Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
collage of birds

Welcome to the latest installment of our “IBA in Provincial Parks” series, presented by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada.

It’s great to share bird facts and stories about IBAs and provincial parks, but it’s time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture: biodiversity.

Why should we care about biodiversity?

moth on daisyPhoto: Amanda Bichel

The infinite diversity of species in the world, in addition to being an overwhelming and sometimes incredible spectacle, provides us with many practical benefits.

Biodiversity cultivates a complex food web and humans benefit greatly. We have medicines that we could not have obtained without plants. Biodiversity provides climate regulation that protects us from floods and droughts. Birds, mammals, insects and reptiles contribute to pollination, seed dispersal and pest control.

view of the sky through the treesPhoto: Amanda Bichel

It has been found that people who spend time in nature have better immunity, are happier, and are less stressed. Just take a look at some of the studies on the Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of how everyone and everything on the planet benefits from the complex ecosystems that biodiversity creates.

Biodiversity is totally connected, and the truth is that we are often unaware of most of these connections, so we can unknowingly influence the links of the natural world through our actions.

These are all undeniable reasons to conserve and protect as much biodiversity as possible.

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How do Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and provincial parks fit together?

Map of where IBAs and provincial parks overlap in Ontario

IBAs are essential habitat for birds, but also for many other species.

For example, 85.7% of all federally listed vascular plants and 79.4% of all federally listed reptiles are found in Ontario’s IBAs. In total, there are 162 COSEWIC-listed endangered, threatened or special concern species found in Ontario’s IBAs.

snapping turtle in water

As for the province’s rare species, the numbers are even more captivating. There are 622 species classified as S1 (critically endangered), S2 (critically endangered) and S3 (vulnerable) in Ontario’s IBAs, including amphibians and reptiles, birds, fish, fungi, insects, other invertebrates, mammals and vascular plants .

Unfortunately, not all IBAs overlap with formal protection. That’s where provincial parks and other protected areas come in.

Provincial parks are places where this rich biodiversity is formally protected. Ontario Parks is committed to ensuring ecological integrity is maintained in provincially important ecosystems.

How can you help?

Although IBAs are not formally protected (except where they overlap with protected spaces like provincial parks), we are working on ways to connect people and biodiversity to ensure the stewardship and care of these sensitive and indispensable sites.

fungusPhoto: Amanda Bichel

In the past, IBAs have been used to design conservation reserve networks and to prioritize land for acquisition. They have also been used by governments to assess impacts and establish guidelines for proposed development projects.

To help continue these actions, you can participate in an IBA near you!

Check out our interactive map to find one.

You can count birds and submit checklists to eBird, attend or volunteer at an event, or become a celebrity keeper at an IBA. You can also participate in the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, a huge community science initiative that aims to study all of the province’s breeding birds.

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To learn more about Ontario’s IBA network and how it can positively impact birds and biodiversity, contact us at [email protected].

blue songbird (cerulean warbler)

Many thanks to Ontario Parks for coming together and hosting this blog series. We hope it has enticed you to visit an IBA and a provincial park, and perhaps dedicate your time and effort to help conserve these biodiverse spaces.

DIFFERENT logosBird Studies Canada thanks the Ontario Trillium Foundation for generously supporting the Ontario IBA Program. To stay up to date with these monthly messages blogs, register for the Ontario OTHER Bulletin.