Canada's conserved areas

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Well-managed conserved areas help preserve species and their habitats for present and future generations by reducing direct human development stresses. The indicators report proportions of Canada's territory conserved through protected areas and other conservation measures.

National

National conserved areas

Key results

  • As of the end of 2018
    • 11.2% of Canada's terrestrial area (land and freshwater) was conserved, including 10.9% in protected areas
    • 7.9% of its marine territory was conserved, including 3.1% in protected areas
  • The terrestrial area conserved has increased by 66% in the last 20 years, and by 6% in the last 5 years
  • The marine area conserved has increased by a factor of more than 16 in the last 20 years, and by more than 5 times in the last 5 years

Proportion of area conserved, Canada, 1990 to 2018

Trends in proportion of protected and other conserved areas, Canada, 1990 to 2017 (see data table for the long description)
Data table for the long description
Proportion of area conserved, Canada, 1990 to 2018
Year Terrestrial area protected
(square kilometres)
Percentage of terrestrial area protected Terrestrial area conserved
(square kilometres)
Percentage of terrestrial area conserved Marine area protected
(square kilometres)
Percentage of marine area protected Marine area conserved
(square kilometres)
Percentage of marine area conserved
1990 548 696 5.5 n/a n/a 19 743 0.34 n/a n/a
1991 549 199 5.5 n/a n/a 19 762 0.34 n/a n/a
1992 564 526 5.7 n/a n/a 20 187 0.35 n/a n/a
1993 579 180 5.8 n/a n/a 20 428 0.36 n/a n/a
1994 582 690 5.8 n/a n/a 20 432 0.36 n/a n/a
1995 614 355 6.2 n/a n/a 22 200 0.39 n/a n/a
1996 631 965 6.3 n/a n/a 23 061 0.40 n/a n/a
1997 643 924 6.4 n/a n/a 23 082 0.40 n/a n/a
1998 672 972 6.7 n/a n/a 23 826 0.41 n/a n/a
1999 695 805 7.0 n/a n/a 24 059 0.42 n/a n/a
2000 705 589 7.1 n/a n/a 24 158 0.42 n/a n/a
2001 728 291 7.3 n/a n/a 24 190 0.42 n/a n/a
2002 735 669 7.4 n/a n/a 24 393 0.42 n/a n/a
2003 792 201 7.9 n/a n/a 27 593 0.48 n/a n/a
2004 801 893 8.0 n/a n/a 29 992 0.52 n/a n/a
2005 828 539 8.3 n/a n/a 31 411 0.55 n/a n/a
2006 835 218 8.4 n/a n/a 31 770 0.55 n/a n/a
2007 861 364 8.6 n/a n/a 31 963 0.56 n/a n/a
2008 912 880 9.1 n/a n/a 40 841 0.71 n/a n/a
2009 941 276 9.4 n/a n/a 41 396 0.72 n/a n/a
2010 948 814 9.5 n/a n/a 50 583 0.88 n/a n/a
2011 973 244 9.7 n/a n/a 50 669 0.88 n/a n/a
2012 989 785 9.9 n/a n/a 50 671 0.88 n/a n/a
2013 1 023 748 10.3 n/a n/a 51 318 0.89 n/a n/a
2014 1 025 742 10.3 n/a n/a 51 319 0.89 n/a n/a
2015 1 047 241 10.5 n/a n/a 52 665 0.92 n/a n/a
2016 1 050 014 10.5 n/a n/a 55 022 0.96 n/a n/a
2017 1 052 287 10.5 n/a n/a 168 256 2.9 443 007 7.7
2018 1 084 392 10.9 1 114 545 11.2 179 736 3.1 454 487 7.9

Note: n/a = not applicable. The terrestrial territory of Canada is 9 984 670 km2 and its marine territory is approximately 5 750 000 km2. Overlaps among protected areas and among areas conserved with other measures were corrected for. Terrestrial areas include land and freshwater. Protected areas include only areas recognized under the international definition. Conserved areas include protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures. For more information, please refer to the Data sources and methods. Other effective area-based conservation measures were first included in international protected areas targets in 2010. In Canada, marine areas conserved with other measures were first recognized in 2017. Terrestrial areas conserved with other measures were first recognized in 2018 under the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.92 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Terrestrial areas include land and freshwater. Protected areas include only areas recognized under the international definition. Conserved areas include protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures. For more information, please refer to the Data sources and methods. Terrestrial areas conserved with other measures were first recognized in 2018. Marine areas conserved with other measures were first recognized in 2017. Data are current as of December 31, 2018.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

