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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). Geographic breakdowns by jurisdiction and by ecological region are also provided.

2.2 Rationale

The area of land and water that is protected 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 As the amount of protected area in Canada increases, more natural landscapes are withdrawn from direct human development stresses, thereby preserving ecosystem services and contributing to biodiversity conservation.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 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards for management goals, the degree to which the areas are ecologically intact and protected from the impact of human activities is not known (but see 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, which includes Canada, set an aspirational target to set aside at least 17% of terrestrial areas 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 Changes since last report

The quality and completeness of protected areas data have continued to improve.

Areas managed by the National Capital Commission and recognized as protected areas are now included as federal protected areas.

Management of areas in the Community Pastures Program (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) will be transferred to provinces; at present, these continue to be managed federally and are included in federal protected areas. Among the provincial jurisdictions affected, only Saskatchewan has committed to continuing to protect these areas.

The geographic breakdown of marine ecological regions has been updated to use the more recent marine bioregion framework, replacing the marine Ecozones+ framework.


Footnote 1

Dudley N (2008) Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. (PDF; 2.13 MB) IUCN: Gland, Switzerland, page 6. Retrieved on 16 April, 2012.

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