Why biodiversity is important to you: chapter 4

Conserving biodiversity beyond our borders

The Government of Canada plays a major part in the promotion and protection of biodiversity internationally. Canada was instrumental in drafting the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity: we were the first industrialized country to ratify the convention, and we host the convention's international secretariat in Montréal, which supports the goals and vision of the Convention and its 193 members.

In response to the Convention, the Government of Canada, in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, jointly developed the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, which guides our work in conserving, managing and sustaining Canada's biodiversity. For more information on the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, visit their website.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is only one of several international agreements to which Canada subscribes. Others include:

  • the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
  • the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)
  • the Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears
  • the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada and the United States
  • the Agreement between the United States and Canada on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd

Also, through ongoing enforcement under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Canada works with other nations and partners such as Interpol to control illegal international wildlife trade in endangered species from every part of the globe. This helps ensure that offenders cannot escape justice simply by crossing a border.

The Government of Canada works in cooperation with many other countries to study biodiversity and develop strategies for global conservation. Canada, along with the United States and Mexico, is a member of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. As part of the Commission, Canada works to facilitate partnerships and public awareness in the protection and conservation of the North American environment.

Canada is also a member of the Arctic Council and its Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group, which seeks to conserve Arctic biodiversity and share information with governments and residents of the Arctic. This helps to promote practices that ensure the sustainability of the Arctic's living resources.

The Arctic covers over one sixth of the Earth's landmass. Four million people live there, including over 30 different Aboriginal peoples.

Canada is home to approximately 15 500 of the estimated 25 000 to 30 000 polar bears in the world. We protect them through a collaborative approach that is shared with provinces, territories and regional wildlife management boards, and we have taken many actions so far, like:

  • the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the governments of Nunavut and Greenland
  • drafting a National Conservation Strategy for polar bears
  • establishing protected areas for habitat important to them

Did you know...

Environment Canada's biodiversity experts include:

  • botanists, who study plants
  • biologists, who study organisms and their relationship to the environment, such as birds, polar bear or caribou for example
  • research experts and environmental scientists, who study different subjects such as conservation of species and habitats at risk, marine birds, aquatic biodiversity, ecosystems, water quality, and many more subjects related to the environment
  • ecotoxicologists, who evaluate the effects of toxic substances on the health of wildlife and ecosystems
  • social scientists, who study the economic, social and cultural values of biodiversity

Making a difference

As a society, we all share responsibility for the protection of biodiversity. The choices we make every day have an effect on the planet. Do you purchase products with limited packaging? Do you recycle? Do you avoid using fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and pesticides on your lawn? Do you choose native plants and heritage seeds for your yard? The answers to these questions will tell you how much you are doing for biodiversity.

Once you begin learning about biological diversity, you will start to notice the animals, plants and habitats that are part of everyday life. Then you can take action to help protect biodiversity.

Here are a few simple things that you and your family can do:

  • Compost -- make it a habit!
  • Use cloth bags when shopping and avoid plastic -- just plan ahead.
  • Carpool or use public transit -- consider alternatives!
  • Assist in wildlife surveys such as bird counts -- it can be educational.
  • Participate in national monitoring volunteer programs such as WormWatch, IceWatch, PlantWatch and FrogWatch -- it can be a fun activity to do with kids.
  • Install bird feeders -- you will love your new visitors in the backyard.
  • Get your school involved in the Green Wave Project and plant trees in your community -- talk to the people who can make a difference.
  • Buy certified fisheries and forestry products -- verify the products you buy.
  • Donate land through Environment Canada's Ecological Gifts Program (Ecogift) -- it really helps the environment!
  • Apply to Environment Canada's EcoAction Community Funding Program, the Invasive Alien Species Partnership Program or the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk to support conservation or restoration projects in your community -- you can have a bigger impact than you think!

Consult Environment Canada's website to find out more information about these activities or others that you could do to make a difference!

Fast fact

  • On average, Canadians throw away half a kilogram of plastic packaging per day.
  • One in every three bites of our food depends on pollination by bees and other insects.

Biodiversity - more Canadian contributions

With the help of the volunteer WormWatch program, 25 new earthworm species have been found and identified in Canada.

Through the Toronto Zoo's Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme, communities throughout Canada can adopt local wetlands and help to protect aquatic biodiversity.

Edmonton, Calgary and Montréal are participating with other cities from around the world in the Local Action for Biodiversity Program. For more information, visit the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) website.

Through the Ecogifts Program, 857 ecological gifts valued at almost $551 million have been donated across Canada as of January 2011, protecting over 137 700 hectares of wildlife habitat. Canadians are also very engaged with the Community Action Programs for the Environment, like the Habitat Stewardship Program and the EcoAction Community Funding Program. To learn more about these programs, visit websites Ecological gifts program and Community action programs.

All of the world's population of Ross' Geese nest in Canada, and of these, over 95% breed in the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Nunavut, one of Environment Canada's protected areas.

A portion of the Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Alberta is a designated national wildlife area that contains mixed grass prairie habitat, some sand dunes and other types of habitat. This area is home to 16 species at risk in Canada, including the Burrowing Owl and the Ferruginous Hawk.

Canada's 138 native tree species have provided substances for approximately 40 medical uses.

The Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve in Nova Scotia is home to over 30 species at risk, such as the Eastern Ribbon Snake, Southern Flying Squirrel, Monarch Butterfly, Blanding's Turtle, Atlantic Whitefish, Piping Plover, Atlantic Coastal Plain flora and rare lichens.

Each year, Canada's rivers discharge 7% of the world's renewable water supply at the rate of 105 000 cubic metres per second.

Almost 9% (891 163 km2) of Canada's total area is covered by freshwater.

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