Conserved areas include protected areas, as well as areas conserved with other measures (areas that do not meet the formal definition of protected area but are managed in a way that biodiversity is conserved). Both protected areas and areas conserved with other measures contribute to Canada's conservation network. Conserved areas are lands and waters where use is limited. In some cases, certain commercial activities and harvesting of biological resources may be allowed so long as biodiversity is conserved.

Areas conserved with other measures include marine refuges. These are long-term fisheries area closures identified as "other effective area-based conservation measures" as described in Aichi Target 11.

The distribution and size of conserved areas is variable. Larger terrestrial conserved areas tend to be located in northern Canada, where there is less intensive use of land for agriculture, settlement, and road networks. Larger marine conserved areas tend to be in offshore areas, where human uses are often less intense. In landscapes and seascapes with competing uses, conserved areas tend to be smaller but more numerous.

Conserved areas, Canada, 2018

Protected and other conserved areas, Canada, 2017 (see data table for the long description)
Long description

The map of Canada shows the distribution and size of terrestrial (land and freshwater) protected areas, terrestrial areas conserved wither other measures, marine protected areas and marine refuges in 2018.

Navigate data using the interactive map

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Data are current as of December 31, 2018.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

Terrestrial

Terrestrial conserved areas, by province and territory

Key results

  • The proportion of terrestrial area (land and freshwater) conserved varies by province and territory. It ranges from 3.6% in Prince Edward Island to 15.3% in British Columbia
  • Included in 2018, are
    • Edéhzhíe Indigenous Protected Area, which added 14 000 km2 of protect area in the Northwest Territories
    • Birch River Wildland Provincial Park, Kazan Wildland Provincial Park and Richardson Wildland Provincial Park, which added 11 000 km2 of protected area in Alberta
    • recognition of 30 000 km2 of conservation zones in the Sahtu Land Use plan in the Northwest Territories

Proportion of terrestrial area conserved, by province and territory, Canada, 2018

Total percentage of terrestrial area protected, by province and territory, Canada, 2017 (see data table for the long description)
Data table for the long description
Proportion of terrestrial area conserved, by province and territory, Canada, 2018
Province or territory
Provincial or territorial area
(square kilometres)
Protected area
(square kilometres)
Percentage of province or territory protected
Area conserved with other measures
(square kilometres)
Total area conserved
(square kilometres)
Percentage of province or territory conserved
British Columbia 944 735 144 850 15.3 2 144 852 15.3
Alberta 661 848 100 110 15.1 0 100 110 15.1
Northwest Territories 1 346 106 139 880 10.4 30 119 169 999 12.6
Nova Scotia 55 284 6 888 12.5 6 6 894 12.5
Yukon 482 443 56 334 11.7 0 56 334 11.7
Manitoba 647 797 71 141 11.0 0 71 141 11.0
Ontario 1 076 395 114 599 10.6 33 114 632 10.6
Nunavut 2 093 190 211 299 10.1 0 211 299 10.1
Quebec 1 512 418 151 554 10.0 0 151 554 10.0
Saskatchewan 651 036 56 115 8.6 0 56 115 8.6
Newfoundland and Labrador 405 212 28 110 6.9 0 28 110 6.9
New Brunswick 72 908 3 386 4.6 0 3 386 4.6
Prince Edward Island 5 660 202 3.6 0 202 3.6

Note: Total area conserved includes protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.35 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Terrestrial areas include land and freshwater. Conserved areas include protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures. Data are current as of December 31, 2018.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

As of the end of 2018, 15.3% of British Columbia's terrestrial area has been conserved. Alberta has 15.1% of its territory conserved. Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island each have less than 7% of their terrestrial territory conserved. The remaining provinces and territories have between 8% and 13% of their terrestrial territory conserved.

