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 115 ecosystems in 41 national parksFootnote 2  that were assessed, 54% are reported to be in good condition, and another 33% are in fair condition. The remaining 13% are in poor condition.
  • Most park ecosystems are stable (89 of 115, 77%), 14 have improving trends, and 12 have declining trends.

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 41 national parks, Canada, 2016

Long description

The bar chart shows whether ecological integrity of ecosystems in Canada's national parks is good, fair or poor, as of 2016. Beside each bar is the number of ecosystems where the trend in ecological integrity is classified as improving, stable or declining.

Data for this chart

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 41 national parks, Canada, 2016

Ecological integrity status

Improving

(number of ecosystems)

Stable

(number of ecosystems)

Declining

(number of ecosystems)

Total

(number of ecosystems)

Good

12

49

1

62

Fair

1

34

3

38

Poor

1

6

8

15

Total

14

89

12

115

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 574 B)

Note: Park ecosystems may include forest, freshwater, wetlands, grasslands, shrublands, tundra, coastal/marine and glaciers, depending on what is present in each park.
Source: Parks Canada (2016) State of Canada's Natural and Cultural Heritage Places 2016.

More information

Key measures are selected to represent each ecosystem's overall condition. Each of these measures is compared to threshold values and assigned a score. The scores within each ecosystem are then averaged together to generate an ecosystem rating.

Most of the ecosystems that improved were freshwater systems (8 systems). Most of the declining ecosystems were forests (5 systems).

Ecological integrity trends by ecosystem type, Canada, 2016

Ecosystem

Improving

(number of ecosystems)

Stable

(number of ecosystems)

Declining

(number of ecosystems)

Total

(number of ecosystems)

Forest

0

26

5

31

Shrublands

1

1

0

2

Grasslands

0

4

1

5

Tundra

1

16

0

17

Freshwater

8

24

2

34

Glaciers

0

0

1

1

Wetlands

1

8

2

11

Coastal/marine

3

10

1

14

Parks Canada identifies the major stressors of national parksFootnote 3  as being the following:

  • Habitat loss
  • Habitat fragmentation (for example, building of roads and trails)
  • Losses of large carnivores, such as wolves
  • Air pollution and acid rain
  • Pesticides
  • Invasive alien species
  • Over-use

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 and the long-range movement of pollution affect ecosystems inside and outside parks. 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 41 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2016

Long description

The table shows whether ecological integrity of ecosystems in 41 of Canada's national parks in 2016 is good, fair, or poor for each park, by province and territory. The ecosystems include: coastal/marine, forest, freshwater, glaciers, grasslands, shrublands, tundra and wetlands. Trends are also provided, indicating whether the ecological integrity of the ecosystem is improving, stable or declining.

Data for this chart

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 41 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2016

Province or territory

National park

Ecosystem type

Ecological integrity status

Ecological integrity trend

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

Gros Morne

Forest

Poor

Stable

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

Gros Morne

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

Gros Morne

Tundra

Fair

Stable

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

Terra Nova

Coastal/marine

Good

Stable

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

Terra Nova

Forest

Good

Stable

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 (PEI)

Prince Edward Island

Coastal/marine

Fair

Stable

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Prince Edward Island

Forest

Poor

Stable

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Prince Edward Island

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Prince Edward Island

Wetlands

Good

Stable

Nova Scotia (NS)

Cape Breton Highlands

Forest

Poor

Declining

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

Forest

Good

Stable

Nova Scotia (NS)

Kejimkujik

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Nova Scotia (NS)

Kejimkujik

Wetlands

Fair

Stable

New Brunswick (NB)

Fundy

Forest

Fair

Stable

New Brunswick (NB)

Fundy

Freshwater

Good

Improving

New Brunswick (NB)

Kouchibouguac

Coastal/marine

Good

Stable

New Brunswick (NB)

Kouchibouguac

Forest

Good

Stable

New Brunswick (NB)

Kouchibouguac

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Quebec (QC)

Forillon

Coastal/marine

Good

Improving

Quebec (QC)

Forillon

Forest

Poor

Declining

Quebec (QC)

