Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
6 ways to be the best neighbor in the park

Provincial parks are not islands.

Well, some of them are. What we mean is: there is no invisible wall around the parks that limits their relationships with the outside world.

Even if you never visit a park, you will benefit from the diversity of pollinators they protect, the CO2 they sequester in wood, roots and peat, and the clean water filtered by protected wetlands.

Plants, animals, fungi, microbes, water and air enter and leave protected spaces, with intimate connections both locally and globally.

In the same way, things that happen outside the boundaries of the parks affect the ecosystems within them. What you do at home, at work or at play can affect our parks.

Whether you live next to a park or 100km away, here are six ways your everyday actions can help keep parks and nature reserves healthy and biodiverse:

1. Turn off the lights

Our star-filled night skies are increasingly polluted with light, even in parks.

If you’ve ever traveled across open farmland at night, you’ve probably noticed the glow of infrastructure like cities, factories, and greenhouses from enormous distances.

This excess light causes something called skyglow. Skyglow hides the stars and reduces the overall darkness we experience at night.

dark sky

The loss of darkness is more than the tragic loss of heavenly beauty. Almost all species on Earth depend on darkness to maintain their circadian rhythm.

Plants use day length to determine when to flower and drop leaves during the year. Insects evolved to be active at times of day when they can find food and be safe from predators. Birds that hunt or migrate at night depend on the light of the moon and stars.

Light pollution negatively affects everything from fish to frogs to trees. Artificial light decreases plant seed production, disrupts frog reproduction, and draws moths out of their natural habitats like a vacuum.

Stars over trees in a dark sky

Some northern provincial parks have been converted into dark sky reserves. Many others are not eligible for this designation because their night sky is glowing from towns and cities outside the park boundaries.

Turning off all outdoor lights or replacing them with dimmer, warm-toned bulbs is one of the easiest ways to help parks and wildlife.

Visit this website for more information.

2. Prevent the spread of invasive species

Invasive species invade ecosystems until they drive out native species and disrupt food webs.

They are one of the biggest threats to ecosystems and biodiversity and, once established, are very difficult to control.

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The more widespread an invasive species is, the harder it is to control and the more likely it is to end up in a park.

garlic mustard

To do your part from home, make your garden an area free of invasive plants.

Be careful with species such as garlic mustard, which produces tiny seeds that can be spread on shoes. Phragmites are similarly transmitted through airborne seeds, rhizomes, and contaminated soil.

Plants like sea buckthorn produce berries that birds eat, carry long distances in their stomachs, and then unknowingly defecate in a nearby park.

Protect natural areas by ensuring your garden is not a source of seeds for these species.

Keep an eye out for invasive species in your neighborhood and report them on iNaturalist or EDDMaps. Biologists use data from these apps to plan removal efforts across the province.

person taking photos

You could be the first to find a new invasive species, allowing biologists to tackle the problem quickly!

Other tips to #StopTheSpread:

  • Clean your shoes and other equipment (including boats, bikes, vehicles, and anything else that can get dirty) before moving from one natural area to another
  • Always buy firewood close to where you will burn it.
  • Never leave a pet in the wild.

3. Plant native species

Ontario’s parks protect areas of incredible biodiversity, but we have no way to protect them all.

It is essential that species have habitat connections between protected areas to ensure that their populations do not become too fragmented.

When a species is divided into isolated patches, it is much more likely to become extinct and the biodiversity and resilience of Ontario’s ecosystem will be affected.

Bee on milkweed

Keep species healthy in parks and conservation reserves by making your garden or community a healthy habitat.

Native plants are the scaffolding on which most of our biodiversity depends, so planting native trees, shrubs and wildflowers in your garden can have a huge impact. Go the extra mile by working with community groups to add native plants to your neighborhood!

Native plants don’t need to take up 100% of your space either! Adding even one or two will make a difference. For bonus points, replace part of your lawn with a pollinator garden.

ebony jewelry wing

Remember that protected areas must retain their plants and it is often illegal to remove them.

Purchase plants at stores and nurseries that carry native species, or ask a friend if you can collect seeds (such as milkweed pods or acorns) from their garden or forest.

Not only will native plants make your space a valuable habitat, but you will also have the benefit of attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife for your viewing pleasure.

4.Make your home bird-friendly

Bird life is full of drama.

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Many species routinely undertake exciting and dangerous migrations to Central and South America, then turn around and return a few months later.

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia Warbler

Others eke out a living during harsh, snowy winters using their brains or brawn. If we knew their stories, each of our millions of birds would have lived a life worthy of a passionate memory.

Humans are also making the world birds live in increasingly dangerous.

Millions of birds crash into windows each year, suffering, at best, concussions or, at worst, fatal brain injuries.

dots on the windowDecorating your window with dots or stickers makes them more visible to birds.

Millions more people die at the hands of stray and feral cats; Ground-nesting birds are especially at risk.

Make sure a bird’s journey doesn’t end in your garden by making your windows bird-friendly and keeping your cat inside.

5. Use less plastic

Single-use plastics, discarded plastic packaging and equipment are common items in busy parks (and #ForTheLoveOfParks, please dispose of your waste responsibly).

But much of the plastic that ends up in parks comes from elsewhere, washed to our shores by wind and waves.

Millions of kilograms of plastic are dumped into the Great Lakes each year, with more added to smaller inland lakes.

plastic on the beach

Microplastics are not just an ocean problem: there are an estimated 43,077 microplastics in every square kilometer of Great Lakes water.

Plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose and it is very likely that the plastic you used has ended up in our lakes.

The best way to address our plastic crisis is to use less. Avoid single-use plastics, buy used items, and switch to reusable options whenever you can.

6. Do what you can to address the climate crisis

Like all the problems listed above, climate change is a huge problem and impossible for people to solve alone. It is also one of the biggest threats to our parks. This list would be incomplete without mentioning him.

Heat trapped by atmospheric carbon from burning fossil fuels is warming our province very quickly, and the change is predicted to be even more extreme in the north.

boy on the beach

Warmer temperatures are causing extreme weather conditions, damaging trees and harming fish.

To prevent further warming, we must do everything possible to prevent more CO2 and methane from entering the atmosphere.

This will be different for every person and every region, and requires us all to learn, listen and cooperate.

lake view

Many of the threats to our parks are big and sometimes we can feel like we, as individuals, can’t make much of a difference.

But when it comes to big problems, we need a lot of people moving in the right direction.

Turning off your porch light, planting a native shrub instead of an invasive one, adding bird-friendly spots in your windows, and talking to friends and family about ways we can collectively address problems are big wins for our parks and for the Ontario community at large. biodiversity.

Are you a good park neighbor?