Each province has set aside areas for protection, and progress towards conservation targets varies by jurisdiction.

Terrestrial conserved areas, by jurisdiction

Key results

  • Provincial and territorial governments have jurisdiction over 57% of all terrestrial conserved areas
  • Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada are responsible for 30% and 11% of Canada's terrestrial conserved areas, respectively

Terrestrial conserved areas, by jurisdiction, Canada, 2018

Data table for the long description
Terrestrial conserved areas, by jurisdiction, Canada, 2018
Jurisdiction
Protected area
(square kilometres)
Area conserved with other measures
(square kilometres)
Total area conserved
(square kilometres)
Provincial subtotal 602 543 30 152 632 695
          Quebec 150 222 0 150 222
          British Columbia 138 738 0 138 738
          Ontario 101 191 33 101 224
          Manitoba 57 401 0 57 401
          Northwest Territories 23 895 30 119 54 013
          Saskatchewan 50 919 0 50 919
          Alberta 44 564 0 44 564
          Yukon 20 138 0 20 138
           Nova Scotia 5 485 0 5 485
          Newfoundland and Labrador 5 302 0 5 302
          New Brunswick 2 922 0 2 922
          Nunavut 1 590 0 1 590
          Prince Edward Island 177 0 177
National Capital Commission 462 0 462
Parks Canada 338 964 0 338 964
Environment and Climate Change Canada 119 086 2 119 088
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada 34 945 0 34 945
Correction for overlaps among jurisdictions -11 609 0 -11 609 
Grand total 1 084 392 30 154 1 114 545

Note: Total area conserved includes protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures. 

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.36 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Terrestrial areas include land and freshwater. Protected areas include only areas recognized under the international definition. Data are current as of December 31, 2018.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

Marine

Marine conserved areas, by jurisdiction

Key results

  • The largest proportion of conserved area is within marine refuges. As of 2018, marine refuges covered about 275 000 km2 of Canada's marine territory
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada are responsible for 65% and 27% of Canada's marine conserved areas, respectively
  • In 2018, Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area added 11 455 km2 of protected area under Environment and Climate Change Canada's jurisdiction

Marine conserved areas, by jurisdiction, Canada, 2018

Marine conserved areas, by jurisdiction, Canada, 2017 (see data table for the long description)
Data table for the long description
Marine conserved areas, by jurisdiction, Canada, 2018
Jurisdiction Protected area
(square kilometres)
Area conserved with other measures
(square kilometres)
Total area conserved
(square kilometres)
Provincial subtotal 10 277 0 10 277
          Quebec 5 375 0 5 375
          British Columbia 4 650 0 4 650
          Atlantic provinces 172 0 172
          Manitoba 80 0 80
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 19 526 274 912 294 438
Parks Canada 123 560 0 123 560
Environment and Climate Change Canada 31 187 0 31 187
Correction for overlaps among jurisdictions -4 814 -161 -4 975
Grand total 179 736 274 751 454 487

Note: Total area conserved includes protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures. 

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.02 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Marine refuges are geographic areas that conserve biodiversity, but do not meet the formal definition of protected areas. Data are current as of December 31, 2018.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

Conserved areas include both protected areas and areas conserved with other measures. Other conservation measures conserve biodiversity but are not recognized under the internationally accepted definition of a protected area. Marine refuges are long-term fisheries area closures that have been identified as areas conserved with other measures.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada each have specific but complementary mandates for establishing marine protected areas:

  • Oceans Act marine protected areas (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) are established to conserve marine species and their habitats, including for species that are fished, endangered or threatened marine species, as well as unique habitats and areas of high biological productivity or biodiversity
  • National marine conservation areas (Parks Canada) are established to conserve representative examples of Canada's natural and cultural marine heritage and provide opportunities for public education and enjoyment
  • National wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries (Environment and Climate Change Canada) are established to conserve habitat for a variety of wildlife including migratory birds and endangered species

Areas established by these departments, along with provincially established areas contribute to a conservation network. The primary goal of this network is to provide long-term protection of marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and special natural features.

