Ecological integrity of national parks

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Ecosystems have integrity when their native species, landscapes and functions are intact.Footnote 1 The ecological integrity of national parks is assessed by monitoring representative components of major park ecosystems, such as forest, freshwater and wetlands. It is a key measure of the condition of our national parks.

Results

Key results

  • Of the 119 ecosystems in 43 national parks that were assessed:
    • 60% are in good condition
    • 24% are in fair condition
    • 16% are in poor condition
  • As of 2018, the ecological integrity of 82% of park ecosystems is maintained or improved
  • Most park ecosystems are stable (72 of 119 or 61%), 26 have improving trends, and 21 have declining trends 

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks, Canada, 2018

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 42 national parks, Canada, 2017 (see data table below for the long description)
Data table for the long description
Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks, Canada, 2018
Ecological integrity status Improving
(number of ecosystems)
Stable
(number of ecosystems)
Declining
(number of ecosystems)
Total
(number of ecosystems)
Good 15 55 2 72
Fair 10 10 8 28
Poor 1 7 11 19
Total 26 72 21 119

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 843 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Park ecosystems may include forests, freshwater, wetlands, grasslands, shrublands, tundra, coastal/marine and glaciers, depending on what is present in each park. Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains, Nááts'įhch'oh National Park Reserves and Qausuittuq National Parks did not report on ecological integrity in 2018. Rouge National Urban Park has not yet reported.
Source: Parks Canada (2019).

More information

The condition of ecosystems within national parks is evaluated regularly using a series of monitoring measures (for example plant and animal populations and soil properties) that are designed to track biodiversity and natural processes within those ecosystems. Each of these measures is compared to threshold values and assigned a score. The scores within each ecosystem are then averaged together to give the state of the ecosystem (good, fair or poor).

Most of the ecosystems that improved were forests or freshwater ecosystems (14 ecosystems). These 2 types of ecosystems also had the most ecosystems in decline (13 ecosystems).

Ecological integrity trends by ecosystem type, Canada, 2018
Ecosystem Improving
(number of ecosystems)
Stable
(number of ecosystems)
Declining
(number of ecosystems)
Total
(number of ecosystems)
Forests 9 17 5 31
Shrublands 0 1 0 1
Grasslands 2 1 2 5
Tundra 4 12 3 19
Freshwater 5 21 8 34
Glaciers 0 2 0 2
Wetlands 2 8 2 12
Coastal/marine 4 10 1 15

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 508 B)

Source: Parks Canada (2019).

Parks Canada identifies the major stressors of national parks as being the following:

  • habitat loss
  • habitat fragmentation (for example, building of roads and trails)
  • losses of large carnivores, such as wolves
  • air pollution
  • pesticides
  • invading non-native species
  • over-use of national parks by humans

Parks are interlinked with their surrounding ecosystems and, despite their protected status, they are affected by many of the same pressures we place on the environment in general. Climate change affects species and ecosystems inside and outside parks. It is a stressor and changes the natural regions that parks are meant to represent. The ecosystems respond differently to stressors, and they also respond differently to management actions. Some management actions may take many years to show results, particularly for slow-growing vegetation.

Data for individual parks

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2018

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 42 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2017 (see data table below for the long description)

Source: Parks Canada (2019).

