2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada

Goal A. By 2020, Canada's lands and waters are planned and managed using an ecosystem approach to support biodiversity conservation outcomes at local, regional and national scales.

Target 1. By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

Indicators:

  • Percentage of total terrestrial territory (including inland water) conserved in protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures
  • Percentage of total coastal and marine territory conserved in marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures

Why is this target important for Canada?

Canada's natural spaces are a vital component of our culture, heritage, economy and our future, and they are of global importance. Canada's forests, wetlands, prairies, tundra and oceans provide essential ecosystem services. Approximately 30% of the world's boreal forest, 20% of the world's freshwater resources, the world's longest coastline and one of the world's largest marine territories are ours to enjoy, protect and share. Canada's natural areas include critical habitat for species at risk on land and at sea, thousands of lakes and rivers that provide drinking water and energy, and forests and wetlands that store greenhouse gases, produce oxygen and regulate flooding.

Protecting these important areas from degradation is one of our key means of conserving biodiversity in Canada and is vital in maintaining the ecosystem services provided by these areas. Canada's parks and protected areas provide a living legacy for future generations of Canadians, affording opportunities for people to discover and learn about nature. Canada has made great progress through the creation of national, provincial, and municipal parks and many other types of conservation areas that complement the role of protected areas in conserving nature. As pressures that threaten to degrade natural areas continue to increase, even greater effort is required to protect our land and water through a variety of means.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 11.

Meeting the target

As of 2013, approximately 10% of Canada's terrestrial territory, and about 1% of Canada's marine territory is conserved within protected areas. The majority of this area is within federal, provincial and territorial protected areas networks. The expansion of these networks will make a significant contribution toward the national target of conserving 17% of our land and 10% of our marine area by 2020. In addition, all sectors of society, including business, the non-profit sector, landowners and citizens have an important role to play in conserving natural areas in their community and on private land. It will be important to continue to focus on areas that are ecologically representative and important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to ensure that these areas are well-connected and effectively managed. Further, there is a need to integrate these areas into the wider landscapes and seascapes in which they are situated.

Key concepts

Terrestrial areas and inland water: All land and water above the high-tide line including lakes, rivers, and streams.

Coastal and marine areas: Coastline below the high-tide line, coastal estuaries and salt marshes, and ocean waters contained within Canada's marine territory.

Protected area: A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Other effective area-based conservation measures (OCM): Spatially explicit measures that are focused on long-term conservation, address threats to biodiversity, and provide a net conservation benefit, but are not formally designated protected areas. Canada is engaging in domestic and international conservations about how OCM will be tracked and reported.

How will progress be measured?

The area of land and water that is protected in Canada is a measure of human response to the loss of biodiversity and natural habitat. The two indicators proposed for this target rely on up-to-date data on protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures in Canada, both on land and at sea. Progress is currently monitored, tracked and reported using data from the Conservation Areas Reporting and Tracking System under the auspices of the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas, the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, and from Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Parks Canada.  These sources capture information on protected areas and, increasingly capture information on private protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. This data will provide a comprehensive picture of all the protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures in Canada. Target 16 (By 2020, Canada has a comprehensive inventory of protected spaces that includes private conservation areas), highlights this effort.

Top of Page

Target 2. By 2020, species that are secure remain secure, and populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans.

Indicators:

  • Species at risk population trends (i.e. trends in population sizes of species at risk compared to federal recovery strategy objectives)
  • Changes in wildlife species disappearance risks
  • Trends in the general status of wild species

Why is this target important for Canada?

Canada is home to a unique variety of plants and animals. These species not only represent Canada's rich biodiversity, but are also an integral part of Canadians' natural and cultural heritage. Each species plays a key role in maintaining the overall health of ecosystems – ensuring the health of native populations of species is fundamental to preserving Canada's biodiversity and the benefits that it provides. However, the well-being of some of these species is under threat. Canada currently has over 500 species that are legally listed under federal law as “at risk”, largely as a result of habitat disturbance and loss, competition from invasive alien species, and environmental changes resulting from climate change and pollution. When a plant or an animal is determined to be at risk under federal law, plans for its recovery or management must be made. Concerted effort at local, provincial, territorial and federal levels is essential to ensure improvements in the condition of species and meet the objectives laid out in recovery strategies.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 12.

