Canadian species index

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Animal wildlife is one of the most visible and well-studied aspects of biodiversity. The Canadian species index shows whether monitored vertebrate species have increasing or decreasing population size trends over time. This, in turn, provides an integrated measure of the condition of our environment.

By species group

Key results

Between 1970 and 2016,

  • the population size of monitored vertebrate species declined by 4% on average
  • birds showed moderate change in average population size
  • the population size of monitored mammal and fish species decreased by 42% and 21% on average, respectively

Canadian species index, percentage change, 1970 to 2016

Canadian species index, 1970 to 2014 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Canadian species index, percentage change, 1970 to 2016
Year National index
(percent change)
Number of species Bird index
(percent change)
Number of bird species Mammal index
(percent change)
Number of mammal species Fish index
(percent change)
Number of fish species
1970 0.00 405 0.00 296 0.00 24 0.00 85
1971 0.89 424 0.56 305 -10.71 29 5.62 90
1972 1.55 426 1.20 309 -18.74 30 9.85 82
1973 1.82 442 1.90 312 -25.26 34 12.10 96
1974 1.55 474 2.64 335 -34.37 32 13.51 107
1975 1.51 471 3.42 346 -39.60 29 13.74 95
1976 1.48 479 4.22 346 -41.62 27 12.42 104
1977 1.65 486 5.09 349 -41.70 33 11.36 102
1978 2.27 485 5.93 351 -38.67 25 10.28 108
1979 2.95 490 6.67 351 -35.94 26 9.92 113
1980 3.65 498 7.32 352 -32.17 28 9.57 117
1981 4.30 499 7.91 353 -28.14 26 9.12 118
1982 4.25 505 8.40 354 -29.11 27 8.50 121
1983 4.27 519 8.75 363 -30.83 26 8.10 127
1984 4.91 546 9.97 360 -32.04 29 8.01 154
1985 5.42 533 11.17 366 -33.46 30 8.38 129
1986 5.68 539 12.40 365 -34.53 29 6.96 138
1987 4.61 566 12.13 362 -35.88 38 4.30 158
1988 3.95 531 12.36 362 -34.77 32 1.32 130
1989 3.20 563 12.58 363 -33.41 38 -1.97 154
1990 3.00 552 12.83 366 -31.80 47 -4.79 127
1991 2.68 576 13.07 368 -30.62 42 -6.77 153
1992 2.44 566 13.24 372 -30.50 41 -7.95 140
1993 2.66 598 13.26 372 -30.91 47 -7.00 165
1994 3.28 594 13.11 374 -32.02 51 -4.02 153
1995 3.49 591 12.88 376 -30.41 56 -2.84 140
1996 3.48 583 12.52 371 -26.66 51 -3.01 140
1997 3.33 572 12.09 372 -23.57 58 -4.37 120
1998 2.41 604 11.56 372 -24.19 55 -6.24 155
1999 1.67 578 10.96 371 -25.91 60 -7.46 121
2000 1.13 603 10.29 375 -27.02 57 -8.05 147
2001 0.82 588 9.91 374 -28.78 60 -7.99 132
2002 0.24 614 9.18 373 -30.09 56 -8.70 159
2003 -0.28 653 8.33 374 -29.83 49 -9.04 203
2004 -0.90 660 8.31 376 -27.76 51 -12.20 207
2005 -1.07 678 8.55 381 -25.41 48 -13.55 226
2006 -0.89 662 9.05 372 -23.53 43 -13.80 224
2007 -0.58 679 9.69 382 -21.95 43 -14.13 243
2008 -0.57 658 10.47 384 -21.80 36 -14.98 232
2009 -0.24 649 11.22 384 -22.66 36 -14.90 221
2010 -0.16 653 11.87 382 -25.03 41 -14.91 223
2011 -0.19 645 12.35 383 -28.70 37 -14.73 219
2012 -1.20 645 12.58 381 -35.71 27 -16.01 232
2013 -2.85 590 12.48 364 -38.59 31 -18.86 191
2014 -4.12 605 12.45 364 -41.72 26 -21.03 212
2015 -4.83 562 12.44 346 -42.59 9 -22.51 205
2016 -4.39 530 12.45 345 -41.56 20 -21.48 164

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Note: Trends are calculated based on the proportional change in population size for monitored vertebrate species. All species are weighted equally, such that a species that doubled in population would be balanced out by a species that declined by half. The vertical axis is scaled to reflect the change in population required to balance out the opposite decrease or increase and is not symmetrical around zero. Direct comparisons with the previous version of the index cannot be made as there are differences across the whole time-series. See Recent changes.
Source: Zoological Society of London (2019).