Data table for the long description
Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2018
Province or territory National park Ecosystem type Ecological integrity status Ecological integrity trend
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Gros Morne Forests Fair Improving
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Gros Morne Freshwater Good Stable
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Gros Morne Tundra Good Improving
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Coastal/marine Good Stable
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Forests Fair Declining
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Freshwater Good Stable
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Wetlands Good Stable
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Torngat Mountains Freshwater Good Stable
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Torngat Mountains Tundra Good Stable
Prince Edward Island (PE) Prince Edward Island Coastal/marine Good Improving
Prince Edward Island (PE) Prince Edward Island Forests Poor Stable
Prince Edward Island (PE) Prince Edward Island Freshwater Good Stable
Prince Edward Island (PE) Prince Edward Island Wetlands Good Declining
Nova Scotia (NS) Cape Breton Highlands Forests Fair Improving
Nova Scotia (NS) Cape Breton Highlands Freshwater Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Cape Breton Highlands Wetlands Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Kejimkujik Coastal/marine Fair Improving
Nova Scotia (NS) Kejimkujik Forests Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Kejimkujik Freshwater Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Kejimkujik Wetlands Good Improving
Nova Scotia (NS) Sable Island Coastal/Marine Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Sable Island Freshwater Good Stable
New Brunswick (NB) Fundy Forests Fair Stable
New Brunswick (NB) Fundy Freshwater Good Improving
New Brunswick (NB) Fundy Wetlands Good Stable
New Brunswick (NB) Kouchibouguac Coastal/marine Good Stable
New Brunswick (NB) Kouchibouguac Forests Good Stable
New Brunswick (NB) Kouchibouguac Freshwater Good Declining
Quebec (QC) Forillon Coastal/marine Good Improving
Quebec (QC) Forillon Forests Poor Stable
Quebec (QC) Forillon Freshwater Good Stable
Quebec (QC) La Mauricie Forests Fair Declining
Quebec (QC) La Mauricie Freshwater Fair Improving
Quebec (QC) La Mauricie Wetlands Poor Stable
Quebec (QC) Mingan Archipelago Reserve Coastal/marine Fair Stable
Quebec (QC) Mingan Archipelago Reserve Forests Good Stable
Quebec (QC) Mingan Archipelago Reserve Tundra Fair Stable
Ontario (ON) Bruce Peninsula Forests Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Bruce Peninsula Freshwater Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Bruce Peninsula Shrublands Fair Stable
Ontario (ON) Georgian Bay Islands Coastal/marine Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Georgian Bay Islands Forests Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Georgian Bay Islands Wetlands Fair Improving
Ontario (ON) Point Pelee Coastal/marine Fair Stable
Ontario (ON) Point Pelee Forests Good Improving
Ontario (ON) Point Pelee Wetlands Poor Declining
Ontario (ON) Pukaskwa Coastal/marine Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Pukaskwa Forests Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Pukaskwa Freshwater Fair Declining
Ontario (ON) Thousand Islands Forests Good Stable
Ontario (ON) Thousand Islands Freshwater Fair Declining
Ontario (ON) Thousand Islands Wetlands Good Stable
Manitoba (MB) Riding Mountain Forests Poor Stable
Manitoba (MB) Riding Mountain Freshwater Good Improving
Manitoba (MB) Riding Mountain Grasslands Poor Improving
Manitoba (MB) Wapusk Coastal/marine Good Stable
Manitoba (MB) Wapusk Wetlands Good Stable
Saskatchewan (SK) Grasslands Grasslands Poor Declining
Saskatchewan (SK) Prince Albert Forests Good Stable
Saskatchewan (SK) Prince Albert Freshwater Good Stable
Saskatchewan (SK) Prince Albert Grasslands Poor Stable
Alberta (AB) Banff Forests Good Improving
Alberta (AB) Banff Freshwater Poor Declining
Alberta (AB) Banff Tundra Good Stable
Alberta (AB) Elk Island Forests Good Stable
Alberta (AB) Elk Island Freshwater Good Stable
Alberta (AB) Elk Island Grasslands Poor Declining
Alberta (AB) Jasper Forests Fair Stable
Alberta (AB) Jasper Freshwater Good Improving
Alberta (AB) Jasper Tundra Poor Stable
Alberta (AB) Waterton Lakes Forests Fair Improving
Alberta (AB) Waterton Lakes Freshwater Poor Stable
Alberta (AB) Waterton Lakes Grasslands Fair Improving
British Columbia (BC) Glacier Forests Fair Improving
British Columbia (BC) Glacier Freshwater Good Stable
British Columbia (BC) Glacier Tundra Poor Declining
British Columbia (BC) Gulf Islands Reserve Coastal/marine Poor Declining
British Columbia (BC) Gulf Islands Reserve Forests Poor Declining
British Columbia (BC) Gulf Islands Reserve Freshwater Fair Improving
British Columbia (BC) Gwaii Haanas Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site Coastal/marine Good Stable
British Columbia (BC) Gwaii Haanas Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site Forests Good Improving
British Columbia (BC) Gwaii Haanas Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site Freshwater Good Stable
British Columbia (BC) Kootenay Forests Good Improving
British Columbia (BC) Kootenay Freshwater Poor Declining
British Columbia (BC) Kootenay Tundra Good Improving
British Columbia (BC) Mount Revelstoke Forests Fair Improving
British Columbia (BC) Mount Revelstoke Freshwater Good Stable
British Columbia (BC) Mount Revelstoke Tundra Poor Declining
British Columbia (BC) Pacific Rim Reserve Coastal/marine Good Improving
British Columbia (BC) Pacific Rim Reserve Forests Good Stable
British Columbia (BC) Pacific Rim Reserve Freshwater Fair Declining
British Columbia (BC) Yoho Forests Fair Stable
British Columbia (BC) Yoho Freshwater Poor Declining
British Columbia (BC) Yoho Tundra Good Improving
Yukon (YT) Ivvavik Freshwater Good Stable
Yukon (YT) Ivvavik Tundra Good Stable
Yukon (YT) Kluane Forests Fair Stable
Yukon (YT) Kluane Freshwater Fair Declining
Yukon (YT) Kluane Tundra Good Stable
Yukon (YT) Vuntut Tundra Good Stable
Yukon (YT) Vuntut Wetlands Good Stable
Northwest Territories (NT) Aulavik Freshwater Good Stable
Northwest Territories (NT) Aulavik Tundra Poor Declining
Northwest Territories (NT) Nahanni Reserve Forests Fair Declining
Northwest Territories (NT) Nahanni Reserve Freshwater Good Stable
Northwest Territories (NT) Nahanni Reserve Tundra Good Improving
Northwest Territories (NT) Tuktut Nogait Freshwater Good Stable
Northwest Territories (NT) Tuktut Nogait Tundra Good Stable
Northwest Territories (NT) Wood Buffalo Forests Fair Declining
Northwest Territories (NT) Wood Buffalo Freshwater Good Stable
Northwest Territories (NT) Wood Buffalo Wetlands Fair Stable
Nunavut (NU) Auyuittuq Glaciers Fair Stable
Nunavut (NU) Auyuittuq Tundra Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Quttinirpaaq Freshwater Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Quttinirpaaq Tundra Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Sirmilik Glaciers Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Sirmilik Tundra Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Ukkusiksalik Coastal/marine Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Ukkusiksalik Tundra Good Stable