The different jurisdictions protect areas for different purposes (see the Role of the Canadian Government in the Oceans Sector and the Role of the Provincial and Territorial Governments in the Oceans Sector), and control the amount of human activity (such as transportation, fishing or recreation) that is allowed. Marine conservation efforts include a wide range of management and stewardship activities. Examples include support for the recovery of species at risk, prevention and mitigation of the impact of aquatic invasive species, and strengthening of Canada's response to ship-source marine pollution.

Ecozones

Conserved areas, by ecological region

Ecozones are regions with distinct or characteristic ecological features, such as climate and vegetation. A representative conserved areas network will conserve biodiversity across all of Canada's ecozones.

Key results

  • Three (3) terrestrial ecozones, the Tundra Cordillera, the Pacific Maritime and the Arctic Cordillera, have more than 20% of their area protected
  • The Offshore Pacific and the Eastern Arctic both have more than 20% of their area conserved
  • 13% of the Canadian area of the Great Lakes is protected

Proportion of ecozones conserved, Canada, 2018

Percentage of conserved ecozones, Canada, 2017 (see data table for the long description)
Data table for the long description
Proportion of ecozones conserved, Canada, 2018
Ecozone name Ecozone code Ecozone area
(square kilometres)
Protected area
(square kilometres)
Percentage of region protected Area conserved with other measures
(square kilometres)
Total area conserved
(square kilometres)
Percentage of region conserved
Arctic Cordillera CL01 233 618 53 698 23.0 0 53 698 23.0
Northern Arctic CL02 1 481 480 105 596 7.1 0 105 596 7.1
Southern Arctic CL03 957 139 152 829 16.0 3 672 156 501 16.4
Taiga Plains CL04 554 014 52 401 9.5 14 928 67 329 12.2
Taiga Shield CL05 1 322 786 111 542 8.4 1 012 112 554 8.5
Boreal Shield CL06 1 897 362 180 593 9.5 0 180 593 9.5
Atlantic Maritime CL07 110 590 9 274 8.4 0 9 274 8.4
Mixedwood Plains CL08 116 206 2 191 1.9 0 2 191 1.9
Boreal Plains CL09 779 471 67 118 8.6 0 67 118 8.6
Prairies CL10 465 990 27 699 5.9 0 27 699 5.9
Montane Cordillera CL11 437 761 81 828 18.7 0 81 828 18.7
Pacific Maritime CL12 216 942 52 350 24.1 0 52 350 24.1
Boreal Cordillera CL13 557 937 96 583 17.3 0 96 583 17.3
Taiga Cordillera CL14 231 161 19 034 8.2 10 505 29 539 12.8
Hudson Plains CL15 350 693 43 758 12.5 0 43 758 12.5
Tundra Cordillera CL16 28 980 7 134 24.6 0 7 134 24.6
Atlantic Highlands CL17 93 017 3 780 4.1 0 3 780 4.1
Semi-Arid Plateaux CL18 56 434 5 271 9.3 0 5 271 9.3
Strait of Georgia CW19 8 969 426 4.8 29 455 5.1
Southern Shelf CW20 28 158 785 2.8 0 785 2.8
Offshore Pacific CW21 315 724 10 547 3.3 82 431 92 977 29.4
Northern Shelf CW22 101 663 16 684 16.4 0 16 684 16.4
Arctic Basin CW23 752 053 0 0 0 0 0
Western Arctic CW24 539 807 12 060 2.2 0 12 060 2.2
Arctic Archipelago CW25 268 792 3 610 1.3 0 3 610 1.3
Eastern Arctic CW26 782 636 115 088 14.7 58 767 173 855 22.2
Hudson Bay Complex CW27 1 244 670 8 700 0.70 0 8 700 0.70
Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves CW28 1 041 588 980 0.09 97 458 98 438 9.5
Scotian Shelf CW29 416 296 6 000 1.4 19 716 25 715 6.2
Gulf of Saint Lawrence CW30 246 648 4 851 2.0 16 351 21 201 8.6
Great Lakes CW31 88 250 11 674 13.2 0 11 674 13.2

Note: Total area conserved includes protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 2.25 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Conserved areas include protected areas as well as areas conserved with other measures. Data are current as of December 31, 2018.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database.

