Moving from Landscape Connectivity Theory to Land Use Planning Practice: Ontario as a Case Study
Meyfarth O'Hara, Elke
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Landscape connectivity is a concept that refers to a landscape's structural and functional continuity, allowing for the flow of water, nutrients, energy, organisms, genes, and disturbances at many spatial and temporal scales. The loss of landscape connectivity leads to ecosystem fragmentation, which in turn contributes to a decline in biodiversity and threatens many species around the world. The importance of maintaining landscape connectivity is becoming recognized as a fundamental principle in land use planning. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine how the theory of landscape connectivity has been applied in Ontario's land use planning policy and practice between 1970 and 2008. This includes evaluating the degree to which theory has been applied to practice in landscape connectivity planning. In addition, the work investigates the processes that facilitated the movement from theory to practice in planning for landscape connectivity. Broadly framed within the theories of conservation biology, the research approach is qualitative and the research design includes a literature review, content analysis, and case study research. This research found that there has been an evolution of theory to practice in planning for landscape connectivity in Ontario between 1970 and 2008. The introduction of conservation biology principles created a growing public awareness, which contributed to rising pressure on the Government of Ontario to reform its land use planning policies. The theory of landscape connectivity is included in key land use planning legislation and policies and is now an accepted part of planning for natural heritage in the province. The Ontario Municipal Board has regard for landscape connectivity as a legitimate planning concern. In the majority of cases in the last decade in which landscape connectivity was identified as a deciding factor, the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of protecting landscape connectivity. Planners in Ontario are expected to plan for landscape connectivity, but Ontario’s planning law and policy does not provide strong direction to planners on the issue of landscape connectivity. Recommendations for the Government of Ontario, based on the research findings, include planning for landscape connectivity at a provincial scale, creating a guidance document specifically for landscape connectivity and revising the Provincial Policy Statement.