Meeting the target

Canada's approach aims to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct by securing the necessary actions for their recovery, while managing other species to prevent them from becoming at risk. Meeting this target will involve continued consultation and cooperation with Canadians on the protection of species in Canada. Sustained work at the federal, provincial and territorial levels and with Aboriginal governments and communities, to promote partnerships and stewardship activities in order to maintain healthy population of species, protect species at risk and their habitat, and to implement national and local laws and strategies will be essential. The Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, which commits Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments to a common approach to protecting species at risk, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and activities under programs such as the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk are key components of a Canadian strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. All provinces and territories have species at risk or wildlife legislation that mandates the protection of species and habitat.

Continued cooperation beyond Canada's borders is needed to address the many species at risk that have only a small portion of their global or continental range in Canada. Recovery strategies aim to make certain that the Canadian portion of these species' recovery needs is ensured. Species vary greatly in their recovery needs and the length of time it can take to see improvement in population numbers or distribution - hundreds of years in some cases. For this reason, improvement may be difficult to detect by 2020 in some species. As a result, the Species at Risk target focuses on the objectives established for each species in their Canadian recovery strategy or management plan. Progress will be measured in terms of trends toward recovery by 2020 detected during regular reassessment exercises.

Key concepts

Federally listed species at risk: Species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Note that provinces and territories can and do assess and list species within their jurisdictions independent of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and SARA processes.

National reassessment: As conducted by COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. COSEWIC is a committee of wildlife experts who assess the status of wildlife species populations that may be at risk of disappearing from Canada. COSEWIC designations are taken into consideration by the government of Canada when establishing the legal list of wildlife species at risk.

Population and distribution trends: Species listed under the Species at Risk Act require either a Management Plan (special Concern) or a Recovery Strategy (unless extinct), which contains population and distribution objectives.

Secure species: Species that are not believed to belong in the categories “extirpated”, “extinct”, “at risk”, “may be at risk”, “sensitive”, “accidental” or “exotic” as described in the Wild Species series of reports on the general status of species. This category includes some species that show a trend of decline in numbers in Canada but remain relatively widespread or abundant.

Wildlife species: A species, subspecies, variety or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.

How will progress be measured?

The indicators proposed for this target are part of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI), which provides data and information to track Canada's performance on key environmental sustainability issues.

The Species at Risk Population Trends indicator provides an assessment of the recovery trends of species that i) are included on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), ii) have a final recovery strategy or management plan that contains population goals, iii) are determined to be biologically and technically feasible to recover, and iv) have been reassessed by COSEWIC since the final recovery document (recovery strategy or management plan) was published. The data for this indicator are compiled from a number of sources. 1) Recovery goals and objectives are drawn from final recovery strategies of species listed as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened on the List of Wildlife Species at Risk under SARA. Final and proposed species recovery strategiesFootnote1 are made available to the public through the Species at Risk Public Registry. 2) Management plans contain goals and objectives that relate to the prevention of Special concern species from becoming Threatened or Endangered. Like recovery strategies, final and proposed species management plans are made available to the public through the Species at Risk Public Registry. 3) Population trends are extracted from the most recent COSEWIC assessments, which are also available through the Species at Risk Public Registry.

The Changes in Wildlife Species Disappearance Risks indicator uses the findings of COSEWIC to report on changes in the status of species in Canada. The indicator measures conservation effectiveness and was developed in partnership with the COSEWIC Secretariat at Environment Canada. Data are drawn from COSEWIC Wildlife Species Status Reports, which are available through the Species at Risk Public Registry.