Terrestrial ecozones with high levels of urbanization and development or widespread agriculture tend to have small proportions of conserved area. For example, the Mixedwood Plains (southern Ontario and along the St. Lawrence River) has only 1.9% of its area protected and the Prairies has 6%. On the other hand, terrestrial ecozones with a high proportion of conserved area tend to be remote or have high recreation value. For example, ecozones in the western mountain ranges have 17% or more of their area protected.

Marine areas have not benefited from as long a tradition of conservation. Recent efforts have rapidly increased the amount of area conserved in some marine ecozones. Tallurutiup Imanga / Lancaster Sound in the Eastern Arctic is the largest marine protected area in Canada, increasing the proportion of the ecozone protected from around 1% to over 20%. Marine refuges in the Offshore Pacific, Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves, Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence have conserved more than 5% of each of these areas.

Each ecozone is unique, and conservation involves the inclusion of areas that are representative of different parts of the ecozone and sites of special value. Challenges to establishing conserved areas include competition from other uses, such as agriculture, industry or living space, and may be limited by the extent of ecologically intact areas within the ecozone.

About the indicators

About the indicators

What the indicators measure

These indicators report the amount and proportion of Canada's terrestrial (land and freshwater) and marine area that is conserved. This includes areas recognized under the international definitions of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. Land and/or water access and use within protected areas are controlled primarily for the purpose of conserving biodiversity, regardless of proprietary designation (for example, park, conservation area or wildlife reserve). Other effective area-based conservation measures are also managed over the long term in ways that result in the effective conservation of biodiversity.Footnote 1 However, they might have been established for other purposes.

Why these indicators are important

Well-managed conserved areas are one way to protect wild species and their habitats for present and future generations. Habitat conservation is a measure of human response to the loss of biodiversity and natural habitat. As the conserved area in Canada increases, more lands and waters are withdrawn from direct human development stresses, thereby contributing to biodiversity conservation and improving the health of ecosystems. In turn, healthy ecosystems provide benefits such as clean water, mitigation of climate change, pollination and improved human health.

Many countries use protected areas as the core of their programs to preserve biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services. The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, among them Canada, have set an aspirational target to conserve at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters, and 10% of marine areas, by 2020. This is the 11th of 20 targets collectively known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, established in October 2010.

G6

Healthy coasts and oceans

These indicators support the measurement of progress towards the following 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goals: coasts and oceans support healthy, resilient and productive ecosystems. They are used to assess progress towards the target: By 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

G8

Sustainably managed lands and forests

These indicators support the measurement of progress towards the following 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goals: lands and forests support biodiversity and provide a variety of ecosystem services for generations to come. They are used to assess progress towards the target: By 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

In addition, the indicators contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are linked to the 2030 Agenda's Goal 14: Life Below Water and Target 14.5: "By 2020, conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information." They are also linked to Goal 15: Life on Land and Target 15.1: "By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements."

The indicators also contribute towards reporting on Target 1 of the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada: "By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures."

Related indicators

The Ecological integrity of national parks indicator reports on the condition of ecosystems within national parks, an important element of Canada's conserved area network.

The Global trends in protected areas indicator compares Canada's protected area to a peer group of countries.

Data sources and methods

Data sources and methods

Data sources

Data are taken from the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database (the database). Data from federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions, the authoritative data sources, are compiled by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

More information

Protected areas and areas conserved with other measures

Protected areas together with areas conserved with other measures are referred to as conserved areas. Protected areas are areas recognized as meeting the international definition for a protected area. Areas conserved with other measures must also meet an international definition to be recognized as conserved. The Convention on Biodiversity defines "other effective area-based conservation measures" as a "geographically defined area other than a protected area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity..."

Data description

The database contains data consolidated from all jurisdictions with responsibilities for conserved areas in Canada. Data are current as of December 31, 2018.

Protected areas and areas conserved with other measures data are held in the database. Each year, federal, provincial and territorial departments and agencies submit geospatial and ancillary data for conserved areas under their administrative control. Data on areas controlled by Indigenous or non-governmental organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada, are included in cases where a jurisdiction has recognized and categorized those areas.