Source: Parks Canada (2019).

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 6.29 kB)

About the indicator

About the indicator

What the indicator measures

The Ecological integrity of national parks indicator summarizes the state (good, fair, poor) and trend (improving, stable, declining) of ecosystems within 43 national parks.

Why this indicator is important

The ecological integrity of national parks indicator provides an indication of the condition of Canada's national parks. National parks help to protect biodiversity, preserve clean air and water and mitigate climate change while providing enjoyment to Canadians.

Parks Canada regularly monitors and assesses the condition of the main ecosystems in national parks, for example forests, tundra, wetlands or freshwater. Ecosystems are managed to improve or maintain ecological integrity. Management plans systematically address opportunities for improving the integrity of park ecosystem.

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Sustainably managed lands and forests

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the following 2019 to 2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goal: Lands and forests support biodiversity and provide a variety of ecosystem services for generations to come.

It is used to assess progress towards the target/short-term milestone: By March 31, 2023, ecological integrity will be maintained or improved in 92% of national park ecosystems.

In addition, the indicator contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is linked to the 2030 Agenda's Goal 15: Life on land.

Related indicators

Canada's conserved areas indicators report the amount and proportion of Canada's terrestrial and marine area that is conserved.

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

The indicator summarizes the state and trend of ecosystems in National Parks. Parks Canada regularly monitors the state of ecosystems using a set of measures specific to the ecosystems. Selected measures in each major park ecosystem are combined and the ecosystem is scored as good, fair or poor. Parks Canada monitoring for ecological integrity formally began in 2008 and is ongoing.