The General Status of Species in Canada indicator summarizes the state of all species within a set of targeted species groups. The general status indicator provides a measure of potential extinction risk and an indication of the overall state of biodiversity in Canada, since the loss of a species is a loss of biodiversity. Data for the indicator are drawn from the Wild Species reports (CESCC 2001; CESCC 2006; CESCC 2011), which are compiled every 5 years from existing information and expertise to develop general status ranks for as many species as possible.

Top of Page

Target 3. By 2020, Canada's wetlands are conserved or enhanced to sustain their ecosystem services through retention, restoration and management activities.

Indicator:

  • Habitat area retained, managed, and restored under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan

Why is this target important for Canada?

Canada is home to 25 percent of the world's wetlands, which include bogs, fens, swamps, marshes and shallow/open waters. Wetlands are directly responsible for a number of ecosystem services that Canadians rely upon, such as flood and drought control, water filtration, erosion control, protecting communities from storm surge, and storing of substantial quantities of greenhouse gases, as well as offering opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, hunting and fishing. Furthermore, wetlands are key to the lifecycles of a huge range of plants and animals, including one-third of Canada's species at risk. Yet, despite their importance, wetland degradation is continuing and loss has now reached critical levels in many areas of the country. In order to reduce the negative effects of wetland loss, there is a need to ensure that remaining wetlands are conserved and utilized in a sustainable manner so that the benefits of wetlands continue to be provided. Conserving and enhancing Canadian wetlands will benefit wildlife and plant species, ensure the maintenance of vital ecosystem services, and contribute to the health and well-being of Canadians.

Meeting the target

This target highlights the important role that stewards of Canada's wetlands have in maintaining the health and wellbeing of a vital ecosystem that benefits all Canadians. In fact, great efforts to protect and preserve wetlands are underway. The North American Waterfowl Management Plan, for example, working with private landowners and governments, has reduced the rate of loss and degradation since 1986 by protecting wetlands, establishing conservation agreements, and influencing stewardship activities of landowners, farmers, land managers and conservation agencies. Protected areas, established by governments, and other types of conservation areas established by private land owners, conservation organizations, and local communities, have preserved millions of hectares of wetlands. Ducks Unlimited Canada is leading the development of a Canadian Wetlands Inventory and Environment Canada is developing the Wetlands Indicator under the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) initiative. Both projects build on the mapping efforts of all jurisdictions by creating standards for detecting, classifying and mapping wetlands by the different wetland types across Canada. Despite these efforts, declines and degradation continue. Continued commitment and collaboration by many players, including agricultural users, municipal and regional land use planners, developers, industry and recreational users will be vital.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Targets 4, 5, 14 and 15.

Key concepts

Ecosystem Services: The materials that ecosystems provide (e.g. food, fuel, fibre, medicine); the ways that ecosystems regulate environmental conditions (e.g. clean the air and water, prevent soil erosion, reduce the spread of disease, mitigate impacts of climate); and their contributions to cultural life (e.g. education, recreation, inspiration, physical and mental health including cognitive development).

Enhancement: Actions carried out on wetland or upland habitats to increase their carrying capacity for wildlife and their ability to provide ecosystem services (see also Restoration).

Retention: The protection (or preservation) of functional wetlands for ecosystem services and the provision of suitable habitat for wildlife.

Management: Activities conducted on wetland or upland habitats to manage and maintain their carrying capacity for wildlife and their ability to provide ecosystem services.

Restoration: The creation or improvement of wetlands and the ecosystem services that they provide.

Wetland: A land that is saturated with water long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes as indicated by poorly drained soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and various kinds of biological activity which are adapted to a wet environment.

How will progress be measured?

The indicator proposed for this target reports on the amount of Canadian wetland and associated upland habitat that has been retained, managed, and restored through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) to support waterfowl and other wetland dependent species. These activities are measured within NAWMP's four Habitat Joint Ventures: Pacific Coast (Canada portion only); Canadian Intermountain; Eastern Habitat; and Prairie Habitat, including the Western Boreal Forest region.

A related wetland indicator is currently in development under the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators initiative. The Status and Trends of Wetlands indicator will report on the general state of wetlands in Canada and changes over time.

