary – including woodlands, wetlands and ravines – that are ecologically valuable and should be protected. While we applaud the City for their work, the UNAEES was far from a perfect assessment. It assessed each natural area as disconnected pockets of land rather than as pieces of a whole and did not consider vital abiotic factors such as water quality.

The City of Ottawa is overdue for a new and improved ecological assessment. A systematic way of monitoring our urban biodiversity needs to be implemented.

It is no secret: effective biodiversity management is a long-term process. Ecosystem monitoring is an ongoing task that collects new information; assesses progress and effectiveness; updates conservation actions; and communicates achievements to the public.

While it is undeniable that the City of Ottawa needs to conduct regular monitoring, it is also important to highlight that the City does not have unlimited resources and that Ottawans – like you – are in a position to help! With today’s technology, it is easier than ever for anyone to champion biodiversity by using your smart phone to record any critters and plants you observe while out in your nearby nature. When you upload these observations to iNaturalist you are contributing valuable data to help us better understand Ottawa’s biodiversity!

Not only is the City not alone in this effort, but policy makers do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are a number of existing frameworks and tools that cities around the world use to monitor biodiversity. For example:

This is what YOU need to do:

  1. Sign our petition that calls on the City of Ottawa to be a champion of biodiversity by implementing systematic way of monitoring and reviewing our shared urban biodiversity.
  2. Click here to learn more about how you can champion biodiversity in Ottawa. Help monitor urban biodiversity by recording the nature you see when you’re out and uploading those observations to iNatuarlist today!