Nick Stow

Senior Planner, Resiliency and Natural System Planning Unit - City of Ottawa


Dr. Nicholas Stow works as a Senior Planner in the Resiliency and Natural Systems Planning Unit at the City of Ottawa, in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Stow and his colleagues lead the development of the City’s climate change and energy policies, conduct watershed-based land use planning, and protect natural ecosystems and biodiversity. Key policies and programs of the unit are the Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan, Energy Evolution: Ottawa’s Community Energy Transition Strategy, the Urban Forest Management Plan, the Water Environment Strategy, and the Ottawa Conservation and Stewardship Vision. Dr. Stow obtained his Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Ottawa, where he studied the sustainability of selection-cut forest management in northern hardwood forests. He has expertise in conservation planning, environmental planning, forest ecology, and wetland ecology and restoration.

Keynote Speech Abstract

Resilience, Biodiversity, and Adaptation to Climate Change: the Ottawa Example

Successful climate change adaptation depends greatly on resiliency: the ability of systems – social, cultural, economic, or biological – to recover from stress and change. Resiliency, in turn, depends greatly on diversity, which increases the adaptive and the evolutionary potential of a system. Biological diversity, or biodiversity, increases the capacity of ecosystems to adapt successfully to climate change and to provide critical services to humans. Conversely, the overwhelming magnitude and speed of climate change threatens to reduce biodiversity through many different mechanisms. Conservation of biodiversity for its own sake and for protection of ecosystem services has become an important challenge in climate change adaptation.

The City of Ottawa, which sits securely in the northern, temperate zone away from the coast, faces a modest set of climate change challenges compared to most places. Nonetheless, even those modest challenges pose substantial threats to the health and safety of its citizens, as well as threats to the City’s long-term economic security and sustainability. The threats include increased flooding, extreme weather events, agricultural impacts, damage to infrastructure, contamination of drinking water, power disruptions, wildfire, and climate-related migration. Ottawa has developed an integrated approach to reducing the risks from these threats, which includes reliance on and protection of beneficial ecosystem services such as air quality improvement, urban heat island mitigation, flood reduction, drinking water protection, and pollination. In this context, I will discuss the policies, initiatives, partnerships, and investments that the City has made to protect the integrity and biodiversity of its supporting ecosystems.