More information

Ecological integrity is reported for major ecosystems in 43 of Canada's national parks. Data are not yet available for Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve, Nááts'įhch'oh National Park Reserve, Qausuittuq National Park, and Rouge National Urban Park.

Between 1 and 4 main ecosystems in each park, have their ecological integrity assessed. Examples of ecosystems include forests, wetlands, and glaciers. The main ecosystems form most of the area of a park and are important to its biological functioning. For each main ecosystem, a scientifically sound set of environmental measures is developed, based on appropriateness, representativeness, monitoring needs and cost-effectiveness. Some examples of ecological integrity measures include wildlife surveys, estimates of plant productivity, water quality measurements, and invasive species surveys. Data for these underlying measures are gathered from a variety of sources, including on-the-ground field sampling, satellite imagery, academic and government partners, and traditional knowledge. Measured levels are compared to thresholds, such as whether a wildlife population is near desirable levels or whether water meets a water quality standard. Interim thresholds based on significant changes in desired traits are used when more biologically based assessments are not available. The frequency of monitoring varies from annually to once a decade, depending on the specific measurement.

Data are collated and stored in a database, the Information Centre for Ecosystems, to support management and reporting.

Data sets for individual measures are published in the Government of Canada Open Data Portal.

Methods

Ecological integrity monitoring is adapted to the ecology of each individual park. Information is gathered for each of the main ecosystems, and a determination is made as to whether the ecosystem is in good, fair or poor condition and whether it is improving, declining, or stable. Complete methods information is available in Parks Canada's 2011 Consolidated Guidelines for Ecological Integrity Monitoring in Canada's National Parks, available from the Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada.

More information

Ecosystem status is determined from the monitoring results as follows: each measure is assigned a score based on its condition compared to its threshold (good = 2, fair = 1, poor = 0). If one-third or more of the measures are scored poor, the ecosystem-level indicator is also scored poor. If less than one-third of the measures are scored poor, the average score of the measures (weighted equally) determines the ecosystem score.

The assessment of the overall trend for each main ecosystem is based on a change in its status from 5 previous years. If the condition of the ecosystem indicator has not changed, it is considered stable unless a strong majority of the measures selected for that ecosystem have the same trend.

The national-level indicator is an overall assessment of ecological integrity across national parks. It is generated by summing the ecosystem-level indicator scores in each combination of status and trend for each park.

Recent changes

Glacier and tundra ecosystems in Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut and the freshwater ecosystem in Sable Island were added to the indicator. Changes to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan were the exclusion of the freshwater ecosystem as it is not within the park boundary and combining the grassland and scrubland ecosystems into 1 grassland ecosystem.

Caveats and limitations

The measurements used to determine the status and trend of main ecosystems are chosen to represent the most important elements of the ecosystem and thus provide an indication, rather than a complete assessment, of ecological integrity. Monitoring takes place against a background of natural variability, and because some locations are remote and some measurements are time-consuming or expensive to conduct, the frequency of monitoring may be low. This leads to unavoidable uncertainty in assigning status and trends to ecosystems.

Ecosystems are not of equal area or of equal importance in parks; comparisons between systems or between parks must be made with caution.

Some parks have not yet reported results, while others are basing their reports on incomplete suites of measures that reflect current data availability. Ecological integrity measures are selected using objective techniques to provide credible overall assessments. Where information is incomplete, preliminary data and statistical principles are used to support the selection of measures and the definition of thresholds.

The equal weighting of measures may not always reflect their relative ecological importance.

The data do not include provincial or other parks or other types of protected areas.

Resources

Resources

References

Parks Canada (2011) Consolidated Guidelines for Ecological Integrity Monitoring in Canada’s National Parks. Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Branch, Parks Canada.

Parks Canada (2017) State of Canada's Natural and Cultural Heritage Places 2016. Retrieved on May 13, 2019.

Parks Canada (2018)  Ecological integrity. Retrieved on May 13, 2019.

Related information

Parks Canada

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