Extent of Canada's Wetlands

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Wetlands are among Earth's most productive ecosystems. They provide numerous ecosystem services and support many species (including species at risk) and significant numbers of migratory birds, fish and amphibians. They are also home to a wide diversity of plants, and many other species.

Canada has about 1.29 million km2 of wetlands, covering 13% of Canada's terrestrialFootnote [1] area. This is close to one quarter of the world's remaining wetlands.Footnote [2] Where wetlands have been monitored, they generally show declines in extent due to conversion to agriculture and other development.Footnote [3]

Most of Canada's wetlands occur in the Boreal Shield (25% of Canadian wetland area), Hudson Plains (21%) and Boreal Plains (18%). Wetlands form almost 80% of the Hudson Plains, and very low proportions of mountainous regions such as the Arctic Cordillera (less than 0.5%) and Montane Cordillera (less than 2%).

Wetland extent, Canada, circa 2000Footnote [4]

Map of Canada - see long description below

Long description

The map shows the proportion of wetlands across Canada. The Hudson Plains and the southwestern Boreal Forest have the highest proportion of wetlands, while Arctic, Cordilleran and Prairie regions have the lowest.

Data for this map
Wetland extent, Canada, circa 2000
Ecozone LabelEcozoneWetland area
(square kilometres)
Proportion of ecozone that is wetland
L01Arctic Cordillera10590.45
L02Northern Arctic48 8773.4
L03Southern Arctic52 4725.6
L04Taiga Plains138 73725.0
L05Taiga Shield145 87311.0
L06Boreal Shield320 77816.9
L07Atlantic Maritime69206.3
L08Mixedwood Plains12 85711.1
L09Boreal Plains235 93830.3
L10Prairies14 2693.1
L11Montane Cordillera81521.86
L12Pacific Maritime25871.2
L13Boreal Cordillera71211.28
L14Taiga Cordillera25811.12
L15Hudson Plains276 23078.8
L16Tundra Cordillera1880.65
L17Atlantic Highlands35363.8
L18Semi-Arid Plateaux4600.81
 Total1 290 18712.9

Note: The sum of the wetland area of the ecozones does not equal the overall total due to the generalization of boundaries at the national scale.

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How this indicator was calculated
Unlabeled map

Note: Mapped values are the proportion of wetland in each 25 km by 25 km grid cell.
Source: Canadian Wildlife Service, 2016.

Wetlands can be defined as "areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt."Footnote [5] Alternatively, a wetland can be defined by its function, as land that is saturated with water long enough to promote aquatic processes.Footnote [6] Many types of wetlands are included within these definitions, but familiar examples include bogs, fens, marshes, swamps, and ponds.

Wetlands are valuable ecosystems. They support a disproportionately high number of species and are often very productive. Wetlands provide a range of benefits to people. Such "ecosystem services," include purifying water and removing pollutants, buffering water flows during times of flood or drought, capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, and providing places to watch wildlife and reconnect with the natural environment.

Related information

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