Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) are natural spaces within Toronto's natural heritage system that require special protection to preserve their environmentally significant qualities. There are 86 Environmentally Significant Areas in the city.
It may come as a surprise in a city as densely populated as Toronto that many high quality natural areas still remain. Most of these natural areas are found in ravines, river valleys and along the waterfront, where they form the core of the City's natural parklands system. They contain forests, meadows, wetlands and landforms, support an extraordinary variety of plant and animal life, and provide opportunities for people to experience wilderness in the city.
What Makes Environmentally Significant Areas Special?
Most Environmentally Significant Areas reflect remnants of the original ecosystem. Others, such as Tommy Thompson Park, are man-made. Each Environmentally Significant Area has one or more of the following environmental qualities:
- They are home to rare or endangered plants or animals.
- They are large, diverse and relatively undisturbed which many plants and animals need to survive and reproduce.
- They contain rare, unusual or high quality landforms that help us understand how Toronto's landscape formed.
- They provide important ecological functions that contribute to the health of ecosystems beyond their boundaries, such as serving as a stopover location for migratory wildlife.
Like all natural areas, Environmentally Significant Areas help to make the city a healthier place. Plants filter air and water, help prevent flooding by absorbing storm water and help keep the city cooler in the summer.