Forillon

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Quebec (QC)

La Mauricie

Forest

Fair

Stable

Quebec (QC)

La Mauricie

Freshwater

Fair

Stable

Quebec (QC)

La Mauricie

Wetlands

Poor

Declining

Quebec (QC)

Mingan Archipelago Reserve

Coastal/marine

Fair

Stable

Quebec (QC)

Mingan Archipelago Reserve

Forest

Good

Stable

Quebec (QC)

Mingan Archipelago Reserve

Tundra

Fair

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Bruce Peninsula

Forest

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Bruce Peninsula

Freshwater

Good

Improving

Ontario (ON)

Bruce Peninsula

Shrublands

Fair

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Georgian Bay Islands

Coastal/marine

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Georgian Bay Islands

Forest

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Georgian Bay Islands

Wetlands

Fair

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Point Pelee

Coastal/marine

Fair

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Point Pelee

Forest

Fair

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Point Pelee

Wetlands

Fair

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Pukaskwa

Coastal/marine

Good

Improving

Ontario (ON)

Pukaskwa

Forest

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Pukaskwa

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Thousand Islands

Forest

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Thousand Islands

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Ontario (ON)

Thousand Islands

Wetlands

Good

Improving

Manitoba (MB)

Riding Mountain

Forest

Poor

Declining

Manitoba (MB)

Riding Mountain

Freshwater

Good

Improving

Manitoba (MB)

Riding Mountain

Grasslands

Poor

Declining

Manitoba (MB)

Wapusk

Coastal/marine

Fair

Stable

Manitoba (MB)

Wapusk

Wetlands

Good

Stable

Saskatchewan (SK)

Grasslands

Freshwater

Good

Improving

Saskatchewan (SK)

Grasslands

Grasslands

Fair

Stable

Saskatchewan (SK)

Grasslands

Shrublands

Poor

Improving

Saskatchewan (SK)

Prince Albert

Forest

Good

Stable

Saskatchewan (SK)

Prince Albert

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Saskatchewan (SK)

Prince Albert

Grasslands

Fair

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Banff

Forest

Fair

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Banff

Freshwater

Fair

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Banff

Tundra

Fair

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Elk Island

Forest

Good

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Elk Island

Freshwater

Good

Improving

Alberta (AB)

Elk Island

Grasslands

Fair

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Jasper

Forest

Fair

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Jasper

Freshwater

Good

Improving

Alberta (AB)

Jasper

Tundra

Poor

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Waterton Lakes

Forest

Poor

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Waterton Lakes

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Alberta (AB)

Waterton Lakes

Grasslands

Poor

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Glacier

Forest

Poor

Declining

British Columbia (BC)

Glacier

Freshwater

Good

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Glacier

Tundra

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Gulf Islands Reserve

Coastal/marine

Fair

Declining

British Columbia (BC)

Gulf Islands Reserve

Forest

Poor

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Gulf Islands Reserve

Freshwater

Fair

Stable

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

Forest

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Gwaii Haanas Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

Freshwater

Good

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Kootenay

Forest

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Kootenay

Freshwater

Poor

Declining

British Columbia (BC)

Kootenay

Tundra

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Mount Revelstoke

Forest

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Mount Revelstoke

Freshwater

Good

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Mount Revelstoke

Tundra

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Pacific Rim Reserve

Coastal/marine

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Pacific Rim Reserve

Forest

Good

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Pacific Rim Reserve

Freshwater

Good

Improving

British Columbia (BC)

Yoho

Forest

Fair

Stable

British Columbia (BC)

Yoho

Freshwater

Poor

Declining

British Columbia (BC)

Yoho

Tundra

Fair

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Ivvavik

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Ivvavik

Tundra

Good

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Kluane

Forest

Fair

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Kluane

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Kluane

Tundra

Good

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Vuntut

Tundra

Good

Stable

Yukon (YK)

Vuntut

Wetlands

Good

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Aulavik

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Aulavik

Tundra

Good

Improving

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Nahanni Reserve

Forest

Good

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Nahanni Reserve

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Nahanni Reserve

Tundra

Fair

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Tuktut Nogait

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Tuktut Nogait

Tundra

Good

Stable

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Wood Buffalo

Forest

Fair

Declining

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Wood Buffalo

Freshwater

Good

Improving

Northwest Territories (NWT)

