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Data Sources and Methods for the Protected Areas Indicators

2. Description and rationale of the Protected Areas indicators

2.1 Description

The Protected Areas indicators report the amount and proportion of Canada's terrestrial and marine area that is recognized 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 within the protected area are restricted, in whole or in part, permanently or temporarily, primarily for the purpose of conserving biodiversity and ecosystem function, regardless of proprietary designation (for example, park, conservation area, or wildlife reserve).

A national summary is provided by the Canada's Protected Areas indicator. Further information on coastal and marine areas is included in Marine Protected Areas. Geographic breakdowns are provided in Protected Areas, by Province and Territory and Protected Areas, by Ecological Region.

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 As the amount of protected area in Canada increases, more natural lands and waters are withdrawn from direct human development stresses, thereby helping to preserve ecosystem services and contributing to biodiversity conservation. The results do not provide information on the degree to which the areas are ecologically intact and sheltered 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 conserve at least 17% of terrestrial areasFootnote [2] and inland waters, and 10% of marine areas, by 2020.Footnote [3] 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 conserved by 2010.

The 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada also contain a target to conserve at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water and 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

2.3 Recent changes to the indicator

The analytical method used to estimate the area protected has been improved for this report. The new method uses information on the boundaries of protected areas and accounts for overlaps between areas. Previously, areas that were protected under more than one jurisdiction (for example, an area that may be both a National Wildlife Area and a National Park) were counted more than once. This correction has become more important as the quality and completeness of protected areas data have improved over time. Current estimates are the best available and should not be compared with those reported in previous years.

Management of areas previously under the Community Pastures Program (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) is being transferred to provinces or other jurisdictions. Saskatchewan has stated that it plans to continue to protect these areas and they have been retained in the analysis. Areas in Manitoba and Alberta have not been retained, as the expected management regime for these areas is not certain.

In the 2014 reporting year, marine reporting was aligned to the limit of Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Also in 2014, the ecozone breakdown for the first time used 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 replaced the Ecozones+ provisional framework used by the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report in 2010.

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