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Find Out More
HEALTHY COMMUNITIES:
Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)
Montréal Urban Ecology Center
www.sustainablecommunities.fcm.ca
www.urbanecology.net
AIR ISSUES:
Clean Air Online
Air Quality Health Index
Project Atmosphere Canada
www.ec.gc.ca/air
www.ec.gc.ca/cas-aqhi
www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca/education/teachers_guides/index_e.html
html
URBAN BIODIVERSITY ISSUES:
Hinterland Who’s Who
NatureWatch
Canadian Biodiversity Information Network
Pollination
Invasive Alien Species
www.hww.ca
www.naturewatch.ca
www.cbin.ec.gc.ca
www.pollinationcanada.ca
www.ec.gc.ca/eee-ias/Default.asp?lang=En&n=C4637128-1
www.exoticpests.gc.ca
WAYS TO IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT:
Take Action for the Environment
Gardening for Wildlife
www.ec.gc.ca/education
www.wildaboutgardening.org
To access this publication and discover more BioKits online: www.ec.gc.ca/biotrousses-biokits
Aussi disponible en français sous le titre : BioTrousse Urbaine
Electronic monograph in PDF format. Issued also in printed form.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2010
Catalogue No.: En4-88/2010E-PDF, ISBN: 978-1-100-16458-8
Legal deposit: Library and Archives Canada, 2010
FPOouleur
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Four Seasons of Fun for the
Whole Family!
URBAN ECOSYSTEMS
AT YOUR DOORSTEP
Are you familiar with the animals and plants near your
home? How much do you know about the biodiversity
in your neighbourhood? To help you explore your
surroundings, the Biosphère, Environment Museum,
is pleased to present this urban activity.
Environment Canada’s Biosphère encourages
citizens to take action and get involved in
environmental issues. In addition to presenting
exhibits and special events, the Biosphère develops
educational and awareness-raising products for
a diverse clientele across Canada and
is a recognized forum
for environmental
information.
www.ec.gc.ca/biosphere
Reconnect with your environment...
and build your EcoProfile
www.ec.gc.ca/biotrousses-biokits
How the BioKit Works
1. Choose a nearby park.
2. Gather up your equipment: magnifying glass, binoculars,
camera, pocket-size mirror, pencil and clipboard.
3. Step out your front door and consider your surroundings
in order to complete the activity on the next page.
4. Walk to the park you chose in step one. Once there, continue
observing the environment around you (follow along with the
questions in the following sections of the BioKit).
5. Upon your return, discuss your outing with friends and family
and share the results of your diagnosis on the BioKits website.
The Urban Environment
As
you step out the door and make your way
to the park, check off the numbered items in the drawing as you
notice them. What role do they play in your surroundings?
(See the examples below.)
■
■
By 2020, 90 percent of Canada’s population is expected to live in
cities. All of these cities were built in the wilderness and are still
surrounded by nature, though this may not always be obvious.
Are your surroundings welcoming to you and to nature?
■
■
■
■
■
■
■
■
Trees, plants and flowers =
improve air quality and provide shelter for
wildlife Insects and animals = show
that our urban environment is healthy An
urban water source = can ensure life, health
and safety A health clinic = protects the
well-being of people and the community Green
transportation = helps reduce greenhouse gases
A neighbourhood business = boosts the local
economy and contributes to its diversity Objects
connected with recycling = show responsible consumer
behaviour A community garden = provides a local
food supply and opportunities for socializing A public
bench = provides a spot to relax and connect with others
A public gathering spot = nurtures a sense of belonging
An activity area for young people = allows for balanced
development A cultural location = enriches the community
An historic building = gives the city character and attracts
tourists Urban art = creates beauty and a place for reflecting
Name a local place you would take your friends to
visit = a source of community pride! ______________________
illustration : Caroline Brunet
■
■
■
■
It’s a Go!
Between your home and
the park, did you observe
green spaces?
Are animals able to travel from one green space to another? __________
If so, you may be standing in a wildlife corridor.
Wildlife corridors: In cities, parks, treed walkways, green alleys, flowerboxes, balcony
planters and gardens can serve as urban wildlife corridors. These environments provide
pathways to connect animals and plants with food, shelter and breeding areas.
