Nature-based climate solutions
See nature as something new
Human beings have survived on this earth for thousands of years in relative balance with our natural surroundings. However, we are now witnessing a unique period in history when human activities are out of balance with nature, causing planet-wide climate change and biodiversity loss. Increased GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in the atmosphere are changing the climate of the planet, resulting in extreme temperatures, floods, droughts, wildfires and increasing biodiversity loss.
Nature-based solutions are tools we have to mitigate and adapt to climate change and provide benefits for biodiversity. For example, large amounts of carbon dioxide are stored in the soil and plant life of forests, wetlands, grasslands and in the oceans. Conserving these carbon-rich ecosystems allows carbon to be absorbed and prevents carbon from releasing into the atmosphere, while simultaneously supporting biodiversity.
Canada’s nature-based climate solutions
Wetlands are some of the planet’s most vital ecosystems. They are an important habitat for wildlife, they filter pollution and provide flood protection. Wetlands also store large amounts of carbon. But they are one of the Earth’s most threatened ecosystem types. Once abundant throughout Canada, wetlands are now increasingly scarce in populated areas. Approximately 70 percent of wetlands have been lost in southern areas of Canada—and up to 95 percent have been lost in densely populated areas.
Wetlands play important roles such as:
- storing more carbon than any other ecosystem, with peatlands alone storing twice as much carbon as the world’s forests
- absorbing excess water and help prevent floods and droughts, widely seen as critical to helping communities adapt to a changing climate
- improving water quality by removing pollutants
- providing important habitat for fish and wildlife
You can make a difference by:
- participating in environmental stewardship initiatives in your area, such as removing invasive species or participating in a wildlife count like the annual bird survey
- discovering locally protected wetlands with friends and family
- raising awareness about the role and importance of wetlands to help reverse their rapid loss; and
- supporting wetland-conservation initiatives by donating time or money
Grasslands are rich in biodiversity, home to a wide array of plants and wildlife - and have an important role in storing carbon. Grasslands also play a crucial role in agriculture and food security, as a large number of our grasslands are used for farming purposes like grazing livestock. This ecosystem is also heavily impacted by agricultural practices. The danger of losing grasslands through conversion of land to other uses means not only losing important species of plants and animals that rely on these ecosystems for survival, but also risking the release of significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Grasslands, in particular native grasslands, are the single most endangered ecosystem in Canada. Through reconciliation, Indigenous-led stewardship, and working with farmers, we can help protect and restore grasslands across the country.
Grasslands play a critical role in nature based solutions, they:
- store massive amounts of carbon in their soil and roots
- can retain water in their soil to help withstand droughts
- have high soil fertility and support pollinators, making this ecosystem important for agriculture
- provide habitat for wildlife, in particular many species at risk; and
- are home to many of Canada’s Indigenous nations
You can support our grasslands by:
- planting only native, grassland species if you live in grassland areas
- supporting farming practices that help grasslands, such as rotational animal grazing which can have multiple benefits like promoting the growth of native grasses and storing carbon
- discovering the commitment of farmers and agricultural businesses, and what you can do to help food security
- donating time or money to organizations that help conserve grasslands here in Canada; and
- learning more about Indigenous-led initiatives and how you can get involved in your community
Canada has the longest coastline in the world, linking the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans. These oceans are crucial not only to the marine plants and animals that live there, but also to land loving species including humans. We rely on the oceans for food and energy resources plus they play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and supporting marine biodiversity. Water (and therefore oceans) is a finite resource – the water we have on Earth today is all the water we will ever have. That means we need to protect our oceans, rivers, and lakes so our planet can keep supporting us and its many species of plants, animals, and fungi. If we don’t protect our oceans, we will see water temperatures rising and increasing sea levels, which will cause more extreme weather events and threaten our marine ecosystems, food security and more.
Oceans play an important role in our lives by:
- regulating the Earth’s temperature
- providing half the oxygen we breathe
- protecting land masses, reducing flooding, erosion and natural disaster impacts – thanks to coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs, salt marches and mangroves
- providing food for millions of people across the globe
- supporting most of the planet’s biodiversity
You can help our oceans by:
- supporting local, provincial, and federal policies to protect ocean environments and reduce carbon emissions
- reducing the use of single use plastics
- properly disposing of garbage
- using fuel efficient, electric vehicles or public transportation
- respecting wildlife habitats; and
- getting involved with beach clean-ups in your area. Check out the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup for clean-up projects that may be taking place in your area. Learn more about Canada’s oceans and what you can do to help
We need healthy forests. They are the lungs of our planet and forest restoration through the planting of trees is now recognized as important nature-based solution. Forests:
- produce oxygen
- absorb carbon, which reduces greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere
- support biodiversity
- improve water quality and regulate precipitation, evaporation and water flows
- slow floodwaters, stabilize land and prevent erosion; and
- provide shade and cools the surrounding environment (especially helpful for reducing heat island effect in urban areas)
You can help by:
- planting native trees in your yard and connecting with a local organizations looking for volunteers to plant trees in your community
- reducing wood product waste; and
- donating time or money to organizations that help conserve forests in Canada and around the world
Nature at a glance
24% of the world’s boreal forests and 25% of the world’s temperate forests.
1.5 million square kilometres of wetlands making up around 25% of the world’s total
2 million lakes and the world’s longest coastline
70% of wetlands in southern Canada
80% of the Carolinian Forest
70% of prairie grasslands
Through the use of nature-based solutions we can work to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change while supporting biodiversity.
Protecting and restoring nature are important parts of Canada’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Plants absorb and store greenhouse gases, vegetation helps stop floodwaters from reaching homes, and trees provide shade and lower the surrounding air temperatures during the summer.
Canada is committed to protecting 30 % of its lands and 30 % of its oceans by 2030, using nature-based solutions to fight climate change, and reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Natural Climate Solutions Fund is one way Canada is working to achieve this commitment.
Programs and resources
- Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund
- Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions
- Working Toward Nature-Based Climate Solutions - Nature Canada
- Towards local action on Nature-based Climate Solutions - Toolkit - Nature Canada
- 2 Billion Trees Program
- Agricultural Climate Solutions
- Our Environment Portal
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