Natural heritage systems are the forests, wetlands and meadows that provide services to support human prosperity and well-being.

About Natural Heritage

Natural heritage features include both the plants and animals as well as the terrestrial and aquatic features that make up natural communities. These natural communities are linked, in turn, by natural corridors that create the larger natural heritage system.

Natural heritage systems exist anywhere there are natural spaces that provide habitat or perform significant ecological functions. In Ontario, this includes:

  • Watersheds and ravine systems;
  • Agricultural areas including farmland;
  • Interconnected water bodies such as lakes; and,
  • Significant land forms such as the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

What are the Benefits of Natural Heritage?


Mitigation: Natural heritage systems have an important role in mitigating climate change, particularly by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Adaptation: Natural heritage systems help us adapt to the impacts of climate change by helping cool the air and preventing erosion.


Flooding: Natural heritage systems include areas of permeable soil and wetlands that reduce flooding or watercourses that direct stormwater flow to prevent runoff.


Habitat: Natural heritage systems provide important habitat for species as well as corridors that allow for access and movement.

Biodiversity: The connectivity between natural heritage spaces promotes a greater number and variety of local species.

Fresh Water: Natural heritage systems include fresh water bodies and corridors connecting them to their headwaters.


Mental: Access to natural spaces can have a positive impact on mental health by improving mood and focus as well as reducing anxiety.

Physical: Proximity to natural spaces encourages outdoor physical activity.


Social: Natural areas help build a sense of community by providing a space for individuals and families to interact with one another.


Great Lakes: In Ontario the great lakes provide transportation routes, recreation opportunities that contribute to Ontario’s economy.