The national index includes 913 species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The number of species represents 51% of the 1 779 native vertebrate species that regularly occur in Canada.Footnote 1  While there is an overall decrease in the national average trend across all monitored species, some species are increasing while others are decreasing.

The bird index includes 393 species, and represents the largest number of species in the indicator. This accounts for 87% of native bird species. While the average change in bird species populations is moderately positive, populations of shorebirds, grassland birds and aerial insectivores are in steep decline,Footnote 2  as are some of Canada's most common bird species (such as the Dark-eyed Junco, a forest bird).Footnote 3

The fish index includes 367 species of freshwater and marine fish, and accounts for 35% of native fish species.

The mammal index includes 106 species, which make up 55% of native mammal species. Fragmentation and loss of remaining habitat are threatening many mammal species. A wide range of species, from large bears to small squirrels, can have difficulty surviving in isolated and fragmented habitats.Footnote 4 

Amphibians and reptiles are included in the national Canadian species index. However, given the poor geographical extent and coverage across the reporting period, the index for amphibians and reptiles may not be representative and is therefore not shown separately. Amphibians and reptiles have a high proportion of species at risk of extinction. The Status of wild species indicator shows that 68% (30 of 44) of reptile species and 36% (17 of 47) of amphibian species are at risk of disappearing.

By system

Key results

Wildlife species can be assigned to the terrestrial, freshwater or marine system based on the location where the species was monitored and the species' biology. From 1970 to 2016,

  • the index for the terrestrial system, which includes the majority of bird and mammal populations,
    and some reptiles and amphibians, decreased by 9%
  • the index for the marine system, which includes the majority of fish populations, mammals (such as whales and seals), birds (such as terns) and 1 reptile (the leatherback turtle), decreased by 12%
  • the index for the freshwater system, which includes birds (such as waterfowl), 2 mammals (beaver and river otter), fish, and the majority of amphibian and reptile populations, increased by 39%

Canadian species index by system, percentage change, 1970 to 2016

Canadian species index, 1970 to 2014 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Canadian species index by system, percentage change from 1970 to 2016
Year Terrestrial index
(percent change)
Number of terrestrial species Freshwater index
(percent change)
Number of freshwater species Marine index
(percent change)
Number of marine species
1970 0.00 244 0.00 67 0.00 95
1971 -0.89 252 2.81 71 5.05 103
1972 -1.83 255 4.53 75 9.62 97
1973 -2.78 259 5.16 74 12.92 110
1974 -4.38 278 5.42 73 15.51 124
1975 -5.05 282 5.64 78 16.71 112
1976 -5.01 281 5.24 79 16.59 120
1977 -4.57 285 5.05 79 16.17 123
1978 -3.62 281 6.32 76 15.47 129
1979 -2.89 283 7.94 77 15.39 131
1980 -2.00 284 9.72 83 15.20 132
1981 -1.15 285 11.86 83 14.66 132
1982 -1.33 285 13.80 80 13.76 141
1983 -1.35 293 15.35 83 12.95 144
1984 -0.19 288 16.16 85 12.42 174
1985 0.51 294 17.01 86 12.68 154
1986 1.51 294 18.01 90 11.62 157
1987 1.28 296 17.78 90 8.93 181
1988 1.39 287 18.29 91 6.59 155
1989 1.65 295 18.50 93 3.87 176
1990 1.93 304 21.58 97 1.49 152
1991 1.94 304 22.95 95 -0.08 178
1992 1.65 304 25.03 109 -1.27 154
1993 1.05 309 28.39 106 -1.22 185
1994 -0.01 313 32.85 118 0.17 164
1995 -0.62 317 35.10 117 0.75 158
1996 -0.57 308 33.79 118 1.35 158
1997 -0.77 316 32.27 122 2.02 135
1998 -2.11 312 31.06 126 2.05 167
1999 -3.85 319 31.84 121 2.21 139
2000 -4.94 318 32.59 122 2.09 163
2001 -5.96 316 34.29 130 2.15 143
2002 -6.74 316 35.56 141 0.88 157
2003 -7.04 309 35.51 142 -0.32 204
2004 -6.94 312 34.83 133 -2.07 218
2005 -6.68 312 33.42 131 -2.28 240
2006 -6.47 302 33.88 138 -2.49 226
2007 -6.17 302 34.80 120 -2.62 268
2008 -6.03 295 35.50 132 -3.19 241
2009 -5.97 294 36.06 122 -2.83 242
2010 -6.19 293 36.89 126 -2.88 241
2011 -6.66 292 37.62 120 -2.92 244
2012 -7.65 290 38.14 130 -4.68 233
2013 -8.30 287 37.61 99 -7.93 209
2014 -8.74 286 37.88 109 -10.60 214
2015 -8.84 267 38.47 96 -12.38 200
2016 -8.79 275 39.43 67 -11.52 192