Wood Buffalo

Wetlands

Fair

Declining

Nunavut (NU)

Quttinirpaaq

Freshwater

Good

Stable

Nunavut (NU)

Sirmilik

Glaciers

Good

Declining

Nunavut (NU)

Sirmilik

Tundra

Fair

Stable

Nunavut (NU)

Ukkusiksalik

Coastal/marine

Good

Stable

Nunavut (NU)

Ukkusiksalik

Tundra

Good

Stable

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 5.13 kB)

About the indicator

About the indicator

What does the indicator measure

The indicator summarizes the status and trends of ecosystems within national parks.

The condition of ecosystems within national parks is evaluated regularly using a series of monitoring measures that are designed to track biodiversity and natural processes within those ecosystems. These measures are rolled up to produce ecological integrity indicatorsFootnote 4  for up to 4 major ecosystems in each park.

Each ecological integrity indicator consists of a rating (good, fair, poor) and a trend (improving, stable, declining), based on monitoring results and knowledge of ecological systems. These are summed to provide an overall picture.

Why is this indicator important

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) reports on the ecological integrity of national parks as an indicator of the condition of Canada's protected areas. National parks represent a third of the protected area in Canada.

Parks Canada manages ecosystems to improve or maintain ecological integrity. Management plans systematically address opportunities for improving the integrity of park ecosystems. Funding for ecological restoration is prioritized for ecosystems that are in poor or declining condition. Environmental assessments and law enforcement are also key tools for maintaining the natural beauty of these treasured places

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the long-term goal of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2016–2019: Lands and forests support biodiversity and provide a variety of ecosystem services for generations to come. As of March 2016, the condition of 90% of park ecological integrity indicators was maintained or improved from 2011.

What are the related indicators

Canada's protected areas describe the amount and location of area protected within Canada and show how well our protected area network represents our broad ecological regions.

Global trends in protected areas compare the area protected in a set of peer countries.

Icon

Sustainably managed lands and forests

This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the following 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goal: Lands and forests support biodiversity and provide a variety of ecosystem services for generations to come.

Data sources and methods

Data sources and methods

What are the data sources

The indicator summarizes ecosystem scores drawn from the State of Canada's Natural and Cultural Places 2016. The report contains the most recent available information from each park ecosystem, blending data that is from 0 to 10 years old. 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 41 of Canada's national parks. Data are not yet available for Akami-Uapishkᵁ-KakKasuak-Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve, Sable Island National Park Reserve, Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve, Auyuittuq National Park, Qausuittuq National Park, or Rouge National Urban Park.

Between 1 and 4 major ecosystems in each park have ecological indicators. They are based on monitoring designed for the individual circumstances of each park. Examples of major ecosystems include forests, wetlands, and glaciers. Major ecosystems form most of the area of a park and are important to its biological functioning. For each major 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.

How is this indicator calculated

Ecological integrity monitoring is adapted to the ecology of each individual park. Information is gathered for each of the major 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 Branch, 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. Otherwise, the average score of the measures (weighted equally) determines the ecosystem score.

The assessment of the overall trend for each major ecosystem is based on a change in its status from 5 years previously. 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.

What has recently changed

Information on the status and trends of park ecosystems has strengthened since the last time this indicator was updated, and results can be reported on a greater number of park ecosystems. Changes in reporting approach have changed the presentation of the data, but the underlying information is similar. The frequency of Parks Canada national reporting has been reduced from every 2 years to every 5 years.

What are the caveats and limitations

The measurements used to determine the status and trend of major 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, 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 (2016) State of Canada's Natural and Cultural Heritage Places 2016. Retrieved on November 9, 2016.

Parks Canada (2013) Science and conservation – Ecological Integrity. Retrieved on November 9, 2016.

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

Parks Canada (2011) The State of Canada's Natural and Historic Places 2011. Retrieved on November 9, 2016.

Related information

Parks Canada

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