Wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land

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About 7% of Canada's terrestrial area is used for agriculture. Farming is concentrated in the regions of the country with suitable climate and soils. Agriculture necessarily involves significant manipulation of the vegetation of production areas, so it can have a marked impact on wildlife habitat capacity. The conservation of biodiversity in agricultural regions depends on careful management and protection of species' habitats while maintaining the food production we need.

The habitat capacity of agricultural land is higher in less intensively farmed areas. Habitat capacity is measured as the ability of the landscape to support wildlife breeding and feeding, based on the kind of vegetation present.

Index of wildlife habitat capacity on agricultural land, Canada, 2013

Map of Canada - see long description
Long description

The map of Canada's agricultural areas shows that wildlife habitat capacity is generally low in the largest agricultural regions (Prairies and St. Lawrence). Areas of higher habitat capacity occur at the edges of these regions and near the southern Alberta-Saskatchewan border. Habitat capacity in other agricultural areas, including Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, is generally higher but highly variable.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Habitat capacity refers to the ability of the landscape to support breeding and feeding by terrestrial wild vertebrate species. Relative habitat capacity is shown as a gradient from very high (green), for areas of high habitat capacity, to very low (red), for areas of lower habitat capacity.
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2014).

Trends

While agricultural production has been increasing in recent decades, wildlife habitat in most agricultural areas is stable, with some areas decreasing and a few increasing. Results for previous years use a less precise data source and cannot be directly compared to 2013 results. However, the loss of natural and semi-natural land cover and the intensification of agricultural operations resulted in a small but measurable decline in average national habitat capacity on farmland from 1986 to 2011. Most of these declines occurred in southern Ontario and Quebec following a reduction in pasture and hay land, and dramatic increases in soybean production. The Prairies, which account for the majority of Canada's agricultural lands, have had pockets of decline, but have remained stable in terms of their ability to provide wildlife habitat.

Trends in wildlife habitat on agricultural land, Canada, 1986 to 2011

Column chart - see long description
Long description

The stacked column chart above shows that the proportion of agricultural land with low or very low habitat capacity has increased slightly since 1986. The line chart below shows the Wildlife habitat capacity index across Canada has declined slightly between 1986 and 2011.

Data for this chart
Trends in wildlife habitat on agricultural land, Canada, 1986 to 2011
Year Land with very high habitat capacity
(percentage)
Land with high habitat capacity
(percentage)
Land with moderate habitat capacity
(percentage)
Land with low habitat capacity
(percentage)
Land with very low habitat capacity
(percentage)
Wildlife habitat capacity index
1986 0.1 1.5 7.9 53.7 36.9 40
1991 0.0 1.2 7.1 52.9 38.7 39
1996 0.1 1.8 7.6 53.2 37.3 40
2001 0.1 1.6 6.8 50.4 41.0 38
2006 0.1 1.0 5.8 50.9 42.2 37
2011 0.2 1.3 4.5 46.1 47.9 36

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1016 B)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The stacked columns show the proportion of agricultural land in each of five habitat capacity categories ranging from very low to very high. The line chart shows the Wildlife habitat capacity index across all agricultural land in Canada.For more information, refer to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Wildlife Habitat Capacity on Farmland Indicator.
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2014).

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