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Nature and Ecosystems


A pathway to healthy, resilient ecosystems in Metro Vancouver

Nature and ecosystems are essential to our region. They help us address climate change by sequestering and storing carbon over the long-term in plants and soil. At the same time, they bolster our resilience to climate change by cooling neighbourhoods, reducing flooding, and protecting shorelines.

​​But nature and ecosystems – including our forests, wetlands, creeks, and estuaries and the plants and animals within them – are themselves at risk from the drought, extreme heat, and other hazards that climate change brings.

Protecting, restoring, and enhancing our ecosystems and connecting them through a robust green infrastructure network will go a long way toward shaping Metro Vancouver’s carbon neutral future.​

Looking for more detail on our nature and ecosystems-related strategies?

Download the Climate 2050 Nature & Ecosystems Roadmap​​​​​​


​​We envision healthy ecosystems​​

By 2050, Metro Vancouver will boast a network of healthy ecosystems that spans our natural and urban areas. Nature and ecosystems will be seen as irreplaceable, and valued for their ability to foster biodiversity, store carbon, and moderate the impacts of a changing climate. The region will seek out nature-based solutions to address climate change, becoming a global leader in protecting, enhancing, restoring, and connecting our ecosystems.

Our commitment: A region that is both carbon-neutral and resilient to the changing climate by 2050.

Green infrastructure​​

Natural Assets Enhanced Assets Engineered Assets
​​Wetlands ​​Rain Gardens ​​Permeable Pavement
Forests ​​Bioswales ​​​Green Roofs
Lakes/Rivers/Creeks ​​Urban Trees ​​​Rain Barrels
Soil ​​Urban Parks Green Walls
Estuaries ​​Stormwater Pond ​​​Cisterns
Acquifers ​​

Climate change puts our ecosystems at risk

The effects of climate change can negatively impact nature and ecosystems. Sea level rise, for example, can create “coastal squeeze,” trapping shorelife between rising waters and hardened shores. Flood waters can deposit excess sediment over fish habitats and spread toxic substances from industrial areas. Intense rain can wash away soil and carry pollutants into freshwater. And the combination of extreme heat and drought can damage trees, stress salmon, and intensify forest fires. These impacts limit nature’s ability to help us adapt to climate change.


Addressing climate change with nature and ecosystems is a two-part process:

Maintaining and increasing natural carbon stores

Maintaining and increasing natural carbon stores

Adapting to the irreversible effects of climate change using nature-based solutions

Adapting to the irreversible effects of climate change using nature-based solutions




Carbon storage

Nature and ecosystems – from forests and wetlands to city parks and rain gardens – remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it away long-term in their vegetation and soil. Today, an estimated 65 million tonnes of carbon – accumulated over thousands of years – is stored in Metro Vancouver.​​

But when trees are cut down, soil is disturbed, or wetlands are drained, this stored carbon is released into the atmosphere. By protecting our ecosystems, we can ensure that the carbon they hold remains in place and that they continue to remove additional carbon, year after year.

​​​Carbon storage​  ​​​​​​​
Extensive forests

Extensive forests in the north of the region store over 40 million tonnes of carbon. These forests provide clean water and wildlife habitat.

Urban forests

Trees in the regoion's urban forests store about 8 million tonnes of carbon. These trees also capture stormwater, cool our streets, and improve human health and well-being.

Coastal ecosystems

Coastal ecosystems store carbon (often referred to as "Blue Carbon"), protect shorelines from coastal storms, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

Agriculture land

Agriculture land stores carbon in vegetation and soils; Delta's agricultural soils alone store close to 1 million tonnes of carbon. In addition, agricultural land provides food security, economic benefts, and wildlife habitat.


Burns Bog and other wetlands store large amounts of carbon. They also control floodwaters, improve water quality, and provide essential wildlife habitat.

Between 2009 and 2020, 2,500 hectares of the region’s carbon-storing ecosystems were lost – including 1,000 hectares of forest and 120 hect​ares of wetland – mostly to urban development and logging.​ ​​

​Our goals: resilient, protected, biodiverse, and connected ecosystems by 2050

​​ ​​​



GOAL 1: By 2050, nature and ecosystems in Metro Vancouver will be resilient, protected, maintained, enhanced, restored, and connected.GOAL 1: By 2050, nature and ecosystems in Metro Vancouver will be resilient, protected, maintained, enhanced, restored, and connected.<div class="ExternalClassA78BD41764644B6EB7E0125FAA8CEEFB"><p><strong>Our target for 2050: </strong><br></p><ul><li>50% of the region is protected for nature</li><li>40% of our Urban Containment Boundary is covered by tree canopy</li></ul><p></p></div>
GOAL 2: By 2050, our response to climate change will include nature-based solutions that support biodiversity.GOAL 2: By 2050, our response to climate change will include nature-based solutions that support biodiversity.<div class="ExternalClassD1F099D8B0A347759B8F70F918604294"><p>Biodiversity - the variety of species and ecosystems and the ecological processes they are part of - increases nature’s resilience and maximizes its ability to provide climate change benefits to people. A healthy forest that supports a broad range of tree species, for example, will not only store more carbon, but will recover faster from drought and other threats.​<br></p></div>

