“Imagine a Toronto with flourishing natural habitat and an urban environment that supports a great diversity of wildlife. Envision a city whose residents treasure their daily encounters with the remarkable and inspiring world of nature, and the variety of plants and animals with whom we share this place. A Toronto that aspires to be a world leader through citizens who take pride and engage in the protection, restoration and enhancement of our flora and fauna.” – Vision of Toronto Biodiversity Strategy, 2019

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth. It includes all living things and the ways in which they interact with each other at an ecosystem level, species level and genetic level. Simply put it is about diversity amongst local species such as trees, shrubs, plants, fungi, fish, insects, mammals and birds in our natural and built systems.

Toronto is located in a place of particularly rich biodiversity. Toronto’s diversity of plants and animals was supported by a history of land stewardship by Indigenous peoples, as well as natural elements including our temperate climate, productive soils and availability of freshwater. In Toronto, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and human activities all threaten our native plants and animals. Biodiversity is key to a healthy natural environment and is fundamental to supporting the livability and resilience of the city.

At a global scale, the loss of biodiversity has reached crisis levels. A 2019 report from the United Nations highlighted the unprecedented rate of nature’s decline, at a rate “never before seen before in human history”. The Report also suggests that it is not too late to make a difference but we need to start now at every level from the local to the global.

The Toronto Biodiversity Strategy aims to support healthier, more robust biodiversity and increased awareness of nature in Toronto. The Biodiversity Strategy is an important document that addresses biodiversity loss in Toronto and further advance the City’s role as a leader in protecting and restoring nature.

The Strategy outlines a vision for the city (above), a set of 10 guiding principles and 23 specific actions. The actions aim to enhance the quality and quantity of biodiversity and increase awareness of nature in Toronto.

The Biodiversity Strategy was developed through extensive consultation with the public, external stakeholders and an expert Advisory Group, in partnership with the Parks Forestry and Recreation Division, the Environment and Energy Division and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The Biodiversity Strategy builds on the work of the Pollinator Protection Strategy and includes a broad range of actions that will support biodiversity in Toronto’s built up and natural areas. The Strategy’s actions reinforce those identified within the Ravine Strategy the Strategic Forest Management Plan including support for developing an ecological integrity monitoring framework for ravines, advancing management of invasive species and restoring areas with native species. It aligns with the Resilience Strategy through actions that will create a healthier, more robust natural ecosystem that will be more resilient to climate change.

Strategy Timeline

October 2, 2019: City Council unanimously adopts the Toronto Biodiversity Strategy
September 2019: Infrastructure and Environment Committee recommends Strategy to Council
Fall 2018 – Summer 2019: Public meetings, Expert Advisory Group meetings, Urban Biodiversity Workshop
July 2018: draft Biodiversity Strategy and report presented to Parks and Environment Committee
May 2017: Chief Planners Round Table on Biodiversity
September 2015: Councilor motion to develop a Biodiversity Strategy to Parks and Environment Committee
2011: Biodiversity Booklet Series launched

A number of these non-human residents of Toronto are profiled in the biodiversity series of booklets below. It is hoped that despite the severe biodiversity loss due to massive urbanization, pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and climate change, the Biodiversity Booklet Series helps re-connect people with the natural world, and raises awareness of the seriousness that biodiversity loss represents and how it affects them directly. The series will help cultivate a sense of stewardship in residents; inform the City on the current state of local biodiversity and how current City policies, procedures and operations can be enhanced, altered or revised in order to help mitigate local biodiversity loss. The booklets will be available at your local City of Toronto Public Library branch and in PDF format below.

Bees of Toronto
This book aims to introduce the reader to the great variety and spectacular
beauty of these essential, yet often maligned, little insects. Bees are beautiful, diverse, important, and essential components of almost all terrestrial ecosystems.

Birds of Toronto
Birds have been living in and migrating through the Toronto region for thousands of years. This booklet provides an overview of the 410 species of birds that have been documented in the GTA – 369 of them in Toronto! Some species are year round residents, some will stay just for the winter or breed through the summer months while others are migrants, passing through in a few days, heading to breeding grounds farther north or making their way south to warmer wintering areas.

Butterflies of Toronto
This book is not a field guide in the typical sense, but aims to share with you the expertise of local butterfly watchers (lepidopterists), scientists, conservationists and city planners. Inside you will find profiles of some of our most beautiful species, a checklist and images of all those you may see, where you can go to see them, threats to their survival, and what you can do to help them thrive in our wonderful city. (Published 2011; Revised 2015)

Fishes of Toronto Book – Part 1 / Fishes of Toronto Book – Part 2
Water pollution and traditional development methods continue to be serious threats to habitat and the fishes in our waters. We must all do our part to reduce pollution, whether from vehicles, industry, or our homes. The City of Toronto hopes that this informative booklet will increase the appreciation for the wonders living in our waters and encourages everyone to do everything they can to protect the fishes of Toronto for current and future generations. (Published 2012)

Mammals of Toronto Book – Part 1 / Mammals of Toronto Book – Part 2
This book is a little bit of history mixed in with educational information in field guide format, along with some insightful advice on living with wildlife in an urban setting.

Mushrooms of Toronto
In the living world around us, fungi make up approximately 25% of the total biomass. They grow under water and on land. The air around us is filled with their spores. Their existence may go unnoticed, however, as they live forgotten beneath the soil and under the bark of trees. This booklet is meant as a starting point for those who encounter the mushrooms that grow in Toronto, and are sufficiently intrigued that they would like to know more.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Toronto
This booklet is an essential resource to identify the 23 species that can be found in Toronto’s urban ecosystems. It will help you discover a new world beneath your feet (literally, in the case of mole salamanders!) and perhaps change your thinking about how we approach those ecosystems we share with animals and plants. If you want to find snakes, turtles, frogs, toads and salamanders, and learn who they are and what they do, this book is the perfect place to start.

Please be advised, some images contained in this pdf span over to the next page. If you require assistance please contact jane.welsh@toronto.ca.

Spiders of Toronto
This book highlights how spiders are among the most diverse groups of organisms on earth. There are over 42,000 known species. These fascinating creatures deserve our respect and are an important part of the biodiversity of our area. Spiders are predatory arachnids (invertebrate animals with jointed legs) that feed mainly on insects. Many of their prey cause considerable damage to our crops, our forests and our gardens. Learn more with this booklet from the biodiverse series. (Published 2012)

Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Toronto
This booklet is not a field guide in the typical sense. It is intended to reveal the surprising diversity of woody plants found within the City and highlight the vital role that the urban forest plays in the quality of life in Toronto. We hope that this book will inspire you to go out and experience our botanical city-mates first-hand, and to admire their tenacity in an ever changing environment.