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Impact of Humans on Toronto Islands

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The Impacts of the Geomorphology, Climatology, and Hydrology on Human Activities in the Toronto Islands

By: Nerujan Sivanesan

Student No: 500510777

A place of entertainment and relaxation is what the Toronto Islands are known for presently. It still catered this tranquil and enticing environment even when it was first founded by the natives around the mid- 1700’s (Toronto Islands, n.d.). However, it was discovered and claimed by other settlers as a result the islands’ first hotel was built and this was by Michael O’Connor in 1833 (Higgens, 1999). He helped make the Toronto Islands become a popular tourist attraction for many and it became known for its amusement park, hotels, summer cottages, and other popular outdoor activities like fishing, and swimming. During the mid-1700’s, the Toronto Islands was found to be 1.6 km south of downtown Toronto, and its area was thought to be around 332 hectares (Sward, 2014). Moreover, it was known to be made up of fifteen islands (Sward, 2014) and the population of the community living in this area at the time was estimated to be over 600 people (Toronto Island Community Association, n.d.).

These islands were not the same now as they were over 3500 years ago, they were originally a recurved sandspit whose, sediments were carried from the Scarborough Bluffs by the water currents from Lake Ontario (Toronto Islands History – City of Toronto, n.d.). This later formed into large sandbar and through weathering they formed into the Toronto Islands as we know today. In addition, the climatic conditions and hydrologic activities that these Islands encounter affected the society’s way of living. Furthermore, the Toronto Island’s were thoroughly examined on its geomorphology, hydrology, and climatology and the impacts on the general population by the natural environment.

The research for this report of acquiring peer-reviewed resources was difficult due to the specified topic. The research for this topic was conducted for credible resources were done on two scholarly search engines which were “Google Scholar” and “RULA- Articles and Database”. However, RULA did not yield the sufficient information required regarding the study of this topic. Moreover, the majority of the research was done by searching for key words on Google scholar and Google. On this search engine, key words such as “Geomorphology of the Toronto Islands” were used to retrieve specified details of the formations and evolution of the Islands. Other words were searched for instance, “Hydrology, and Climatology of the Toronto Islands”, and “the Toronto Island’s history”. These searches provided adequate information regarding the geographical aspects of the Toronto Islands. In addition, the Toronto Island’s website was used to acquire the history of the Toronto Islands and statistical information regarding the population, and the area of the islands. The information that was collected by this technique shows it was a successful approach in learning about the Islands.

Through the examined information that was collected, it was found that the Toronto Islands were not always Islands. It was a tombolo (Christopherson, Byrne, & Giles, 2012, pg 499), it was found on the North shore of Lake Ontario which linked itself to downtown Toronto. These group of islands were originally formed by sediments that were deposited by winds that moved from northeast to southwest and eroded stone which originated from the Scarborough Bluffs from over 3500 years ago (Toronto Islands History – City of Toronto, n.d.). The eroded sediments from the Bluffs were carried by the Lake Ontario currents which moved from the east as well as by the wind currents (Naim et al, 1994). In addition, the water currents moved from the east because they had a longer fetch. The eroded sediments that were transported from the Bluffs to the Toronto Islands were deemed to be 30000m3/year on average (Naim et al, 1994). However, in 1858 severely violent storms eroded the tombolo (Christopherson et al, 2012, pg 499) over time this separated the Toronto Islands from Toronto (Toronto Islands History – City of Toronto, n.d.). Many years after this incident, the Islands itself began to grow larger and larger almost doubling its size, because of sediments that was deposited into the Eastern Channel of the Islands (Naim, et al., 1994). As a result of the storms in 1858, a seawall was built to prevent future erosion however, this stopped the sediments being deposited from the Bluffs (Naim, et al., 1994).

The evolution of these islands has affected the community living in these areas as it became more commercialized with more leisurely activities. They were either forced to move to different parts of the islands or away from them in order compensate for the construction of the amusement park. The people that did decide to stay were forced to live in the Algonquin Island or Ward’s Island since the homes on the other Islands were destroyed and used for the airport, the school, nursery, and amusement parks (Toronto Islands, n.d.). In addition, the erosion of the tombolo (Christopherson et al, 2012, pg 499) necessitated travel by boat or ferries towards each other. Moreover, with the Toronto Islands sitting on Lake Ontario, it allowed more water-based activities to be present such as swimming, canoeing, boating and etc. It became more of a car-free environment and encouraged bike riding because of the size bridges built between the islands. Furthermore, the transformation of these islands shows that how geomorphology has affected and influences the human population to these areas.