Park visited: _____________________________
City:____________________________________
Date: ___________________________________
Departure time:__________________________
Return time: ____________________________
GPS coordinates: ________________________
(optional)
WEATHER
Today’s temperature: ________________°C
Eco-friendly tips
for urban nature
explorers:
• Do not pick plants
(including flowers, ferns, etc.)
during your outing.
■ Sunny
■ Partly cloudy
■ Cloudy
■ Rainy
■ Snowy
■ Windy
• Obey any signs asking you to stay
on pathways.
• Leave nature the way
you found it.
• Observe wild animals from a
distance and don’t feed them.
• Put your trash in waste
containers or take it home
with you.
Find out more
See “Air Issues”
on the back cover
Curious about the air quality in your city?
Many cities in Canada have an Air Quality
Health Index that helps you to better plan
your outdoor activities.
Park Visit
Find out more
See “Healthyy Communities”
on the back cover
TAKE A BREATHER!
Take a deep breath and look around you.
What is your first impression?
Talk about what you see with the people you are with.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
CRICK, CRACK, TWEET!
The sounds in our environment affect our well-being.
Close your eyes and listen. Write down the sounds you hear:
From nature:
Prowling for Lichens
Air pollution can worsen health problems like asthma.
Did you know that the type and amount of lichens growing
on tree trunks can tell us about the air quality? Most lichens
are sensitive to air quality and deteriorate when
air pollution levels are high.
From human activity:
Take a look at the tree trunks around you.
Do you see any lichens?
Do you see different types of lichens?
Lichen : composed of a fungus and an alga living in
symbiosis (a relationship that benefits both). Lichen forms
a clump, sometimes coloured, on tree trunks and rocks.
Circle the sounds you’d prefer to hear less often.
A Certain Something
Catch the Scent!
The atmosphere is an ocean of gases that we live in and breathe
in all the time. Describe the odours you can smell in the air:
■ Fruity?
■ Floral?
■ Diesel?
■ Other: ______________
What direction is the wind blowing from?
What did you do to find out?
in the Air
The atmosphere plays an
important role in how our planet
functions. It protects us from the
sun’s rays and regulates our
climate, making our survival
possible.
SEE ANY CLOUDS IN THE SKY? HOW ARE THEY SHAPED
AND WHAT DOES THEIR SHAPE TELL YOU?
■ Cirrus : Located high
■ Cumulus : Located low
in the sky, cirrus clouds
sometimes indicate that
rain is coming.
in the sky, these clouds often
appear in good weather.
In the hot, humid days of
summer, they can transform
into cumulonimbus clouds.
■ Stratus : Usually sitting
fairly low in the sky, stratus
clouds often cause “grey”
days and can herald storms
or drizzle.
■ Cumulonimbus :
These are large grey clouds,
taller than they are wide;
in summer, they are a sign
of stormy weather.
Urban Biodiversity
SHAPE GAZING
Cities are teeming
with natural and
restored habitats.
Both are useful
because they offer
shelter and breeding
areas for plants and
animals (including
humans), and
form the urban
ecosystem.
• Walk, ride your bicycle
or take public transit.
• When waiting, try not
to let your vehicle idle.
Turn off your engine
instead.
• Did you know that heating
with wood pollutes the
air in cities? Some types
of wood-burning stoves
are more efficient than
others. Find out for yourself
which ones are best.
Find out
more
See “Air Issues”
on the back cover
Generally speaking, the more species there are, the healthier the environment.
How many different shapes of trees can you find?
■
■
■ Shrub
■
■
■ Other
Are the trees healthy? Look at the leaves.
Are they spotted, insect-eaten or yellow?
Photo : Frédéric Desbiens
Eco-friendly tips
for clean air:
Hide and Seek!
A healthy ecosystem
• cleans the air and water,
• produces oxygen,
• traps carbon dioxide gas,
• controls insects and animal
pests naturally,
If you see a bird or a
squirrel pass by with
a twig, a string or something else (sometimes
unusual) in its mouth
or beak, follow it from a
distance and with a little
luck, it might lead you
right to its nest. Take
care and remember, do
not disturb the
occupants!
