Biodiversity in the Lake Erie Watershed … and Beyond

Biodiversity in the Lake Erie Watershed … and Beyond


By Heather Web, Ontario Nature

You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So I’m sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.
They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.
I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.
-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

That last line was removed sometime after the publication of my dog-eared, torn-and-taped, cover-less, circa 1974 edition of Dr. Seuss’s cautionary tale. I hope the fish read my Lorax, rather than the later, more common and politically correct version. These days, the poor Hummers would be just as likely to choke on an invasive spiny water flea as Gluppity-Glup.

Biodiversity in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes are facing assaults on all fronts. Pollution and invasive species are just two threats to the Basin’s wildlife, but habitat loss, overharvesting and other cumulative impacts are also having their effects. Much less is known about aquatic biodiversity than terrestrial biodiversity. So we’re fortunate that the Great Lakes are among the most-studied inland bodies of water in the world. However, Lake Erie’s shallow depth and large basin population make it especially vulnerable to biodiversity depletion.

Enter the Ontario Biodiversity Strategy (OBS). This Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources document will guide the province in meeting its national and international commitments to biodiversity conservation.The strategy was prepared by over 100 participants from more than 40 government, industry, academic and non-governmental organizations. Thirteen writing teams addressed a wide range of issues, including invasive species, human settlement, education, protected areas and information management. The resulting document describes the major threats to Ontario’s biological diversity, and includes a suite of action items that could be implemented within the next five years.

Canada was the first industrialized country to ratify the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, prepared under Article 6 (see box 6 (a) to right.) of the CBD,was released to the public in 1996. In Canada, the federal, provincial and territorial governments share legal responsibility for managing biological resources. The Ontario Biodiversity Strategy will therefore help achieve the goals outlined in the Canadian strategy (see box Biodiversity Strategy to right). This in turn will help Canada satisfy the Convention’s 42 articles. To date, the United States has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity.


Article 6(a)


Article 6(a): General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use:
Each Contracting Party shall, in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities:

(a) Develop national strategies, plans or programmes [sic] for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or adapt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes which shall reflect, inter alia, the measures set out in this Convention relevant to the Contracting Party concerned.

Source: Convention on Biological Diversity


Biodiversity Strategy


Federal, provincial and territorial governments, in cooperation with members of the public and stakeholders, will pursue strategic directions set out in the Strategy according to their policies, plans, priorities and fiscal capabilities.

Canadian Biodiversity Strategy: Canada’s Response to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1995

In creating the OBS, the Ministry of Natural Resources took a new approach and invited the public to participate with the writing teams in drafting the strategy. An Ontario Biodiversity Strategy website provided a forum in which interested parties could view and comment on the document as it evolved. In the end, website participation was lower than the writing teams might have hoped. The reasons for this are not entirely clear; however, it has been suggested that the opportunities for participation were not widely publicized. Nevertheless, this novel approach to public policy formation may provide a model for other similar exercises.

The comment period for the OBS website has now closed.However, the next draft of the strategy will be posted on Ontario’s Environmental Registry for a formal comment period as prescribed under the Environmental Bill of Rights. For more information on biodiversity legislation and policy, please visit the links below:

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources biodiversity website
Ontario Biodiversity Strategy website
Canadian Biodiversity Strategy website
Convention on Biological Diversity website

Lake Erie Basin – Ontario Side Advisor
Linda Pim
Ontario Nature – Federation of Ontario Naturalists
355 Lesmill Road
Don Mills, ONT M3B 2W8
(416)-444-8419, ext. 243
(416)-444-9866 (fax)



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.