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.25 kB)

Note: Trends are calculated based on the proportional change in population size for monitored vertebrate species. All species are weighted equally, such that a species that doubled in population would be balanced out by a species that declined by half. The vertical axis is scaled to reflect the change in population required to balance out the opposite decrease or increase and is not symmetrical around zero.
Source: Zoological Society of London (2019).

The decrease in the terrestrial and marine systems indices are comparable to the decrease in the national index. The freshwater system index increased by 39% primarily due to increases in freshwater birds. Freshwater birds, such as ducks, geese and swans, increased by 62% from 1970 to 2016.

About the indicator

About the indicator

What the indicator measures

The Canadian species index represents the average percent change in the sizes of Canadian vertebrate species' populations since 1970. The index is an "average of trends", rather than a measure of change in the total number of animals: each species, whether it is common or rare, has the same effect on the index. The index reports general trends rather than progress towards desired levels.

Why this indicator is important

Animal wildlife populations depend on healthy habitats and can be negatively impacted by threats such as pollution or hunting. Trends in animal populations are a good proxy measure of overall trends in biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Nature icon

Healthy wildlife populations

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the following 2019 to 2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goal: All species have healthy and viable populations.

The indicator also contributes towards reporting on Target 2 of the 2020 Biodiversity goals and targets for Canada: "By 2020, species that are secure remain secure, and populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans."

Related indicators

The Species at risk population trends indicator shows whether population and distribution trends of species at risk that are listed under the Species at Risk Act are consistent with recovery or management objectives.

The Status of wild species indicator reports extinction risks across a broad set of species and can reveal early signs of trouble before species reach a critical condition.

The Trends in Canada's bird populations indicator reports average population trends of various groups of native Canadian bird species.

The Population status of Canada's migratory birds indicator provides a snapshot of the general state of birds in Canada that are listed in the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Data sources and methods

Data sources and methods

Data sources

Data on changes in the size of vertebrate populations are gathered from a variety of sources and collated in the Living Planet Index database by the Zoological Society of London. Sources include the peer-reviewed scientific literature, government reports, and reliable online databases. Examples of important sources for Canada include the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Library.

More information

Population data were gathered from the literature, by performing online searches and by contacting experts. Birds have been monitored at the national level since about 1970 with high-quality data readily available for this species group. Fewer data are available for other species groups. To help address the imbalance in the data available for the different species groups, targeted searches were carried out for under-represented groups. Searches were also conducted to locate data for under-represented regions.

Data include counts of individuals, as well as proxy measurements such as indices of abundance, spawning density, or detection rates of individuals. Each record is also tagged with geographical and ecological information to allow for further analysis. Together, these records form the data set used to calculate the indices.

Information for 913 (51%) of the 1 779 native regularly occurring vertebrate species has been captured in the data set.Footnote 5  Birds are the best represented species group, with about 87% of all bird species regularly occurring in Canada represented.

While many fish species are included (367 species), they account for only 35% of the total number of fish species regularly occurring in Canada.

While mammal species are included (106 species), they account for only 55% of the total number of mammal species regularly occurring in Canada.

Amphibians and reptiles are the least represented species group, as the data for the species regularly occurring in Canada have poor geographical coverage across the reporting period.

The index has been calculated for the period 1970 to 2016, the time period where sufficient data exist for credible estimates.

Methods

The trend in the population size of each species is estimated using all the information available for that particular species. This may include measurements from just one site/location, or measurements from a combination of sites/locations for the same species. These trends are averaged across all species to generate the Canadian species index.

The Canadian species index is broadly similar to the Living Planet Index. The Living Planet Index for Canada uses the same methods as the Canadian species index and reports different sub-indices.Footnote 6 

More information

Data collection and tagging

To be included in this index, a time series, drawn from Canadian data contained in the Living Planet Index database must meet all of the following criteria:

  • contain data for at least 2 points in time since 1970
  • have been collected for a defined population using comparable methods across years
  • use units of population size or a reliable proxy, such as spawning biomass or density
  • have a referenced and traceable source

Each time series is referred to as a "population."