The data include the name of the area, its geospatial location, boundaries, official area, biome (terrestrial/marine), International Union for Conservation of Nature category, managing jurisdiction, and protection date, among other information.

In cases where the same attribute information does not apply to the entire conserved area, the area is divided into zones for reporting. For example, a single protected area that crosses a provincial border is divided into zones corresponding to the different provinces. Similarly, a protected area that is later expanded is treated as several zones, each with its own protection date. Terrestrial and marine sections are treated as separate zones; freshwater is included in the terrestrial zone. Ancillary data are maintained independently for each zone. Conserved areas that are undivided are treated as a single zone.

Work is ongoing to capture and incorporate data on additional privately held protected areas and on areas being conserved through means other than formal protection.

Jurisdictional area

  • For Canada and for all provinces and territories except Quebec: Natural Resources Canada (2005) Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Land and freshwater area, by province and territory
  • For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques
  • Canada's marine territory: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2013) departmental analysis based on National Resources Canada (2009) Atlas of Canada 1:1,000,000 National Frameworks Data, Administrative Boundaries

National boundaries

Natural Resources Canada (2009) Atlas of Canada 1:1,000,000 National Frameworks Data, Administrative Boundaries.

Ecozones

Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (2014) Canada Ecozones. Version 5b.

Marine ecozones are derived from marine bioregions, which were delineated following a national science advisory process that considered oceanographic and bathymetric similarities. For more information, see Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2009) Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, Science Advisory Report 2009/056 and Government of Canada (2011) National Framework for Canada's Network of Marine Protected Areas.

Methods

The area conserved is estimated by means of a geographical analysis based on the boundaries defined in the geospatial data. A correction is made for overlaps. Separate estimates are made for protected areas and for areas conserved with other measures.

More information

Calculating Canada's conserved area

The Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database (the database) contains information on the protection (or conservation) date for each zone. For some zones, it also contains a delisting date.

To estimate the terrestrial protected area trend over time:

  1. all polygons representing terrestrial protected areas that were protected in 1990 or earlier were selected from the database
  2. the selected polygons were dissolved into a single polygon (removing overlaps), and the resulting area calculated
  3. the process was repeated for each subsequent year. Delisted zones were removed from the analysis starting in the year they were delisted
  4. estimates were divided by the total terrestrial area of Canada to determine the proportion protected

To estimate the marine protected area, a similar process was followed, selecting protected marine polygons at each step. The process was repeated for other conservation measures, both terrestrial and marine. Total area conserved was calculated by summing area protected and area conserved with other measures.

Polygons with an unknown protection date comprise 1.9% of the total protected area. If a polygon with an unknown protection date was described as "interim," it was assigned a protection date based on the year it was first reported to the database (1.3% of total protected area); otherwise it was treated as having been protected prior to 1990.

Terrestrial conserved areas, by province and territory

The database contains information on the province or territory in which a conserved area is located. Using methodology similar to that used for reporting trends in the national indicator, for each province and territory, terrestrial protected area polygons were combined into a single polygon and the area calculated. The analysis was repeated for terrestrial areas conserved with other measures.

Terrestrial and marine conserved areas, by jurisdiction

The database also contains information on the jurisdiction responsible for each conserved area. As with the national indicator, for each jurisdiction, protected areas polygons were combined into a single polygon and the total area was calculated. Additional analysis was conducted to estimate the area for areas conserved with other measures.

Conserved areas, by ecological region

The database does not contain information on ecological regions. To generate an estimate of conserved area within each ecozone, a geospatial analysis was conducted. However, national ecozone boundaries are more generalized than local protected areas boundaries, and this has the potential to affect estimates in coastal areas. To avoid this problem, marine and terrestrial protected areas were processed separately.