The study area’s climate condition was thoroughly investigated on how it affected the Toronto Islands. Based on the data (see Table 1) (Class Environmental Assessment, 2010), the Toronto Islands have been coupled with mild summers and cooler winters. It was found that the mean daily temperature was 8.2and encountered an annual rainfall and snowfall of 705mm and 112.8cm (see Table 1), respectively (Class Environmental Assessment, 2010). It was concluded that the Toronto Islands were confronted with warmer winters and cooler summers compared to the more localized areas. The warm conditions of Lake Ontario allowed the snow melt into rain because of the warmer winters and the colder temperatures rose to warmer ones due to its warmer conditions (Class Environmental Assessment, 2010).

These climatic conditions affect the lives of the people that are within this area and it affects their way of life. Many people will be attracted to these islands because there will be specific activities that are available in accordance to the seasonal changes. For example, during the summer, the Toronto Islands are at peak of drawing crowds of tourists. This is because their famous amusement park, Centreville, is open as well as the appeal of biking, going for picnics, swimming at the beach, tourists staying over at hotels and etc. During the winter times most of the water bodies will be frozen therefore, these areas will be open for ice fishing. This research shows that the climate of this area is a factor in attracting people to the Islands in different seasonal conditions.

The hydrological conditions of the Toronto Islands have been a source for promoting more water based activities as well as supplying safe drinking water. The water currents that transported the sediments from the Bluffs moved from the east however, the wind blew from the west. The water currents were able surpass the wind since, it had a long fetch. In addition, a water treatment plant has been built on this site and collects the water from Lake Ontario and converts it to safe drinking water. The treatment plant was mainly used as a backup when other treatment plants were out of service for maintenance (Island Water Treatment Plant – City of Toronto, n.d.). This water treatment plant is one of the plants which provide clean drinking water for the Islands as well as the rest of Toronto (Island Water Treatment Plant, n.d.). In addition, it is statistically reported that the plant water that is produced is 87, 947 million litres (on Table 2) (Island Water Treatment Plant – City of Toronto, n.d.). Despite having a treatment plant, it is known for water based activities such as the ferries that are taken to travel to the Toronto Islands, boating and fishing. Furthermore, the research shows water conditions tend to attract the human population because of the elegance the water and the resources it provides which shows that this physical environment attracted the people going to the Islands.

The Toronto Islands is an alluring tourist destination for many due to its climate conditions, geological features, and water bodies. The climatic conditions encountered, geomorphology, and the hydrologic features helped shape the Toronto Islands into a popular tourist attraction for many because of the abundance of leisurely activities it possesses and the environmental features that it embodies. Furthermore, the features of this physical environment has helped propel the Toronto Islands become an active place for human recreation.

Table 1:

Note. From Class Environmental Assessment, 2010.

Table 2:

2013 statistics

Total annual plant water produced 87,947million litres
Percentage of plant water produced to the overall system 20%
Number of days the plant operated 341 days
Average daily production 254 million litres
Maximum day’s production 354million litres
Date of maximum water production July 18, 2013

Note. From Island Water Treatment Plant, n.d..


  1. Christopherson, R., Byrne, M., & Giles, P. (2012, April 15). The oceans, coastal Processes, and the landforms. InGeosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography(Third edition ed., p. 499). Peasrson Education Canada.
  2. Class Environmental Assessment. (2010). Retrieved November 10, 2014, from ESR/FINAL Lakeshore Renewal Environmental Baseline Report .pdf
  3. Higgens, D. (1999, April 25). The Place of My Dreams. Retrieved November 7, 2014, from
  4. Island Water Treatment Plant. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2014, from
  5. Naim, R., Scott, R., Anglin, C., & Zuzek, P. (1994, November 24). Analysis of Coastal Processes at Toronto Islands. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from
  6. Sward, R. (2014, September 10). Toronto Islands. Retrieved November 1, 2014, from
  7. Toronto Islands. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from
  8. Toronto Island Community Association. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2014, from
  9. Toronto Islands History. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2014, from ESR/FINAL Lakeshore Renewal Environmental Baseline Report .pdf


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