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Data Sources and Methods for the Protected Areas Indicators

Description and rationale of the Protected Areas indicators

2.1 Description

The Protected Areas indicators report the amount and proportion of Canada’s land and freshwater and marine area that is recognized as protected under the international definition of a protected area as "a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values".Footnote [1] Land and/or water access, use and activities are restricted, permanently or temporarily, primarily for the purpose of conserving biodiversity and ecosystem function, regardless of proprietary designation (e.g., park, conservation area, wildlife reserve).

Three Protected Areas indicators are included. A national summary is provided by the Canada’s Protected Areas indicator. Geographic breakdowns are provided by two indicators: the Protected Areas, by Province and Territory indicator; and the Protected Areas, by Ecological Region indicator.

2.2 Rationale

The extent of the area of protected land and water is a measure of human response to the loss of biodiversity and natural habitat. As the amount of protected area in Canada increases, more natural landscapes are withdrawn from direct human development stresses, thereby preserving ecosystem services and contributing to biodiversity conservation. Although the results can be linked to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards for protected area definition and management goals, they do not provide information on the degree to which the areas are ecologically intact and protected from the impact of human activities. For information on the health of ecosystems in national parks, please refer to Ecological Integrity of National Parks. Many countries use protected areas as the core of their programs to preserve biodiversity, ecosystems and ecological services.

The Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, among them Canada, set an aspirational target to protect at least 17% of terrestrial areasFootnote [2] and inland waters, and at least 10% of marine areas, by 2020. This is one of 20 targets collectively known as the Aichi Targets established in October 2010. The protected area target supersedes the previous Convention target, set in 2004, of having 10% of each ecological region protected by 2010.

2.3 Recent changes to the indicator

The quality and completeness of protected areas data have continued to improve. Current estimates are the best available and should not be compared with those reported in previous years.

The area of Canada’s marine territory used as a baseline has been revised. The new baseline area extends to the limit of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In previous reports, the baseline included areas of the extended continental shelf; in extended shelf areas, nations have sovereign rights over the sea bed and subsoil but not the water column. If extended shelf areas are included, Canada is currently protecting about 0.7% of its ocean estate. Reporting using EEZ limits also increases consistency with other national and international protected areas reports.

The ecozone breakdown uses an updated ecozone framework, seamlessly incorporating marine ecozones. The updated framework, completed by the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas (CCEA) in 2014, has been approved by all provinces and territories, and incorporates new information obtained since the 1996 version. It replaces the Ecozones+ provisional framework used by the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report in 2010.


Footnote 1

Dudley N (editor) (2013) Guidelines for applying protected area management categories including IUCN WCPA best practice guidance on recognising protected areas and assigning management categories and governance types. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland, section 2. Retrieved on 8 May, 2014.

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Footnote 2

"Terrestrial" as used here includes both land and freshwater areas.

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