Canada's Protected Areas

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As of the end of 2015, 10.6% (1.05 million km2) of Canada's terrestrial area (land and freshwater), and 0.9% (51 thousand km2) of its marine territory have been recognized as protected. In 2015, an additional 20 thousand km2 of Canada's territory were recognized as protected. In the past 20 years, the total area protected has increased by about 70%, and in the last five years it has increased by almost 10%. In 2015, federal jurisdictions protected a total area of 512 thousand km2, a slight decrease from five years earlier. This reflects the transfer of lands to provincial and territorial jurisdiction.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 always isolate areas from use and development, including limited amounts of industrial activity and harvest of biological resources.

Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Line chart

Long description

The upper line of the chart shows the percentage of Canada's terrestrial area protected between 1990 and 2015. The lower line of the chart shows the percentage of Canada's marine area protected between 1990 and 2015.

Data for this chart
Trends in proportion of area protected, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearTerrestrial area protected
(km2)
Percentage of terrestrial area protectedMarine area protected
(km2)
Percentage of marine area protected
1990554 2295.619 7500.34
1991554 7325.619 7690.34
1992570 0175.720 1940.35
1993580 2455.820 4280.36
1994583 7505.820 4330.36
1995623 5746.222 2010.39
1996641 1856.423 0620.40
1997653 1656.523 0780.40
1998683 5646.823 8130.41
1999706 4047.124 0460.42
2000716 1877.224 1450.42
2001739 2307.424 1760.42
2002747 3477.524 3800.42
2003799 7748.027 7350.48
2004809 5208.130 1340.52
2005836 0268.431 5710.55
2006843 4328.431 9310.56
2007869 7898.732 1240.56
2008921 2269.241 0180.71
2009949 6159.541 5730.72
2010957 1499.650 7610.88
2011981 4969.850 8490.88
2012993 1329.950 8510.88
20131 026 89310.351 4990.90
20141 033 74310.451 4990.90
20151 054 05710.651 4990.90

Note: The terrestrial area of Canada is 9 984 670 km2 and its marine territory is approximately 5 750 000 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: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (2016) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS), with Quebec data used by permission. Data are current as of December 31, 2015.

Laws or agreements limit the amount and type of human activity in protected lands and waters in order to conserve these natural environments for 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 Indigenous and local communities. Protected areas include national and provincial parks, national marine conservation areas, migratory bird sanctuaries and wildlife reserves among others. 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 across Canada, 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, 2015

Map

Long description

The map of Canada shows the distribution and size of terrestrial (land and freshwater) protected areas and marine protected areas in 2015.

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How this indicator was calculated

Source: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (2016) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). Data are current as of December 31, 2015.

Related indicators

Other information

Icon
This indicator is used to measure progress towards 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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