Each record is tagged with contextual information such as geographical region, species group and habitat type. Data tags allow a subset of the database to be extracted for targeted analysis. Information for these tags is drawn from the original data source if possible; however, additional reference material is also used. Species that occur in more than one system type (terrestrial, freshwater or marine) are tagged as belonging to the system in which they were observed and on which they rely on for at least part of their life cycle. For example, a time series containing the number of salmon spawning in rivers would be considered freshwater, while one containing observations at sea would be considered marine. These 2 time series would be considered different populations even though they may constitute the same population in the biological sense of the term.

Preprocessing

Species selection

Data for the overall index were restricted to vertebrate species that regularly occur in Canada. Classification was based on the Wild Species 2015 report. Species that were classified as "Not Applicable" were not included in the dataset as this classification is reserved for species that are not considered a suitable target for conservation. This includes exotic, hybrid or accidental species occurring infrequently and unpredictably in Canada. Species classified as "Presumed Extirpated" or "Probably Extirpated" were also excluded from the dataset, since they no longer occur in Canada.

Increasing population sizes are generally interpreted as a sign of environmental improvement. However, a few bird species are known to have a population size that is above acceptable bounds (see Population status of Canada's migratory birds), and for these species, an increase in population is a negative outcome. Three (3) species, Snow Goose (both subspecies), Ross's Goose and Canada Goose, have been excluded from the index for this reason.Footnote 7

Species whose scientific name could not be matched to the taxonomic authorities used in the Living Planet Database were also excluded.

Population modelling

For each population, a record of abundance over time is created. Modelling is used to reduce the effect of random variations and measurement noise. For time series containing at least 6 data points, trends were modelled using Generalized Additive Modelling. For shorter time series, and for any series that could not be modelled with Generalized Additive Modelling, a linear regression model was used. For time series with only 2 data values, this is equivalent to a straight line connecting the 2 points. Time series are not extrapolated beyond the start and end date of observations.

In some years and for some time series, a 0 was recorded. In a few cases, this may be due to a local extinction, but more often, it is because wildlife are not observed. A failure to observe wildlife may be because there are few wildlife to observe, which is a genuine signal of low numbers. It could also mean that wildlife were simply not detected. When this happens, for example, if unusual weather conditions made movement patterns unpredictable; then a 0 would represent a missing value. For the purposes of the indicator, 0's have been treated as missing values, resulting in a conservative estimate of change. 

Calculation of the index

Trends within a time series

For each time series, proportional change dt is calculated for each year for which data exist, as follows:

dt = log10(Nt /N(t-1))

where:

Nt = modelled population size estimate in year t

N(t-1) = modelled population size estimate in year t-1

Index calculation

  • For species with more than 1 time series, the average proportional change (lambda, λ) is calculated for each year across all time series (including all subspecies) for that species. Formally, for species i in year t:
Index calculation

where:

λi,t = average proportional change for species i in year t

di,j,t = proportional change for time series j, for species i in year t

m = number of time series for species i in year t

        For a species with only 1 time series, λi,t = di,t

  • The overall annual change is calculated as the average lambda across all species with data for that time step. In other words, the index for 2014 is the average λi for all species with population estimates in 2013 and 2014. Species are weighted equally, regardless of data availability.
  • The index for a particular year is the sum of annual changes since 1970.

Percentage changes are calculated by taking the antilog of the index.

Sub-indices are calculated using the same methodology, but for a selected subset of species or populations.

Assessment of uncertainty

The degree of variability within the species-level lambdas (λ) for a given year provides an indication of whether trends are similar across the species included in the index. A narrow interval means that most species are changing by similar proportions, while a wide interval means that there is a wide range of patterns. Because indexed species are not a random or representative selection of the species in the environment, this can only be a partial assessment of uncertainty. The uncertainty due to a non-representative sample of species cannot be measured.

Distribution of species-level lambda values, national and by system, 1970 to 2016

