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Canada’s Protected Areas

The number of areas and the total area protected in Canada continue to grow. As of the end of 2013, 10.4% (1 036 645 km2) of Canada’s terrestrial area (land and freshwater), and about 0.9% (51 485 km2) of its marine territory have been recognized as protected. In the past 20 years, the total area protected has nearly doubled, and in the last five years it has increased by 15%. In 2013, federal jurisdictions protected 525 398 km2 of territory, a 48% increase in the past 20 years.

Protected areas are lands and waters where development and use is restricted by legal or other means for the conservation of nature. Limited development, industrial activity, and harvest of biological resources do occur in some cases. Based on internationally recognized definitions, protected areas are classified according to their management objective. As of 2013, 94% of protected territory in Canada was in management categories that are generally recognized to provide a higher level of protection.Footnote [1]

Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2013

Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2013

Long Description

The upper line of the graph shows the percentage of terrestrial area that has been recognized as protected in Canada between 1990 and 2013. The lower line of the graph shows the percentage of marine area protected between 1990 and 2013. As of 2013, 10.4% (1 036 645 square kilometres) of Canada’s terrestrial (land and freshwater) area, and about 0.9% (51 485 square kilometres) of its marine territory have been recognized as protected. In the last 20 years, the total area protected has nearly doubled, and in the last five years it has increased by 15%.

View data for this chart
How this indicator was calculated

Note: Areas with an unknown creation date are assumed to have been protected since before 1990. Only areas recognized as protected under international standards are included.
Source: For Canada, except Quebec: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) (2014) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (2014) Registre des aires protégées au Québec. Data are current as of 31 December, 2013.

Although the distribution and size of individual protected areas is highly variable, the total represents an area close to the size of Ontario. Larger protected areas tend to be located in northern Canada where there are fewer conflicting land uses.

Protected areas, Canada, 2013

Protected areas, Canada, 2013

Long Description

The map shows the distribution and size of terrestrial (land and freshwater) protected areas and marine protected areas in 2013. Larger protected areas tend to be located in northern Canada where there are fewer conflicting land uses.

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How this indicator was calculated

Source: For Canada, except Quebec: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) (2014) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (2014) Registre des aires protégées au Québec. Data are current as of 31 December, 2013.

Laws or agreements limit the amount and type of human activity in protected lands or waters in order to conserve these natural environments for the benefit of present and future generations of Canadians. Protected areas may be chosen to represent parts of the Canadian landscape, such as the boreal forest or an ocean shelf, or they may be created to conserve endangered wildlife species, wildlife habitats, and unique or ecologically sensitive areas.

Federal, provincial and territorial protected areas are included in this report, as well as some areas protected by non-governmental environmental organizations, and Aboriginal and local communities. Examples of protected areas include national and provincial parks, national wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, wildlife reserves, and ecological reserves. Only partial information exists for privately held conservation lands, such as those owned by land trusts, or lands still in private ownership but protected by conservation easements or similar agreements.

All protected areas are managed to conserve nature, but the 6% of areas not in "strictly protected" categories focus either on preserving landscapes where long-term, sustainable human use has produced an area with natural and cultural features that are important;Footnote [2] or they focus on maintaining the sustainable use of natural resourcesFootnote [3] (view data).

The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity established an aspirational target in October 2010 to set aside, by 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial areas (including freshwaters) and at least 10% of marine areas. Canada, as a signatory to the Convention, is contributing to this global target.

Related indicators

Other information

Theme III: Protecting Nature of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
This indicator is used to measure progress toward Target 4.3: Terrestrial Ecosystems and Habitat Stewardship – Contribute to the proposed national target that by 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016.

 

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Areas in International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories I-IV are considered "strictly protected"; see the Data Sources and Methods document for details.

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Footnote 2

IUCN category V.

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Footnote 3

IUCN category VI.

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