• encourages pollination,
• helps control flooding
and erosion,
• produces
fertile soil,
The Secret Life of Trees
• plays an important role
in the economy, health
and food safety.
Take a closer look. There could be a
nest hiding in that hollow tree trunk!
Look closely at treetops too. Do you
see any nests made by squirrels,
birds or wasps? Do you see any
cocoons built by insects?
These are services that the
public would otherwise pay for.
Winter Comes
Look for animal tracks in the
snow or in the mud. Notice the
different shape and arrangement
of paw-prints or footprints and
follow the trail.
and Life Goes On
Follow that Trail! Check whether animals left any clues like leftover food,
scratch marks, dung or tracks as they passed by trees. What can you see?
Sketch
Striped skunk
American
Crow
Some key things to look for:
• Does it have two feet or four?
• Are the footsteps close together
(maybe indicating a smaller animal)
or far apart (a bigger animal)?
• How many toes are there?
• How are they oriented?
Did you know that the red squirrel makes its own
maple syrup? It bites the bark to get to the woody tissue and
lets the sap flow. Once the water evaporates, it returns to
harvest the “syrup”!
a picture of the tracks you find so you can identify them
when you get back home.
Mammals, Reptiles and Friends!
HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES
OF ANIMALS CAN YOU SEE?
Include pets, street animals, farm animals and wild animals:
Eco-friendly tips
for urban
biodiversity:
_____ Amphibians
• Create urban gardens:
flower beds, balcony
planters, and so on.
Grow native species.
_____ Mammals
_____ Fish
• Use chemicals
sparingly. Plants and
animals are very sensitive
to them.
_____ Reptiles
_____ Birds
_____ Others
• Find out about
threatened species
in your area, then you
will be better able to
help protect them.
Raccoon
Find out more
See“Urban Biodiversity
Issues” on the
back cover
Insects Are Animals Too!
Scientists have identified up to a million species of insects so far, but estimate that
there may be as many as 30 million. Insects differ from other animals by their three
pairs of legs. With or without your magnifying glass, scour the ground or search
among the flowers for insects. Who knows, you might discover a new species!
Honey bee
Pollinating Insects:
These insects carry pollen
from flower to flower. Bees,
wasps, butterflies, beetles
and flies are among these
beneficial insects.
We owe them credit for
over 70 percent of the food
we harvest.
These days, pollinating
insects are threatened by
• the loss of habitat,
• the use of pesticides,
• competition with other
species (often alien),
• monoculture,
• diseases and parasites,
• light pollution.
Spiders and
millipedes are not
insects, but they
still belong to our
environmental
family!
■ Butterflies
and caterpillars
■ Ladybugs
and beetles
■ Bees, wasps
and ants
■ Flies and
mosquitoes
■ Dragonflies
and damselflies
■ Others
Find the Invader
INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES:
Brought into Canada accidentally or on purpose, these plant and animal species
are a major threat to biodiversity and are very difficult to control.
Photo : Dave Bonta, Flickr
Which of the
following plants are
considered invasive
alien species in
Canada?
a) Purple loosestrife
b) Eurasian watermilfoil
c) Water hyacinth
d) Dandelion
European Starling
Did you know that...
ragweed, although native to North America,
is considered an invasive species? It also
triggers allergic reactions in more than
10 percent of the population. Best get it
off of your property before August when
it releases its pollen!
Find out more
See “Urban
Biodiversity Issues”
on the back cover
Answer:
If you guessed that all of them are alien species, you were right!
However, only a) purple loosestrife and b) Eurasian watermilfoil are a serious threat to habitat in Canada,
although c) water hyacinth is causing major problems in other parts of the world. Lastly, the medicinal properties
of d) the dandelion have important health benefits, and it gets a lot of applause from
fine-food lovers, both human and winged!
Urban Landscapes
HEAD FOR THE HILLS!
Over time, humans have transformed the natural
landscape. Look for some high ground in the park
and divide what you see into groups.
Natural features
Structures and signs
of human activity
hills, waterways, fields,
forests and lakes.
roads, power lines, buildings, industrial sites,
church steeples, green roofs (totally or partially
covered with vegetation).
