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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