Distribution of species-level lambda values, 1970 to 2014 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Distribution of species-level lambda values, national and by system, 1970 to 2016
Year National index, average lambda National index, standard deviation National index, number of species Terrestrial index, average lambda Terrestrial index, standard deviation Terrestrial index, number of species Freshwater index, average lambda Freshwater index, standard deviation Freshwater index, number of species Marine index, average lambda Marine index, standard deviation Marine index, number of species
1970 n/a n/a 405 n/a n/a 244 n/a n/a 67 n/a n/a 95
1971 0.00383 0.05820 424 -0.00388 0.05216 252 0.01205 0.08182 71 0.02138 0.07060 103
1972 0.00282 0.05439 426 -0.00413 0.05278 255 0.00720 0.06130 75 0.01853 0.06156 97
1973 0.00119 0.05226 442 -0.00424 0.05156 259 0.00263 0.03475 74 0.01286 0.06146 110
1974 -0.00116 0.05203 474 -0.00721 0.05547 278 0.00105 0.02569 73 0.00983 0.05572 124
1975 -0.00017 0.04846 471 -0.00304 0.04894 282 0.00089 0.02660 78 0.00448 0.05785 112
1976 -0.00013 0.04418 479 0.00018 0.04058 281 -0.00165 0.03919 79 -0.00042 0.05423 120
1977 0.00073 0.04892 486 0.00201 0.04976 285 -0.00075 0.04128 79 -0.00157 0.05239 123
1978 0.00264 0.04329 485 0.00428 0.03916 281 0.00520 0.03520 76 -0.00264 0.05447 129
1979 0.00284 0.03654 490 0.00331 0.02975 283 0.00656 0.03180 77 -0.00028 0.04850 131
1980 0.00298 0.03612 498 0.00393 0.03346 284 0.00712 0.02509 83 -0.00072 0.04495 132
1981 0.00271 0.03767 499 0.00378 0.03471 285 0.00839 0.02781 83 -0.00202 0.04665 132
1982 -0.00024 0.04455 505 -0.00083 0.04282 285 0.00748 0.03010 80 -0.00343 0.05305 141
1983 0.00009 0.04387 519 -0.00006 0.04116 293 0.00586 0.03128 83 -0.00313 0.05352 144
1984 0.00265 0.05002 546 0.00508 0.05388 288 0.00303 0.03411 85 -0.00202 0.04972 174
1985 0.00213 0.04745 533 0.00301 0.05417 294 0.00316 0.03783 86 0.00100 0.04152 154
1986 0.00107 0.04961 539 0.00430 0.04813 294 0.00373 0.04740 90 -0.00412 0.05617 157
1987 -0.00444 0.05141 566 -0.00097 0.02524 296 -0.00088 0.04430 90 -0.01060 0.07944 181
1988 -0.00273 0.04692 531 0.00049 0.03775 287 0.00189 0.03447 91 -0.00941 0.06276 155
1989 -0.00314 0.04537 563 0.00109 0.03507 295 0.00079 0.02985 93 -0.01123 0.06155 176
1990 -0.00084 0.05022 552 0.00123 0.03315 304 0.01114 0.07134 97 -0.01008 0.05618 152
1991 -0.00137 0.04477 576 0.00002 0.04232 304 0.00485 0.04695 95 -0.00677 0.04673 178
1992 -0.00102 0.04143 566 -0.00121 0.03860 304 0.00728 0.03288 109 -0.00519 0.04865 154
1993 0.00093 0.05609 598 -0.00261 0.03407 309 0.01153 0.08248 106 0.00022 0.06304 185
1994 0.00262 0.06310 594 -0.00457 0.04906 313 0.01481 0.09348 118 0.00609 0.05927 164
1995 0.00087 0.04750 591 -0.00267 0.03193 317 0.00730 0.06559 117 0.00250 0.05634 158
1996 -0.00002 0.05793 583 0.00025 0.04017 308 -0.00423 0.07340 118 0.00256 0.07106 158
1997 -0.00065 0.04902 572 -0.00089 0.03884 316 -0.00498 0.06264 122 0.00286 0.05431 135
1998 -0.00387 0.05602 604 -0.00588 0.04171 312 -0.00399 0.08041 126 0.00016 0.05594 167
1999 -0.00316 0.05015 578 -0.00780 0.04055 319 0.00258 0.06676 121 0.00065 0.05149 139
2000 -0.00231 0.04434 603 -0.00496 0.03643 318 0.00246 0.05378 122 -0.00051 0.04966 163
2001 -0.00133 0.05572 588 -0.00469 0.03278 316 0.00554 0.05914 130 0.00025 0.08098 143
2002 -0.00252 0.05026 614 -0.00361 0.03216 316 0.00411 0.04855 141 -0.00540 0.07412 157
2003 -0.00225 0.08376 653 -0.00138 0.03631 309 -0.00016 0.13959 142 -0.00523 0.08582 204
2004 -0.00271 0.06920 660 0.00045 0.03459 312 -0.00220 0.06421 133 -0.00770 0.10338 218
2005 -0.00071 0.05989 678 0.00121 0.02605 312 -0.00455 0.06355 131 -0.00090 0.08434 240
2006 0.00077 0.05340 662 0.00096 0.02513 302 0.00149 0.07581 138 -0.00095 0.06525 226
2007 0.00134 0.04112 679 0.00141 0.02152 302 0.00295 0.05047 120 -0.00054 0.05383 268
2008 0.00005 0.04743 658 0.00064 0.02171 295 0.00225 0.04565 132 -0.00256 0.06597 241
2009 0.00142 0.04829 649 0.00031 0.02402 294 0.00181 0.05829 122 0.00160 0.06161 242
2010 0.00034 0.04891 653 -0.00102 0.02755 293 0.00264 0.05550 126 -0.00021 0.06249 241
2011 -0.00013 0.05143 645 -0.00220 0.03028 292 0.00231 0.04687 120 -0.00020 0.07010 244
2012 -0.00441 0.05928 645 -0.00461 0.04093 290 0.00162 0.04686 130 -0.00790 0.07902 233
2013 -0.00727 0.05772 590 -0.00311 0.03242 287 -0.00167 0.04551 99 -0.01506 0.08088 209
2014 -0.00573 0.05654 605 -0.00205 0.02970 286 0.00088 0.03874 109 -0.01280 0.08106 214
2015 -0.00324 0.05121 562 -0.00048 0.03008 267 0.00183 0.04578 96 -0.00872 0.07010 200
2016 0.00204 0.04533 530 0.00025 0.03279 275 0.00302 0.03176 63 0.00421 0.06142 192

