International Day for Biological Diversity

Aerial photo of Burlington's urban canopy
Aerial view of Burlington’s urban canopy.

Since May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity, I asked City of Burlington staff Meghan Hunter and Brian McKelvey to highlight some of the things that the city is doing to protect biodiversity locally. Before I start though, I should likely highlight what is biodiversity? Basically, biodiversity is the variety of life on earth so generally speaking, the greater the variety of plants and animals, the greater the biodiversity.

What is the City of Burlington doing?

The city incorporates current conservation, urban forestry and landscaping practices into staff responsibilities, including the consideration of biodiversity. Staff encourage suitable and sustainable development and promote planting methods that maximize both plant and animal biodiversity.

Restoration project at City View Park
Restoration project at City View Park.


Did you know that the current urban forest in Burlington is mainly made up of Norway maple, honey locust and ash trees? Since approximately 10 per cent of our urban forest is made up of ash trees, the Emerald Ash Borer has had a significant impact within our community. Learning from past practices, we are now increasing the variety of species planted to help reduce the impact of future insect infestations or disease.

Emerald Ash Borer infestation
A stand of ash trees that had to be removed due to the Emerald Ash Borer.


The city’s Urban Forest Management Plan 2011-2030 highlights initiatives and improvements for stewardship and management on both public and private lands. For example, when staff review development applications, they strongly encourage native, non-invasive species to be planted to diversify the urban canopy to protect the vegetation, food and habitat it creates from the devastation of disease or infestation. Measures are also being taken to infill mature growth areas prior to the decline of the existing trees.

White Oak - Heritage Tree
A white oak in Burlington, believed to be one of the oldest and largest in Canada, is recognized under the Ontario Heritage Tree Program.

Minimizing disturbance…

Initiatives are also carried out through the preservation of endangered or at risk species found in the Carolinian ecosystem. If any plant or animal that is an endangered, threatened or at risk species is found on a proposed development site, the project is assessed to lessen disturbance. Conservation Halton’s Species at Risk in Halton and Landscaping and Tree Preservation Guidelines are used in the planning and development process.

Butternut tree
A butternut tree, an endangered species in Ontario. Photo courtesy of Royal Botanical Gardens.


Every year, city staff celebrate Arbor Day with a tree-planting event at a local school (a different ward is selected each year). This year’s event, in partnership with Conservation Halton, took place on April 29 at Sir Ernest MacMillan school and was profiled in the Burlington Post. Other tree-planting projects taking place this spring include:

  • 10,000 trees at City View and Kerncliff parks with Conservation Halton
  • 16 trees at Kerns Park on May 16 with IKEA
  • 405 trees at Norton Park on June 4 with Councillor Lancaster under the Love My Hood program
  • 200 trees planted at Lowville Park (date TBD) with TD Bank.
Arbor Day Tree Planting Event
An Arbor Day tree-planting event.

A Healthy and Greener City…

Finally, the City of Burlington is currently working to update and strengthen its standards, guidelines and procedures that reflect our values on current and upcoming environmental issues and recognize the urban forest as a critical municipal asset. The importance of our urban forest was highlighted in the recently approved Burlington Strategic Plan 2015-2040, as one of the strategic initiatives is that “the streetscape plans and private development will increase the city’s tree canopy” and one of the progress indicators is “expansion and growth of the urban forest.”

Blue vervain
Blue vervain.

What can you do?

There are many opportunities that encourage biodiversity including changing your lawns to front yard gardens, vegetable gardens, naturalized areas or through selective tree species planting. These planting initiatives help to provide habitat for insects and animals that pollinate our plants and food and increase our quality of life. You can also volunteer at a local planting event such as BurlingtonGreen’s Green Up at Beachway Park on May 28.

Take Action Burlington! Collectively we can make a difference.

Volunteers participating in a BurlingtonGreen Green Up event
Volunteers participating in a BurlingtonGreen Green Up event at Beachway Park.

This post was produced with contributions from Meghan Hunter, acting intermediate landscaping and urban forestry technician in the capital works department and Brian McKelvey, city arborist in the roads and parks maintenance department.

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