Latest environmental indicators

This page lists the indicators released by the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program. Subscribe to our e-updates to receive the latest indicators in your inbox or follow us on Facebook or Twitter #CdnEnv #Sustainability #Indicators

February 2018

Climate indicators

Climate Change

Snow cover

Snow cover naturally varies with temperature, precipitation and climate cycles, such as El Niño. Over the long term, trends are primarily controlled by changes in temperature and precipitation. Information on snow quantities and snow cover duration is important for understanding how climate change is influencing snow cover in Canada

Key results
  • Since the early 1970s, snow cover extent has decreased significantly in Canada during the months of May and June in response to a warming climate.
  • In 2016, snow cover extent for May and June was at its third lowest since 1972, and April was at its 11th lowest point.
  • The number of days with snow in 2016 were below average for most of Western Canada, the Prairies, southern Ontario, southern Quebec and most of the Atlantic provinces. A substantial part of northern Quebec and Labrador, and smaller areas of northern Yukon and Ontario, experienced above-average snow cover duration.

Wildlife and habitat indicators


Canadian species index

The Canadian species index shows whether monitored species tend to have increasing or decreasing population sizes. This, in turn, provides an integrated measure of the condition of our environment.

Key results
  • Between 1970 and 2014, vertebrate populations have, on average, declined by about 10%.
  • Freshwater species trends varied over time and by 2014 showed little net change.
  • Terrestrial species have declined on average, and by 2014 were about 10% below the 1970 baseline, mainly due to declines in mammal populations.
  • Marine species generally increased in the 1970s and then declined. Trends vary among groups of species.

Biological resources

Sustainability of timber harvest

About 35% of Canada's area is covered in forests. Timber harvest is an important part of the Canadian economy. To ensure that forests can continue to provide timber, the harvests need to remain below sustainable limits. The maximum sustainable harvest is known as the wood supply. The indicator compares the amount of timber harvested with the wood supply.  

Key results
  • Between 1990 and 2015, timber harvest in Canada ranged from 48% to 85% of the estimated wood supply.
  • Canada's wood supply has remained relatively stable since 1990, at an average of 238 million cubic metres.

January 2018

Climate indicators

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities

The release of greenhouse gases and their increasing concentration in the atmosphere is leading to a changing climate. This change has an impact on the environment, human health and the economy. This indicator tracks greenhouse gas emissions and provides consistent information on emissions from the largest emitting facilities in Canada.

Key results
  • In 2016, 263 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were emitted by 596 facilities reporting to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
  • The reporting facilities account for 37% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions.

Performance and results

Progress towards Canada's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target

Under the Paris Agreement, Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. This indicator tracks Canada's progress towards meeting its target.

Key results
  • With measures in place as of September 2017, emissions are projected to be 722 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030, or 2% below 2005 levels.
  • With specific measures from Canada's clean growth and climate plan and for which enough information is available, emissions are projected to be 583 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 21% below 2005 levels.

Water indicators

Regional ecosystems

Nutrients in Lake Winnipeg

Phosphorus and nitrogen are essential plant nutrients. When phosphorus or nitrogen levels are too high or too low, they can have harmful impacts on the food web of a lake or river. They are a measure of the health of Lake Winnipeg and its surrounding watershed. These indicators provide the status of phosphorus and nitrogen levels in Lake Winnipeg and 3 of its tributary rivers.

Key results
  • In Lake Winnipeg, the highest levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in 2016 are found in the south basin near the inflow from the Red River. Levels decline as the water flows north.
  • In the 3 largest tributary rivers, for the 2014 to 2016 period, high nutrient levels were detected frequently in the Red and Winnipeg rivers and intermittently in the Saskatchewan River.
  • Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund projects completed between 2010 and 2017 have prevented an estimated 110 700 kilograms of phosphorus from reaching Lake Winnipeg.

Water quality

Water quality in Canadian rivers

Healthy river ecosystems rely on clean water. The quality of water, and the health of rivers, depends on how people develop and use the surrounding land. These indicators provide a national and regional overview of water quality in Canada.

Key results
  • Water quality in rivers in southern Canada is most often classified as fair to good. This classification means it can maintain healthy river ecosystems.
  • Water quality tends to be worse where there are cities, agriculture, mining, or a combination of all 3 (mixed pressures).
  • Water quality has not changed between 2002 and 2016 at a majority of sites across southern Canada. Where it has changed, it has improved more often than it has worsened.

Water quantity

Water quantity in Canadian rivers

Canada is a water-rich country. However, too much or too little water can lead to serious problems. When there is too little water, there may not be enough water to irrigate farmland and there may be drought. When there is too much, rivers may flood. These indicators provide information about water flows across Canada.

Key results
  • From 2001 to 2015, most Canadian rivers had normal water quantity.
  • Since 2010, there has been an increase in sites with a higher-than-normal quantity.
  • The percentage of stations with a lower-than-normal quantity has declined since 2001.

Wildlife and habitat indicators

Biological resources

Management of Canadian aquaculture

Aquaculture operators' compliance with environmental standards helps to protect our aquatic environment. The indicator provides a measure of how well aquaculture operators meet environmental protection standards related to the sector as set out in the Fisheries Act regulations.

Key results
  • From 2011 to 2016, the annual compliance rate of inspected aquaculture operations with Fisheries Act regulations was over 98%.
  • For the last 2 years, 100% of inspected aquaculture operations were compliant.

Previous releases

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program develops and regularly reports on a wide range of environmental indicators. These indicators are used to keep Canadians informed and up-to-date on the state and trends of environmental issues of concern. The indicators also track and report on the progress of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. Indicators from past releases are listed below.

November 2017

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