Extent of Canada's wetlands

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Wetlands are among Earth's most productive ecosystems. They provide numerous ecosystem services and support many species (including species at risk) and significant numbers of migratory birds, fish and amphibians. They are also home to a wide diversity of plants, and many other species.

Canada has about 1.29 million km2 of wetlands, covering 13% of Canada's terrestrialFootnote [1] area. This is close to one quarter of the world's remaining wetlands.Footnote [2] Where wetlands have been monitored, they generally show declines in extent due to conversion to agriculture and other development.Footnote [3]

Most of Canada's wetlands occur in the Boreal Shield (25% of Canadian wetland area), Hudson Plains (21%) and Boreal Plains (18%). Wetlands form almost 80% of the Hudson Plains, and very low proportions of mountainous regions such as the Arctic Cordillera (less than 0.5%) and Montane Cordillera (less than 2%).

Wetland extent, Canada, circa 2000Footnote [4]

Map of Canada - see long description below
Long description

The map shows the proportion of wetlands across Canada. The Hudson Plains and the southwestern Boreal Forest have the highest proportion of wetlands, while Arctic, Cordilleran and Prairie regions have the lowest.

Data for this map
Wetland extent, Canada, circa 2000
Ecozone Label Ecozone Wetland area
(square kilometres)
Proportion of ecozone that is wetland
L01 Arctic Cordillera 1059 0.45
L02 Northern Arctic 48 877 3.4
L03 Southern Arctic 52 472 5.6
L04 Taiga Plains 138 737 25.0
L05 Taiga Shield 145 873 11.0
L06 Boreal Shield 320 778 16.9
L07 Atlantic Maritime 6920 6.3
L08 Mixedwood Plains 12 857 11.1
L09 Boreal Plains 235 938 30.3
L10 Prairies 14 269 3.1
L11 Montane Cordillera 8152 1.86
L12 Pacific Maritime 2587 1.2
L13 Boreal Cordillera 7121 1.28
L14 Taiga Cordillera 2581 1.12
L15 Hudson Plains 276 230 78.8
L16 Tundra Cordillera 188 0.65
L17 Atlantic Highlands 3536 3.8
L18 Semi-Arid Plateaux 460 0.81
  Total 1 290 187 12.9

Note: The sum of the wetland area of the ecozones does not equal the overall total due to the generalization of boundaries at the national scale.

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How this indicator was calculated
Unlabeled map

Note: Mapped values are the proportion of wetland in each 25 km by 25 km grid cell.
Source: Canadian Wildlife Service, 2016.

Wetlands can be defined as "areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt."Footnote [5] Alternatively, a wetland can be defined by its function, as land that is saturated with water long enough to promote aquatic processes.Footnote [6] Many types of wetlands are included within these definitions, but familiar examples include bogs, fens, marshes, swamps, and ponds.

Wetlands are valuable ecosystems. They support a disproportionately high number of species and are often very productive. Wetlands provide a range of benefits to people. Such "ecosystem services," include purifying water and removing pollutants, buffering water flows during times of flood or drought, capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, and providing places to watch wildlife and reconnect with the natural environment.

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