Note: n/a = not applicable.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 4.69 kB)

Note: The dots show the average annual lambda across all species; vertical bars show the standard deviation of average annual lambda across all species.
Source: Zoological Society of London (2019).

Distribution of species-level lambda values, species group, 1970 to 2016

Distribution of species-level lambda values, 1970 to 2014 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Distribution of species-level lambda values, species group, 1970 to 2016
Year Bird index, average lambda Bird index, standard deviation Bird index, number of species Mammal index, average lambda Mammal index, standard deviation Mammal index, number of species Fish index, average lambda Fish index, standard deviation Fish index, number of species Reptile and amphibian index, average lambda Reptile and amphibian, standard deviation Reptile and amphibian, number of species
1970 n/a n/a 296 n/a n/a 24 n/a n/a 85 n/a n/a no data
1971 0.00241 0.02996 305 -0.04918 0.13283 29 0.02375 0.08424 90 n/a n/a no data
1972 0.00276 0.02902 309 -0.04095 0.12219 30 0.01704 0.07033 82 n/a n/a 5
1973 0.00301 0.02822 312 -0.03630 0.11754 34 0.00882 0.06726 96 -0.00469 0.01304 0
1974 0.00316 0.02733 335 -0.05646 0.12253 32 0.00544 0.05721 107 -0.00469 0.01304 0
1975 0.00329 0.02742 346 -0.03610 0.11397 29 0.00087 0.05937 95 -0.00469 0.01304 1
1976 0.00335 0.02622 346 -0.01472 0.09968 27 -0.00507 0.05879 104 -0.02763 0.05739 2
1977 0.00360 0.02555 349 -0.00062 0.13466 33 -0.00411 0.05473 102 -0.05254 0.08420 2
1978 0.00344 0.02486 351 0.02197 0.09832 25 -0.00426 0.05869 108 -0.00469 0.01304 1
1979 0.00301 0.02373 351 0.01894 0.05981 26 -0.00140 0.05358 113 -0.00232 0.01302 1
1980 0.00264 0.02205 352 0.02484 0.07681 28 -0.00138 0.04765 117 -0.00232 0.01302 2
1981 0.00239 0.02070 353 0.02505 0.08533 26 -0.00179 0.05072 118 0.00206 0.01499 3
1982 0.00196 0.02026 354 -0.00589 0.10430 27 -0.00248 0.05953 121 -0.04480 0.12127 3
1983 0.00140 0.02063 363 -0.01068 0.11062 26 -0.00162 0.06012 127 0.01417 0.04175 3
1984 0.00484 0.04344 360 -0.00765 0.08500 29 -0.00034 0.05583 154 -0.00271 0.02227 8
1985 0.00474 0.04300 366 -0.00920 0.05254 30 0.00149 0.04685 129 -0.04859 0.12987 7
1986 0.00475 0.04281 365 -0.00700 0.04694 29 -0.00572 0.06218 138 0.00603 0.04988 8
1987 -0.00104 0.04642 362 -0.00905 0.04569 38 -0.01095 0.06241 158 -0.00290 0.03467 7
1988 0.00092 0.02249 362 0.00743 0.09042 32 -0.01259 0.06571 130 -0.00578 0.03202 8
1989 0.00083 0.02263 363 0.00897 0.07158 38 -0.01435 0.06633 154 -0.00909 0.02838 12
1990 0.00097 0.02104 366 0.01038 0.06713 47 -0.01265 0.05988 127 0.06451 0.18152 13
1991 0.00091 0.01876 368 0.00743 0.09489 42 -0.00912 0.05106 153 0.00534 0.11790 13
1992 0.00066 0.01918 372 0.00075 0.08565 41 -0.00554 0.05275 140 0.00534 0.06283 14
1993 0.00006 0.02308 372 -0.00254 0.06749 47 0.00444 0.08872 165 -0.00929 0.07872 16
