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 
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
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
|Year||Terrestrial area protected|
|Percentage of terrestrial area protected||Marine area protected|
|Percentage of marine area protected|
|1990||554 229||5.6||19 750||0.34|
|1991||554 732||5.6||19 769||0.34|
|1992||570 017||5.7||20 194||0.35|
|1993||580 245||5.8||20 428||0.36|
|1994||583 750||5.8||20 433||0.36|
|1995||623 574||6.2||22 201||0.39|
|1996||641 185||6.4||23 062||0.40|
|1997||653 165||6.5||23 078||0.40|
|1998||683 564||6.8||23 813||0.41|
|1999||706 404||7.1||24 046||0.42|
|2000||716 187||7.2||24 145||0.42|
|2001||739 230||7.4||24 176||0.42|
|2002||747 347||7.5||24 380||0.42|
|2003||799 774||8.0||27 735||0.48|
|2004||809 520||8.1||30 134||0.52|
|2005||836 026||8.4||31 571||0.55|
|2006||843 432||8.4||31 931||0.56|
|2007||869 789||8.7||32 124||0.56|
|2008||921 226||9.2||41 018||0.71|
|2009||949 615||9.5||41 573||0.72|
|2010||957 149||9.6||50 761||0.88|
|2011||981 496||9.8||50 849||0.88|
|2012||993 132||9.9||50 851||0.88|
|2013||1 026 893||10.3||51 499||0.90|
|2014||1 033 743||10.4||51 499||0.90|
|2015||1 054 057||10.6||51 499||0.90|
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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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  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
The map of Canada shows the distribution and size of terrestrial (land and freshwater) protected areas and marine protected areas in 2015.
Source: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (2016) Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System (CARTS). Data are current as of December 31, 2015.
- Terrestrial Protected Areas, by Province and Territory
- Protected Areas, by Ecological Region
- Marine Protected Areas, by Jurisdiction
- Global Trends in Protected Areas
- Ecological Integrity of National Parks
- 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada
- Canadian Council on Ecological Areas
- Convention on Biological Diversity
- World Database on Protected Areas – ProtectedPlanet.net
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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