Do you see any wildlife corridors (vegetation strips)
that animals could use to move from place to place
in the city?
A DIFFERENT ANGLE!
Sometimes, just looking at something from a
different angle can lead to surprising discoveries.
• Take out your pocket-size mirror and walk
backwards. Does the landscape look any different?
• If you’re the acrobatic type, walk on your hands
and describe what you see.
• What is your favourite point of interest?
Ask the others with you to guess.
• Imagine what the landscape around you looked
like in your grandparents’ day.
• What will it look like in the future?
WATER, WATER, ANYWHERE?
Life depends on water. Look around you. Do you see
a waterway, pond or lake? Do you notice any new
varieties of plants or animals? If you wait long enough
and pay careful attention, you might get a glimpse
of the more skittish species that live in the water.
Urban Environment:
Now that you’ve
gathered an abundance
of observations, use them
to reach your own
diagnosis about the
health of your urban
environment by filling
in the chart opposite.
Check the
boxes that apply
My Diagnosis
Excellent!
Not bad but…
Things
must improve!
Trees, bushes, balcony planters
and gardens providing a biological
corridor between your home and
the park
First impression of the park
You can easily complete
it on the BioKits website
and compare your
results with others!
Surrounding sounds
Visitors to the
site can also build
their EcoProfile.
Air quality
Curious?
Follow the link:
www.ec.gc.ca/
biotrousses-biokits
Biodiversity:
plants and trees
Biodiversity: animals
Presence
of pollinators
Invasive
plant control
Waterways,
ponds or lakes
Find out more
See “Ways to Improve
the Environment” on
the back cover
Recommendation: Enjoy your environment
Choose one thing you
and help preserve the would like to improve
threatened species in and think up a feasible
your area.
solution.
Black swallowtail caterpillar
Many heads are
better than one!
Talk to people about
your concerns;
they might join your
improvement efforts.
Think Back on Your Outing
Back Home
Create a keepsake of your excursion by making a
drawing, story, poem, photo, collage or other souvenir.
PRODUCTION TEAM
Production: Biosphère, Environment Canada Research and writing: Ando Rabarisolo and Linda Liboiron
nda Liboiron and Ann Dacres
Graphic design: Yves Bilodeau, l’oeil isocel • identité et design Illustrations: Caroline Brunet Coordination: Linda
Acknowledgements: Étienne Angers, Karine Bélanger, Christine Bérubé, Suzanne Blais, Susan Bone, André Champoux, Frédéric Desbiens,
Claude Joyal, Jean Langlais, Jean Leclair, Chantal Lepire, Courtney Price, Lucie Roy, Liz Sauer and everyone else
who contributed discerning suggestions and comments during the production of this first BioKit.
Find Out More
HEALTHY COMMUNITIES:
Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)
Montréal Urban Ecology Center
www.sustainablecommunities.fcm.ca
www.urbanecology.net
AIR ISSUES:
Clean Air Online
Air Quality Health Index
Project Atmosphere Canada
www.ec.gc.ca/air
www.ec.gc.ca/cas-aqhi
www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca/education/teachers_guides/index_e.html
html
URBAN BIODIVERSITY ISSUES:
Hinterland Who’s Who
NatureWatch
Canadian Biodiversity Information Network
Pollination
Invasive Alien Species
www.hww.ca
www.naturewatch.ca
www.cbin.ec.gc.ca
www.pollinationcanada.ca
www.ec.gc.ca/eee-ias/Default.asp?lang=En&n=C4637128-1
www.exoticpests.gc.ca
WAYS TO IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT:
Take Action for the Environment
Gardening for Wildlife
www.ec.gc.ca/education
www.wildaboutgardening.org
To access this publication and discover more BioKits online: www.ec.gc.ca/biotrousses-biokits
Aussi disponible en français sous le titre : BioTrousse Urbaine
Electronic monograph in PDF format. Issued also in printed form.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2010
Catalogue No.: En4-88/2010E-PDF, ISBN: 978-1-100-16458-8
Legal deposit: Library and Archives Canada, 2010
FPOouleur
nc
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i
s
ver
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