In Canada, seven out of 10 people live in metropolitan areas, and one in three Canadians live in either Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. These urban centres have the fastest growing populations, suggesting the proportion of Canadians living in cities will increase in the coming decades. This creates challenges for the management of natural environments within cities and on their outskirts.
Since the 1950s, growth of the urban population in Canada has been based on the urban sprawl model, characteristic of the post-war years in North America. This carving out of land for human use impacts ecological connectivity. Ecological connectivity includes the ability of living species and matter to move freely across the landscape, and is critical to ensure the survival of species and important ecosystems.
For example, urban sprawl since the 1960s in the Greater Montreal area has resulted in the loss of over 25 percent of woodlands and wetlands and has thus reduced ecological connectivity by 80 percent. This qualitative and quantitative decrease in the environment has significant public health impacts and generates significant economic costs, resulting in $235 million in ecosystem losses each year in Montreal (in terms or recreational value, pollination, and waste treatment for example).
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