Tree Protection

Ravines and Natural Features Overview


Toronto has many natural areas including ravines, woodlands, and the shoreline of glacial Lake Iroquois, on both private and public land. Working in co-operation with agencies such as the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, we enforce protection by-laws and limit development proposals in and adjacent to ravine and natural feature areas. We also initiate projects, and work with community groups to restore native species and forest cover to areas currently denuded. For more information on ravine areas please call 311.

Did you know that Toronto's landscape was created 10,000 years ago when the last glaciers receded? Over the past 200 years, urban development has contributed to many changes in our natural landscape. In some cases, natural valleys were filled and streams were altered or buried. Fortunately, a number of our natural areas have escaped these dramatic changes.

Some of the trees in Toronto's natural areas are now more than 150 years old. They survived the urbanization of Toronto, and are part of our living history.  Our urban forest adds beauty to the landscape. It's also a welcome refuge from the hustle and bustle that's part of life in a city. Trees also add new life to the forest ecosystem by anchoring soils on fragile sites, shading young plants at their base, and providing a wide range of habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Footpath over low bridge arched support beams near treesRavines and woodlands are highly sensitive areas. They are storehouses of water and vegetation. When the topography, water flow or the natural plant community is altered in any way, the ecology and function of the natural feature are also affected. This, in turn, impacts on forest health, water quality, flood control, wildlife habitat and natural linkages.

Certain human actions can result in problems to ravines and slopes. A change to the natural topography, the removal of vegetation, or the disposal of run-off water from swimming pools or eavestroughs down the slope can cause erosion. This results in the loss of valuable topsoil that is needed to sustain and anchor plant communities. Severe erosion can also result from the damage done to vegetation and soil when people ride mountain bikes off designated trails. As well, introduced invasive tree and shrub species can alter plant ecosystems.

If you have never done so, we encourage you to explore one of the natural areas in your neighbourhood. Discover the natural beauty of the deep, tree-lined valleys, and the cool running streams. If you are drawn by the desire to help protect these places from encroaching urban communities, please get involved in a local stewardship group.

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