1994 -0.00057 0.02371 374 -0.00703 0.10826 51 0.01370 0.08783 153 -0.02330 0.13241 19
1995 -0.00088 0.02260 376 0.01015 0.05857 56 0.00533 0.07471 140 -0.03138 0.09135 21
1996 -0.00137 0.02133 371 0.02280 0.07849 51 -0.00077 0.08182 140 -0.03077 0.12852 22
1997 -0.00169 0.02134 372 0.01792 0.07480 58 -0.00613 0.07558 120 0.00206 0.03809 22
1998 -0.00203 0.02228 372 -0.00354 0.07247 55 -0.00859 0.07511 155 -0.00247 0.13914 26
1999 -0.00237 0.02317 371 -0.00996 0.06558 60 -0.00567 0.06250 121 0.01459 0.12944 24
2000 -0.00263 0.02269 375 -0.00656 0.06643 57 -0.00277 0.06431 147 0.01483 0.05636 22
2001 -0.00148 0.04699 374 -0.01059 0.06372 60 0.00027 0.06975 132 0.01576 0.05409 26
2002 -0.00290 0.03044 373 -0.00807 0.06064 56 -0.00337 0.07495 159 0.02319 0.05813 27
2003 -0.00341 0.03841 374 0.00158 0.07285 49 -0.00160 0.13777 203 0.00219 0.12631 26
2004 -0.00006 0.02107 376 0.01265 0.06812 51 -0.01536 0.11135 207 0.02273 0.08651 23
2005 0.00094 0.02071 381 0.01391 0.07689 48 -0.00675 0.09102 226 -0.00714 0.04999 23
2006 0.00200 0.01974 372 0.01081 0.04178 43 -0.00124 0.08121 224 -0.01994 0.06699 11
2007 0.00255 0.01856 382 0.00889 0.03894 43 -0.00166 0.06018 243 -0.00072 0.02613 6
2008 0.00307 0.02491 384 0.00085 0.05302 36 -0.00435 0.06635 232 0.00731 0.03113 8
2009 0.00295 0.02588 384 -0.00481 0.05809 36 0.00042 0.06653 221 0.00144 0.05920 7
2010 0.00253 0.02642 382 -0.01352 0.06120 41 -0.00003 0.06598 223 -0.00769 0.08619 6
2011 0.00187 0.02746 383 -0.02182 0.08862 37 0.00088 0.06575 219 -0.00070 0.07243 5
2012 0.00088 0.02866 381 -0.04493 0.11187 27 -0.00653 0.07590 232 0.03154 0.03578 4
2013 -0.00040 0.02541 364 -0.01990 0.06814 31 -0.01500 0.08166 191 -0.01140 0.10135 3
2014 -0.00011 0.02578 364 -0.02276 0.06047 26 -0.01180 0.08192 212 -0.00670 0.05906 2
2015 -0.00005 0.02843 346 -0.00655 0.04247 9 -0.00822 0.07388 205 0.02471 0.02207 1
2016 0.00006 0.03083 345 0.00779 0.04896 20 0.00574 0.06616 164 0.00955 n/a 1

Note: No species data was available for reptiles and amphibians for 1970 and 1971. n/a = not applicable.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 4.57 kB)

Note: The dots show the average annual lambda across all species; vertical bars show the standard deviation of average annual lambda across all species.
Source: Zoological Society of London (2019).

Recent changes

The previous version used the Wild Species 2005 and 2010 reports to determine regularly occurring vertebrate species in Canada. The current release uses the Wild Species 2015 report.Footnote 8  The number of regularly occurring species differs between the 2 versions of the indicator, because one of the goals of the Wild Species report series is to continually increase the number of species assessed until coverage is complete.

The vertical axes on the graphs in Figure 1 and 2 are labelled with the average percent change, whereas the previous version was labelled with the index of change.

