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2007-2008 Indicators

Land Use: 34.6% natural, 15.6% impermeable

Quick Facts

More than 140 000 tons of computer equipment, phones, televisions, stereos and small appliances end up in Canadian landfills every year. That is equal to the weight of 28 000 elephants or enough waste to fill the Toronto Skydome every 15 years. [source]


Plan of Action  :: Links  

There is a very instinctive notion of the importance of land to wellbeing, which shows naturally through common sayings, such as "living off the fat of the land." Throughout time and space, exactly how land has been important to societies has changed - from royal forests to fertile farmland - but it is universally recognized as playing a central role in communities‘ livelihoods. In the Greater Toronto Area today, land is most economically valuable as real estate for commercial and residential development, which more often than not takes precedent over the environmental functions the land performs.

One major role that greenspace plays in urban and suburban environments is as part of the hydrological cycle. The heath of urban and suburban surface and ground waters largely depends on maintaining certain land cover characteristics. Impermeable surfaces - such as rooftops and roads - drained by sewer systems convey rainfall and snowmelt directly to receiving waters without traveling through the ground as they normally do. While this helps to avoid basement flooding and the erosion of foundations and roadways, it also lowers the water table and loses the flow detention and filtration benefits, which themselves improve the quality of surface waters and reduce downstream flooding.

Maintaining greenspace within urban areas also provides venues for recreation, vegetation that improves air quality and soil stability, and habitats for urban wildlife. In serving its various functions, natural areas can take on a variety of forms. For maintaining the hydrological cycle and providing recreational spaces, natural areas can take the form of manicured gardens, playing fields, or other types of manmade greenspaces, which may also have enough vegetation to contribute to air quality and soil stability or be a home to some forms of urban wildlife. The ability of natural areas to perform these functions in urban settings are enhanced, however, when land is committed not just as greenspace, but as actual natural areas. The slopes of many ravines and valleys in Toronto are left naturally vegetated to preserve soil stability, and are home to deer and a wide variety of birds.

Preserving healthy land also involves avoiding its contamination. Even when land is set aside and cared for, its health - along with that of its flora, fauna, and water - can be jeopardized by toxic substances. Most dangerous are heavy metals and hydrocarbons, which are very toxic, causing chronic and acute illness - often leading to death - in animals and humans. They also bioaccumulate which means they are stored in the biomass of humans and animals and are very hard to remove from the environment. It is very important to prevent these materials from being spread on land, both natural and developed.

U of T Scarborough contains a collection of different forms of greenspace. The lower campus features playing fields and minimally disturbed natural forest and wetlands. The upper campus has a variety of landscaped areas, as well as natural ones, including a few woodlots. A significant portion of the outer campus is covered by parking lots, and there is even land lightly contaminated by previous operation of a landfill on an adjacent property. U of T Scarborough protects its natural areas, and avoids infringing upon them, save in exceptional circumstances. We also undertake continual efforts to create more naturalized areas on campus through our ongoing partnership with Evergreen. The campus features bioswales, green roofs and storm drain filters to provide natural stormwater management. U of T Scarborough will continue these programs in the future, in addition to respecting natural space and creating more as our property is further developed.

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