Marine conserved area polygons that mapped outside a marine ecozone were assigned to the nearest marine ecozone. Similarly, terrestrial conserved areas that mapped outside a terrestrial ecozone were assigned to the nearest terrestrial ecozone:

  1. a working layer containing generalized ecozone boundaries was developed. Marine ecozone boundaries were copied from the national ecozone coverage, and polygons were extended to include adjacent terrestrial regions
  2. the marine protected area polygons were selected from the database
  3. the working layer and the marine protected area polygons were combined into a single layer. Marine protected areas that crossed ecozone boundaries were divided at the boundary
  4. protected area polygons were selected from the combined layer, and the overlap-corrected area was calculated for each generalized ecozone
  5. the process was repeated for other marine conserved areas
  6. the process was repeated for terrestrial protected areas and areas conserved with other measures. The process resulted in more than one multi-part polygon for some terrestrial ecozones: the areas of these were combined in a final step to estimate the protected area within each terrestrial ecozone

The total area of each ecozone was calculated from its geospatial boundaries, as re-projected to Albers Equal Area Conic to be consistent with the projection used in the database. The Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves ecozone area was corrected for the territorial area of St Pierre and Miquelon. The total area conserved per ecozone was divided by the total area of the ecozone in order to generate a percentage.

Recent changes

Data are regularly reviewed and updated.

In 2018, the Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System was converted to the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database and brought formally within Environment and Climate Change Canada. This is in line with commitments made under the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative and the guidance report, One with Nature (PDF; 2.12 MB).

As of 2018, terrestrial areas conserved with other effective area-based conservation measures were recognized and included as counting towards Canada Target 1 and Aichi Target 11.

As of 2017, marine areas conserved with other effective area-based conservation measures, such as marine refuges, were included.

In 2015, changes to the database enabled information on delisting and transfer between jurisdictions to be captured. This information is not yet fully captured in the database.

Caveats and limitations

Comparisons with previous reports should be made with caution, as data quality and completeness continue to improve. Privately protected land and other effective area-based conservation measures contribute to achievement of Canada's targets, but many are not yet captured within the database.

More information

The area calculated using polygon boundaries may differ from the official area.

Responsibility for source data accuracy and completeness lies with the jurisdictions. Jurisdictional work is guided by the federal, provincial and territorial report One with Nature. Guidance material and decision support tools were adapted from, and in collaboration with the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas. Nonetheless, some differences among jurisdictions can be expected.

Areas that are no longer recognized as protected ("decommissioned" or "delisted") are not captured comprehensively and may be missing from the database.

Complex boundaries, such as coastlines and ecological regions, must be generalized for mapping purposes. In nature, ecozones do not have sharp boundaries. Due to the uncertainty of such boundaries, results should be seen as estimates rather than precise measurements. The mismatch in scale between protected areas, mapped with fine detail, and national-scale geographic frameworks, mapped at a broad scale, may lead to minor differences across the various summaries because of the measurement uncertainty inherent in this type of analysis. Differences in the delineation of coastlines may result in a small amount of overlap between marine and terrestrial protected area polygon boundaries; these have not been corrected for.

Ecozones are an ecologically based framework, and should not be considered an expression of sovereignty.

Protection is a designation, and the indicators do not provide information on the effectiveness of protection, the degree to which the ecological functioning of the area is intact, or the degree to which pressures outside a protected area might affect the biodiversity within it. Marine refuges restrict certain activities without limiting others.

Resources

Resources

References

Canadian Council on Ecological Areas Secretariat (2008) Canadian Guidebook for the Application of International Union for Conservation of Nature Protected Area Categories 2008. CCEA Occasional Paper No. 18. Canadian Council on Ecological Areas, Ottawa, ON. 66 pp.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2009) Development of a Framework and Principles for the Biogeographic Classification of Canadian Marine Areas. Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, Science Advisory Report 2009/056. Retrieved on April 3, 2019.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2017) Operational Guidance for Identifying "Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures" in Canada's Marine Environment. Retrieved on April 3, 2019.

Pathway to Canada Target 1 Initiative (2018) One with Nature. A Renewed Approach to Land and Freshwater Conservation in Canada (PDF; 2.12 MB). Retrieved on April 24, 2019.

Stolton S, Shadie P and Dudley N (2013) Guidelines for applying protected area management categories including IUCN WCPA best practice guidance on recognising protected areas and assigning management categories and governance types (combined volume). Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 21, Gland, Switzerland, section 2. Retrieved on April 3, 2019.

Related information

Pathway to Canada Target 1

2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada

Canadian Council on Ecological Areas

Convention on Biological Diversity

ProtectedPlanet.net

Interactive map of Quebec's protected areas (in French only)

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