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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 2 - Ecological Management

A. Improving Our Ecological Management Capability


In order to develop an ecological approach to the management of resources, it is necessary to better understand ecosystems and to determine the impacts of human use of resources on biodiversity. An effective research agenda for biodiversity must be coordinated and prioritized.

Research can lead to new uses of biological resources, identify new opportunities for conservation incentives, and provide the basis for further economic diversification and investment.


Article 12:

Promote and encourage research which contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Strategic Directions:

  1. Focus research to improve policy development and to integrate multiple land and resource-use objectives, with emphasis on:
    1. increasing our understanding of the impacts of human use on ecosystems and biological resources;
    2. providing support for multi-disciplinary or system-based research that improves the integration of social, economic and environmental policies;
    3. developing methodologies that permit an improved valuation of biodiversity;
    4. developing and implementing issue identification measures and adaptive management techniques to enhance management performance; and
    5. developing and implementing conflict resolution models to resolve conflicts between various resource users.
  2. Focus research to increase our understanding of ecosystems and our ability to manage human use of ecosystems and resources by:
    1. examining the structure, function and composition of ecosystems, landscapes and waterscapes and the ecological services they provide;
    2. developing cost-effective biodiversity inventory and monitoring methods and programs, including rapid assessment procedures and biodiversity indicators , to detect and monitor changes to ecosystems, species and genetic diversity;
    3. evaluating and improving methodologies to determine sustainable resource use levels;
    4. improving in situ and ex situ conservation methods, especially to enhance the recovery or rehabilitation of populations, species or ecosystems that are at risk; and
    5. exploring new sustainable uses of biological resources for economic applications.

Indigenous Knowledge, Innovations and Practices

Article 8:

Subject to national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Traditional Knowledge

Many communities, families and individuals have accumulated traditional knowledge that is relevant to the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. This knowledge may relate to harvesting resources, planting crops, using natural herbs and other material for medicinal purposes, and understanding changes that have occurred to local biological features and landscapes.

Traditional knowledge can provide an excellent basis for developing conservation and sustainable use policies and programs. All too often, however, traditional knowledge is inappropriately used or disregarded by policy-makers, scientists, resource planners and managers.

Occasionally the holders of traditional knowledge are reluctant to pass on information to individuals who are not members of their community. They may be concerned that this information will be used inappropriately or without their permission.

Strategic Directions:

Identify mechanisms to use traditional knowledge, innovations and practices with the involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices, and encourage the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices.

Inventories: Landscape, Species and Genetic Levels

Comprehensive and reliable biological inventories are a fundamental requirement for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. They provide the foundation for:

  • determining the status of ecosystems, species and genetic resources;
  • setting sustainable harvest rates for biological resources;
  • conducting research;
  • developing resource- and land-use plans; and
  • assessing the impacts of resource management practices on ecosystems.

Inventory of Biodiversity

Article 7:

Identify components of biodiversity important for its conservation and sustainable use.

Convention on Biological Diversity

In Canada many kinds of biological inventories are conducted at the landscape and ecosystem levels. They are used to develop macro-scale policies and plans, regional land-use plans, forest management plans and frameworks for selecting protected areas.

Most of Canada's trees, flowering plants, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians are relatively easy to observe and have, therefore, been discovered, named and classified. At the species level, many resource agencies have well developed inventories, especially for harvested species. Wildlife agencies routinely survey game species such as ducks, geese, deer and moose. Forest agencies inventory commercially valuable tree species. Species that have a potentially negative impact on commercial crops are also surveyed so that agencies and individuals can predict and prevent or reduce damage. However there are large gaps in our knowledge of organisms that are more difficult to observe and classify, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protists and insects. Scientists estimate that only 50 percent of Canada's species have been discovered, named and classified.

We cannot even estimate the number of species of organisms on Earth to an order of magnitude, an appalling situation in terms of knowledge and our ability to affect the human prospect positively. There are clearly few areas of science about which so little is known, and none of such direct relevance to human beings.Peter H. Raven, Global Biodiversity Strategy

The genetic diversity of the Earth's flora and fauna is very poorly understood. Even within institutions such as gene banks, which were expressly established to conserve economically important genetic resources, the genetic diversity of these resources has hardly been studied.

Inventory work requires highly skilled and trained personnel. There is currently a shortage of taxonomists and biosystematists ­ experts who identify and describe species. Moreover, very few university students are entering these fields, making it very difficult to replace retiring scientists.

Priorities need to be set to address gaps in our biological and biophysical data base. Landscape/waterscape-level inventories will be effective in supporting the development of land-use and resource management policies and plans, while more detailed inventories will be required to support more refined planning and site-specific developments. Inventories must be designed to achieve specified objectives.

Strategic Directions:


Improve biophysical inventories at ecosystem, species and genetic levels by:

  1. developing and applying regionally integrated landscape-level classification systems for terrestrial, freshwater and marine areas to provide a framework for the collection of information and the management of resources;
  2. linking biological inventories and soil, climate and other surveys;
  3. conducting biological inventories, based upon jurisdictional priorities, that take into consideration vulnerable, threatened and endangered species and ecosystems, critical habitats, little-studied taxonomic groups, taxonomic groups of economic importance, areas of high diversity and areas where human development and disturbance are the most significant; and
  4. encouraging the use of innovative and traditional methods to increase knowledge about the diversity of micro-organisms, their functional roles in ecosystems, and their potential economic uses.

Loss of Seeds in North America

A 10-year survey of all seed catalogues in North America indicated that the erosion of traditional varieties of vegetable plants may be quite severe.

Seed Savers Exchange


Enable agencies and individuals to conduct biological and biophysical inventories by:

  1. developing ways to collectively identify funding sources and determine priorities for inventories; and
  2. ensuring that there is sufficient expertise available to conduct inventory work, including taxonomists, biosystematists, parataxonomists, museum professionals, ecologists, geneticists and other experts.

Conservation Data Centres now exist in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Support efforts to improve the reliability and cost-effectiveness of biological inventory methodologies and technologies.
Maintain the capacity of museums and other institutions to scientifically describe, classify and store collected specimens, as well as maintain their ability to effectively disseminate data and information.
Continue to establish networks of Conservation Data Centres or Natural Heritage Centres to develop and harmonize data bases for the conservation of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species and ecosystems.
Improve inventories to determine the genetic diversity of domesticated and non-domesticated biological resources to maximize the conservation and economic use of genetic resources.
Collaborate with other countries to inventory populations and habitats of transboundary species, particularly those that are at risk.