Top of Page

Target 4. By 2020, biodiversity considerations are integrated into municipal planning and activities of major municipalities across Canada.

Indicators:

  • The number of medium and large population centres that have developed biodiversity conservation strategies
  • The number of medium and large population centres that have biodiversity objectives in municipal planning documents

Why is this target important for Canada?

Approximately 80 percent of the Canadian population currently lives in urban areas and that number is expected to reach 90 percent by 2050. The total area of urban land in Canada almost doubled between 1971 and 2001. Although urban areas occupy a relatively small portion of Canada, they are often situated in places particularly rich in biodiversity, such as coastal areas, river valleys, and on the shores of lakes, so the impact of habitat loss occurring from urbanization may be disproportionate relative to the area disturbed. Urban expansion can also alter watersheds, degrading water quality for aquatic biodiversity and increasing vulnerability to flooding. The importance of healthy ecosystems in urban settings has become better understood in recent years. Some of the benefits for urban dwellers of increased green space include cleaner air, respite from hot summer temperatures, opportunities for recreation, and more. For cities, naturalized areas not only create attractive neighbourhoods, but natural riverbanks and adequate groundcover can help with flood control and reduce storm water runoff. Municipalities are uniquely positioned to play a significant role by developing locally tailored biodiversity solutions.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 2.

Meeting the target

A number of Canadian municipalities are already working directly and indirectly on biodiversity activities through their planning, awareness-raising, decision-making, and service delivery initiatives. For example, the City of Edmonton is a leader in biodiversity protection and has made education on the importance of biodiversity a major local effort. The City has mainstreamed biodiversity through urban design and recognized the roles different stakeholders and the community can play to move sustainability and ecosystem conservation efforts forward. In addition, Montreal and Ottawa were among the cities that contributed to the development of the City and Biodiversity Index, an internationally developed self-assessment tool designed to help evaluate urban conservation efforts and progress in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss in urban ecosystems. At the provincial level, Ontario's Biodiversity Strategy 2011 highlighted the importance of biodiversity conservation in the urban context, and Quebec developed a guide on urbanization and biodiversity for planners and municipal staff that identifies tools and best practices to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban areas. Canada's national municipal organizations, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and ICLEI-Canada, have also actively emphasized the value of biodiversity in the urban context and importance of integrating biodiversity considerations at the municipal level. At the federal level, the bill to formally establish Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area was tabled in June 2014, and Parks Canada completed a large-scale public engagement process on the park's first draft management plan. Meeting this target will require continued and more systematic efforts to integrate biodiversity into municipal policies, plans and programmes. Progress toward this target will be measured continuously as municipalities across the country recognize the importance of biodiversity through the development of biodiversity conservation strategies and integration of biodiversity objectives in municipal plans and activities.

Key concepts

Major municipalities: Medium and large population centres, according to Statistics Canada definitions:

  • small population centres, with a population of between 1,000 and 29,999;
  • medium population centres, with a population of between 30,000 and 99,999;
  • large urban population centres, consisting of a population of 100,000 and over.

In 2011, Statistics Canada reported 85 medium and large population centres in Canada, and 857 small population centres.

How will progress be measured?

The two indicators proposed for this target rely on data from individual municipalities as well as municipal associations and networks. Environment Canada would work with partners to survey the municipalities associated with Canada's 85 medium and large population centres to gather the relevant data. Case studies showcasing municipal activities that integrate biodiversity considerations could also be gathered.

Top of Page

Target 5. By 2020, the ability of Canadian ecological systems to adapt to climate change is better understood, and priority adaptation measures are underway.

Indicators:

  • Completion of assessments of the vulnerability of ecological systems and biodiversity to climate change in sectors and regions across Canada that identify priority areas and species of greatest concern
  • The number and extent of management, land use and development plans completed and implemented that integrate explicit consideration of adaptation to facilitate or enhance the resilience and sustainable use of species and areas of greatest concern

Why is this target important for Canada?

