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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, 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, by Jurisdiction. Geographic breakdowns are provided in Terrestrial 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 As the amount of protected area in Canada increases, more natural lands and waters are withdrawn from direct human development stresses, thereby helping to preserve ecosystem services and contributing to biodiversity conservation.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.

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

Data and methods continue to be improved.

Several jurisdictions reviewed data in 2015, and technical improvements were made to the ecozone analysis. Current estimates are the best available and comparisons with previous reports should be made with caution. Data for Quebec were previously received directly from the province; for this reporting year, Quebec data were received via the Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System database (see section 3.1).

Changes to the underlying database are allowing information on delisting and transfer between jurisdictions to be captured for the first time. Partial data are available for 2015. Management of areas previously under the Community Pastures Program (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) has been transferred to provinces or other jurisdictions, and this change has been captured. Similarly, the portion of Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary that is located in the Northwest Territories has been transferred to territorial jurisdiction.

The analytical method used to estimate the area protected was substantially revised for the 2014 reporting year. The revised 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 Migratory Bird Sanctuary and a National Park) were counted more than once.

Also in the 2014 reporting year, marine reporting was aligned to the limit of Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone. The same year, 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 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 of 2010.


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