The vertical axes were scaled to reflect the change in population required to balance out the opposite decrease or increase and are not symmetrical around zero. For example, a population that has increased by 100% must decrease by 50% to return to its original size.

Many of the indices for monitored bird populations use the same raw data included in the State of Canada's Birds 2019 report, and were estimated using an updated population trend model. This updated population trend model uses a Generalized Additive Mixed model structure and provides a method of smoothing the temporal change, with limited assumptions about the pattern of population change.

Finally, new data for earlier time periods continue to be added to the database, improving estimates of change over time. For these reasons, direct comparisons with the previous version of the index cannot be made.

Caveats and limitations

The Canadian species index was developed from the Living Planet Index. The methodology for the Canadian species index has been improved and revised, so the 2 indices are not comparable.

The national trend is the average rate of change across all monitored vertebrate species. The indices may reflect changes in data availability. Data are not available for all species and do not always cover the geographic range of each species or the whole time period reported.

The indices may reflect changes in the trend due to real environmental change or because species with a different trajectory have been added to the index. Often, these 2 factors are both present.

The index uses previously collected data. It is therefore biased towards certain species (for example, species that are easy to observe, species that are managed for human use or for conservation, and species with aesthetic appeal). Birds are well represented, but most other vertebrate groups are not. Some species are represented by data that come from a local study involving a small part of the total population. While there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the trends for these species, combining data for many species leads to more interpretable results.

The index should be interpreted with these limitations in mind.

There are similarities with the Canadian species index and the indicators used in the State of Canada’s Birds report, in that both are averages of trends. However, there are also differences, as the Canadian species index for birds includes a slightly different set of species and data sources, and does not incorporate estimates of uncertainty in the data.

The Canadian species index does not measure the change in the total number of birds or other species groups. By contrast, a recent scientific study showed an overall decline in birds because it was much more sensitive to changes in populations of abundant species than changes in rare species, and many of our most abundant species have declined (for example, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow).Footnote 3

More information

The Canadian species index has been developed from the Living Planet Index, originally conceived by the World Wildlife Fund and now developed in partnership with the Zoological Society of London. The index is based on a peer-reviewed method that can integrate many types of population measurements.Footnote 9 Footnote

The index is descriptive. Because the underlying data have been collected for other purposes, the set of species contained in the index has unknown sampling biases. For this reason, it does not meet the requirement for randomized sampling that is necessary for traditional statistical hypothesis testing, and changes in the index cannot be tested for statistical significance. Trends in the index provides an indication of trends in the environment, and can be used to identify where additional analysis or information is required.

Averaging trends across all populations within each species can obscure important variability among subspecies, varieties or geographic regions. Averaging trends across species may also obscure important information. Analysis of different parts of the dataset can help uncover these patterns.

Population size measurements always include some uncertainty, because not every individual animal can be found and counted at every sampling interval. The effect of uncertainty in measurement cannot be separated from genuine changes in population size. Random variability may lead to a few more or less individuals being counted. If this variability leads to a large proportional change, as is the case when the average number of individuals found is small, the resulting uncertainty in the index can be large. However, uncertainty does average out over longer time series and over species. For this reason, interpretation of small subsets of data must be done with an understanding of the context of the biology of the species that are included and the strengths and weaknesses of the monitoring protocols.

Only vertebrate species are included in the index, because they are the only group with sufficient population-level data. Invertebrates and plants tend to be monitored using area of occurrence, a type of data not readily integrated into the index.

Ressources

Resources

References

Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (2006) Wild Species 2005: The General Status of Species in Canada. National General Status Working Group. Retrieved in May 2019.

Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (2011) Wild Species 2010: The General Status of Species in Canada. National General Status Working Group. Retrieved in May 2019.

Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (2016) Wild Species 2015: The General Status of Species in Canada. National General Status Working Group. Retrieved in May 2019.

Collen B, Loh J, Whitmee S, McRae L, Amin R and Baillie JEM (2009) Monitoring Change in Vertebrate Abundance: the Living Planet Index. Conservation Biology 23(2): 317-327.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative Canada (2019) The State of Canada's Birds 2019. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Retrieved in June 2019.

Rosenberg KV, Dokter AM, Blancher PJ, Sauer JR, Smith AC, Smith PA, Stanton JC, Panjabi A, Helft L, Parr M, Marra PP (2019) Decline of the North American avifauna. Science 366(6461): 120-124. Retrieved on November 1, 2019.

WWF-Canada (2017) Living Planet Report Canada. Retrieved in May 2019.

Related information

Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI)

Living Planet Index for Canada

Living Planet Report 2018

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