The effects of climate change are being noted around the world. In Canada, temperatures are increasing with widespread impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including shifts in the range of ecosystems, altered migration and breeding times, changes in natural disturbance regimes, and shifts in the distribution, productivity and abundance of species. Changes in climate can affect biodiversity either directly or indirectly as a result of, for instance, temperature and precipitation changes, shifts in seasons, and frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and other natural disturbances such as fires. In addition to presenting new challenges, climate change exacerbates many of the most significant existing threats to biodiversity, such as habitat change and invasive species.

The impacts are being and will continue to be felt by Canadians across the country. In northern communities, where changes are occurring fastest, warmer ground temperatures leading to thawing permafrost are causing damage to buildings and roads and in coastal communities increasing storm frequency and intensity hasten coastal erosion and cause property damage. For an economy such as Canada's, where natural resources play an important role, the effects of climate change could be significant, affecting hunting, fishing, and forest, ocean and crop management and related industries. All communities will be impacted by these changes.  

In order to develop effective adaptation measures, we first need to understand the adaptive capacity of Canada's biophysical systems; we need to know where, when and how to respond, and be able to monitor and report on changes over time. A focus on implementing adaptive measures for priority areas and species of concern allows Canada to begin addressing the most pressing climate change impacts on biodiversity and enhancing ecosystem resiliency while recognizing that more needs to be done.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 19.

Meeting the target

To meet this target, governments and stakeholders across Canada will need to work collaboratively to identify the key vulnerabilities of ecological systems and biodiversity to climate change and better understand and facilitate the capacity of key areas and species to adapt to the most pressing impacts. Activities by a variety of organizations are underway. Efforts to assess and monitor ocean acidification are being undertaken by various academic organizations and non-government organizations. Under its Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is conducting a series of aquatic basin-scale assessments that, among other things, will consider both ecosystem and socio-economic climate impacts, with obvious implications for biodiversity. Through the Climate Change Adaptation Program, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is supporting Aboriginal and northern communities to address risks and challenges posed by climate change impacts and to become more resilient. The Canadian Forest Service's Forest Change Initiative, when complete, will include a tracking system document past trends and future projections of forest change across Canada for a range of indicators; an adaptation toolkit including maps, decision-support systems, syntheses of information and adaptation options, to support forest management in a changing climate; and an integrated assessment of the implications of climate change on Canada's forests and forest sector. The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers Climate Change Task Force has developed a suite of reports and guidebooks to help guide adaptation of the forest sector. In June 2014, Natural Resources Canada published a new science assessment, Canada in a Changing Climate - Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation which includes a chapter on biodiversity and protected areas. Provincial and territorial governments are taking action on adaptation. BC, Ontario, Quebec, and the Territories have released stand-alone adaptation strategies; others are in development. Alberta has assessed both risks and opportunities related to the changing climate and is using this information to take strategic action. Some municipalities are demonstrating leadership in adaptation planning. Toronto and Vancouver, for instance, have adaptation strategies in place. Monitoring and reporting on changes in biodiversity over time using a variety of tracking mechanisms will be important for identifying adverse trends as a basis for developing, implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation measures.

Key concepts

Adaptive capacity: The ability of biophysical and socio-economic systems to adapt to changing circumstances on an ongoing basis.

Adaptation measures: Actions that respond to actual or potential changes in biodiversity resulting from climate change. These can include activities by institutions, governments, business or the public to respond to current or projected impacts.

Vulnerability: The degree to which an ecosystem or a socio-economic system (a populated area, for example) is susceptible to adverse impacts of climate change. Vulnerability is a function of many factors, including the nature of the impacts, the degree to which the system is exposed, its sensitivity to change, and its resilience, or ability to absorb the impact.

How will progress be measured?

The indicators proposed for this target rely on the cooperation of all jurisdictions to review and report progress. Ongoing or recently completed reports relevant to the first indicator include the joint federal, provincial, territorial Ecosystem Status and Trends Reports. The second indicator contains multiple measures, including the number and extent of plans completed, and the number and extent of plans implemented.

Goals and Targets - Introduction