Canada's Protected Areas

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The number of protected areas and the total area protected in Canada continue to grow. As of the end of 2014, 10.3% (1 026 682 km2) of Canada's terrestrial area (land and freshwater), and 0.9% (51 572 km2) of its marine territory have been recognized as protected. In the past 20 years, the total area protected has increased by 92%, and in the last five years it has increased by 8%. In 2014, federal jurisdictions protected a total area of 511 075 km2.Footnote [1]

Protected areas are lands and waters where development and use is restricted by legal or other means for the conservation of nature. Protection does not isolate areas from use and controlled amounts of development: industrial activity and harvest of biological resources do occur in some cases.

Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2014

Line chart

Long description

The upper line of the chart shows the percentage of terrestrial area that has been recognized as protected in Canada between 1990 and 2014. The lower line of the graph shows the percentage of marine area protected between 1990 and 2014.

View data for this chart
Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2014
YearTerrestrial area protected
(km2)
Percentage of terrestrial area protectedMarine area protected
(km2)
Percentage of marine area protected
1990526 2145.318 3470.32
1991526 7185.318 3660.32
1992529 5565.318 7280.33
1993539 7785.418 9710.33
1994543 2845.418 9780.33
1995583 0355.820 7460.36
1996602 0246.021 6070.38
1997613 7716.121 6230.38
1998639 5926.423 5950.41
1999650 9706.523 5960.41
2000662 7316.623 6890.41
2001709 3877.124 2380.42
2002717 5057.224 4420.43
2003776 3657.827 7910.48
2004786 0977.930 1900.53
2005814 2108.231 6250.55
2006820 7788.231 9850.56
2007847 0608.532 1780.56
2008900 4619.041 0730.71
2009953 9209.641 6240.72
2010961 4539.650 8390.88
2011977 7789.850 9250.89
2012989 1019.950 9250.89
20131 024 77010.351 5720.90
20141 026 68210.351 5720.90

Note: The terrestrial area of Canada is 9 984 670 km2 and its marine territory is approximately 5.75 million km2. Overlaps between protected areas were corrected for.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Terrestrial areas include both land and freshwater. Areas with an unknown creation date are assumed to have been protected before 1990. Only areas recognized as protected under international standards are included.
Source: For Canada, except Quebec: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) (2015) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (2015) Registre des aires protégées au Québec. Data are current as of 31 December, 2014.

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 or seascape, 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 marine conservation areas, migratory bird sanctuaries and wildlife reserves. Only partial information exists for privately held conservation lands, such as those owned by land trusts, or lands still in private ownership but conserved through easements or similar agreements.

The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) established a set of aspirational targets in October 2010. Target 11 under the CBD is "By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent 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,Footnote [2] and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes." Canada, as a signatory to the Convention, has developed the 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada, which include "Target 1: By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area–based conservation measures."

Protected areas in Canada

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 area, Canada, 2014

Map

Long description

The map shows the distribution and size of terrestrial (land and freshwater) protected areas and marine protected areas in 2014.

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How this indicator was calculated

Source: For Canada, except Quebec: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) (2015) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). For Quebec: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (2015) Registre des aires protégées au Québec. Data are current as of 31 December, 2014.

Related indicators

Other information

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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 and Target 4.5 By 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area–based conservation measures of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013–2016.

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