Ecological integrity of national parks

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According to the Canada National Parks Act (2000), “ecological integrity” means

with respect to a park, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.

In other words, ecosystems have integrity when their native components, such as native species and biological communities, natural landscapes and functions, are intact and are likely to persist. 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 assessedFootnote 1 :
    • 61% are in good condition
    • 24% are in fair condition
    • 16% are in poor condition
  • As of 2019, the ecological integrity of 86% of park ecosystems was maintained or improved
  • Most park ecosystems are stable (75 of 119 or 63%), 27 have improving trends, and 17 have declining trends

Ecological integrity condition and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks, Canada, 2019

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks, Canada, 2019 (see data table below for the long description)
Data table for the long description
Ecological integrity condition and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks, Canada, 2019
Ecological integrity condition Improving
(number of ecosystems)
Stable
(number of ecosystems)
Declining
(number of ecosystems)
Total
(number of ecosystems)
Good 17 54 1
72
Fair 10 10 8 28
Poor 0
11
8
19
Total 27 75 17
119

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 0.95 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: Monitored 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 National Park Reserve, Nááts'įhch'oh National Park Reserve, Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve, Rouge National Urban Park and Qausuittuq National Park did not report on ecological integrity in 2019.
Source: Parks Canada (2020) Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate.

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 changes in 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).

Ecological integrity trends by ecosystem type, Canada, 2019
Ecosystem Improving
(number of ecosystems)
Stable
(number of ecosystems)
Declining
(number of ecosystems)
Total
(number of ecosystems)
Forests 9 18 4
31
Shrublands 0 1 0 1
Grasslands 1
3
1
5
Tundra 3
11 5
19
Freshwater 5 23 6
34
Glaciers 0 2 0 2
Wetlands 2 10
0
12
Coastal/marine 7
7
1 15

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 0.57 B)

Source: Parks Canada (2020) Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate.

National 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. Some of the internal and external stressors affecting ecosystems in Canada’s national parks include:

  • habitat loss and degradation
  • reduction of landscape connectivity (for example, building of roads and trails)
  • climate change impacts (for example, increasing temperatures) and climate-mediated ecological changes and cumulative effects (for example, diseases and natural disturbances)
  • loss of keystone species (for example, wolves or bisons)
  • pollution and contaminants
  • invasive species

Ecosystems respond differently to stressors, and they also respond differently to management actions. Some management actions may take many years to demonstrate benefits to ecological integrity.

Data for individual parks

Ecological integrity condition and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2019

Ecological integrity status and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2019 (see data table below for the long description)

Source: Parks Canada (2020) Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate.

Data table for the long description
Ecological integrity condition and trends of ecosystems in 43 national parks by province and territory, Canada, 2019
Province or territory National park Ecosystem type Ecological integrity condition 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 Improving
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Forests Fair Stable
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Freshwater Good Improving
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Terra Nova Wetlands Good Improving
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 Fair Declining
Prince Edward Island (PE) Prince Edward Island Wetlands Good Stable
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 Fair Declining
Nova Scotia (NS) Kejimkujik Wetlands Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Sable Island Reserve
Coastal/Marine Good Stable
Nova Scotia (NS) Sable Island Reserve
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 Good Stable
Quebec (QC) Mingan Archipelago Reserve Forests Good Stable
Quebec (QC) Mingan Archipelago Reserve Tundra Fair Stable
Ontario (ON) Bruce Peninsula Forests Good Improving
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 Stable
Ontario (ON) Point Pelee Coastal/marine Fair Improving
Ontario (ON) Point Pelee Forests Good Improving
Ontario (ON) Point Pelee Wetlands Good Improving
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 Stable
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 Stable
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 Fair Improving
Alberta (AB) Banff Forests Good Stable
Alberta (AB) Banff Freshwater Poor Stable
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 Stable
Alberta (AB) Jasper Forests Fair Stable
Alberta (AB) Jasper Freshwater Good Stable
Alberta (AB) Jasper Tundra Poor Declining
Alberta (AB) Waterton Lakes Forests Fair Improving
Alberta (AB) Waterton Lakes Freshwater Poor Declining
Alberta (AB) Waterton Lakes Grasslands Fair Stable
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 Improving
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 Stable
British Columbia (BC) Kootenay Freshwater Poor Stable
British Columbia (BC) Kootenay Tundra Good Stable
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 Stable
British Columbia (BC) Yoho Tundra Good Stable
Yukon (YT) Ivvavik Freshwater Good Stable
Yukon (YT) Ivvavik Tundra Poor Declining
Yukon (YT) Kluane Forests Fair Declining
Yukon (YT) Kluane Freshwater Fair Stable
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 Poor Stable
Nunavut (NU) Auyuittuq Glaciers Poor 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 Improving
Nunavut (NU) Ukkusiksalik Coastal/marine Good Stable
Nunavut (NU) Ukkusiksalik Tundra Good Stable

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 6.49 kB)

Source: Parks Canada (2020) Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate.

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 ecosystem services, connect landscapes, and provide a natural solution for climate change by capturing and storing carbon. National parks also help to build knowledge and understanding of ecosystems, and connect Canadians with nature.

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 ecological integrity of park ecosystems.

icon

Sustainably managed lands and forests

This indicator tracks progress on the 2019 to 2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, supporting the target: By March 31, 2023, ecological integrity will be maintained or improved in 92% of national park ecosystems. The most recent data available shows that, of the 119 national park ecosystems assessed in 2019, 86% were maintained or improved.

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

The indicator also contributes towards the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative. It is linked to Priority 3: Maximize conservation outcomes.

It also contributes to the Aichi Biodiverisity Targets. It is linked to Target 11: "By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes."

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 condition and trend of ecosystems in National Parks. Parks Canada regularly monitors the condition 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, Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve, Qausuittuq National Park, and Rouge National Urban Park.

Between 1 and 4 ecosystems are assessed in each park. Examples of ecosystems include forests, wetlands, and glaciers. The selected ecosystems form most of the area of a park and are important to its biological functioning. For each 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 population size, estimates of plant productivity, water quality, and extent of invasive species. Data for these 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 size 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 measures.

Data are collated and stored in Parks Canada's Information Centre for Ecosystems database 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 park. Information is gathered for each selected ecosystem, and a determination is made as to whether the ecosystem is in good, fair or poor condition and whether that condition 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 condition 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 ecosystem is based on a change in its condition over 5 years. If the condition of the ecosystem has not changed, it is considered stable unless a strong majority of the measures selected for that ecosystem have the same trend.

The national indicator (% of ecosystems maintained or improved) is an overall assessment of the trend of ecological integrity across national parks. It is generated by dividing the number of ecosystem that are stable or improving by the total number of ecosystems.

Caveats and limitations

The measurements used to determine the condition and trend of 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 conditions 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

Government of Canada (2000) Canada National Parks Act. Retrieved June 5, 2020.

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 June 5, 2020.

Related information

Parks Canada

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