​​ ​​​​ ​ ​​

​These ​five​ strategies are helping us reach our goals:

​ ​​



1. Protecting, restoring, and enhancing our ecosystems. 1. Protecting, restoring, and enhancing our ecosystems. <div class="ExternalClass9B7CA725C367405989433942BF598D07"><p>​​Together with member jurisdictions and other partners, we’re protecting local ecosystems throughout Metro Vancouver so that we can safeguard an additional 10 per cent of the region for nature, increasing our protected area to 50 per cent of our total land base.​<br></p></div>
2. Connecting green infrastructure.2. Connecting green infrastructure.<div class="ExternalClass5D848DC04E8342D6B04EF078215E0409"><p>​​We’re working with others to identify a Regional Green Infrastructure Network made up of the natural ecosystems (like forests and wetlands) and urban ecosystems (like neighbourhood trees and green roofs) that are most important to ecosystem connectivity. This system of recreational greenways, aquatic blueways, and wildlife crossings and corridors will together create a regional network maximizing the resilience, biodiversity, and health benefits that green infrastructure brings.​<br></p></div>
3. Integrating natural assets into conventional asset management and decision-making processes.3. Integrating natural assets into conventional asset management and decision-making processes.<div class="ExternalClassD2E050B8EC614E529A696850A7054DA3"><p>We’re working to shift standard practices by incorporating nature and ecosystems into asset management and financial planning. And we’re looking to nature-based solutions when designing major infrastructure, such as wastewater facilities.​<br></p></div>
4. Supporting a resilient, robust, and healthy urban forest.4. Supporting a resilient, robust, and healthy urban forest.<div class="ExternalClass528836CCA8AA4E1DB9048BBA06B73E37"><p>We’re working with member jurisdictions to increase tree canopy within the region’s Urban Containment Boundary in order to meet our 40% target. ​<br></p></div>
5. Advancing nature-based solutions to climate change. 5. Advancing nature-based solutions to climate change. <div class="ExternalClassE087BD808B6242E292F38EC221283B69"><p>​​We’re looking into innovative funding and incentive programs (such as nature-based carbon offsets) to advance and support the use of nature-based solutions – climate actions that benefit both people and wildlife. We’re also working with partners to assess the climate risks and vulnerabilities facing our ecosystems.​<br></p></div>


Real-life solu​​​tions that work

​​ ​​​
Forests – old and new, rural and urban  
Forests – old and new, rural and urban

Metro Vancouver boasts almost 50,000 hectares of old-growth forests, which play an integral role in tackling climate change. Mature forests, young forests, and urban forests are also important; all improve resilience and capture more and more carbon as they grow. Protecting and managing these forests through plans, policies, regulations and bylaws is critical for forest health and climate action.

Rewilding​​  ​

Bringing nature into the city – also known as “rewilding” – provides shading, cooling, and other climate benefits close to where people live, work, and play. And whether in the form of a small rooftop garden or an expansive community greenspace, rewilding supports biodiversity. By connecting these urban ecosystems with our natural ecosystems – through greenways, for example – we’ll create a regional network that maximizes resilience and health benefits.

​​​​​What ca​​​​n I do?​​​


While reaching our goals will require a number of large, structural changes, there are also things that we can do on an individual level every day. Most importantly, recognize the irreplaceable role that nature and ecosystems play in our region, then do what you can to enhance them – such as growing water-wise plants that support biodiversity.

Ready to make a bigger move? If you’re a homeowner, plant a tree. You’ll cool your home and provide habitat for local wildlife, all while adding to the region’s carbon stores and improving the urban canopy.

​​Healthy ecosystems benefit everyone​​

Implementing the necessary changes will mean a large-scale transformation in how we value, protect, and connect our ecosystems – a transformation that will require determination, financial investment, collaboration, and a focus on social equity. But we’re committed to ensuring that the results will benefit us all.

Nature and e​​cosystems is one of Metro Vancouver’s ten Climate 2050 priorities.



Water and Wastewater Infrastructure, Water and Wastewater InfrastructureWater and Wastewater Infrastructure, Water and Wastewater icon
Human Health and Well-Being, Human Health and Well-BeingHuman Health and Well-Being, Human Health icon
Buildings, BuildingsBuildings, Buildings icon
Transportation, TransportationTransportation, Transportation icon
Industry and Business, Industry and BusinessIndustry and Business, Industry and Business icon
Energy, EnergyEnergy, Energy icon
Land Use and Urban Form, Land Use and Urban FormLand Use and Urban Form, Land use icon
Agriculture, AgricultureAgriculture, Industry icon
Waste, WasteWaste, Waste icon



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