Guidance for the preparation of ESTR products - classifying threats to biodiversity
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Table of Contents
- Review of Existing Threats Classifications
- Primary literature
- Applications of literature
- Comparing classifications
- Appendix 1. Terminology used for classifying and describing biodiversity threats
- Appendix 2. Delineation of broadscale biodiversity threats by Venter et al. (2006)
- Appendix 3. Classifications of direct threats by the IUCN (Salafsky et al., 2008; IUCN, 2011)
- Appendix 4. Categories and indicators used in the State of Great Lakes 2007 report (Environment Canada and US Environmental Protection Agency, 2007)
- Appendix 5. Categories and indicators used for reporting on environmental trends in British Columbia in 2007 (BC Ministry of Environment, 2007)
- Appendix 6. Alberta Environment review of issues and indicators (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2005)
List of Tables
Guidance for the preparation of ESTR products -- classifying threats to biodiversity
Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010
Technical Thematic Report No.2
Published by the Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Guidance for the preparation of ESTR products – classifying threats to biodiversity.
Issued also in French under title:
Lignes directrices pour la préparation des produits du RETE – classification des menaces pour la biodiversité.
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Cat. no.: En14-43/2-2012E-PDF
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Wong, C. 2011. Guidance for the preparation of ESTR products - classifying threats to biodiversity. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010.Technical Thematic Report No. 2. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. iii + 30 p.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2012
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- Footnote 1
Water Management and Indicators, Environment Canada, Pacific and Yukon
The Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers developed a Biodiversity Outcomes FrameworkFootnote1 in 2006 to focus conservation and restoration actions under the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy.Footnote2 Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010Footnote3 was a first report under this framework. It assesses progress towards the framework’s goal of “Healthy and Diverse Ecosystems” and the two desired conservation outcomes: i) productive, resilient, diverse ecosystems with the capacity to recover and adapt; and ii) damaged ecosystems restored.
The 22 recurring key findings that are presented in Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010 emerged from synthesis and analysis of technical reports prepared as part of this project. Over 500 experts participated in the writing and review of these foundation documents. This report, Guidance for the preparation of ESTR products -- Classifying threats to biodiversity, is one of three background papers prepared to assist the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report (ESTR) Steering Committee in developing a framework and providing guidance for the project. It is based on an analysis of literature and was complied for the consideration of the ESTR Steering Committee.
Ecological Classification System – Ecozones+
A slightly modified version of the Terrestrial Ecozones of Canada, described in the National Ecological Framework for CanadaFootnote4, provided the ecosystem-based units for all reports related to this project. Modifications from the original framework include: adjustments to terrestrial boundaries to reflect improvements from ground-truthing exercises; the combination of three Arctic ecozones into one; the use of two ecoprovinces – Western Interior Basin and Newfoundland Boreal; the addition of nine marine ecosystem-based units; and, the addition of the Great Lakes as a unit. This modified classification system is referred to as “ecozones+” throughout these reports to avoid confusion with the more familiar “ecozones” of the original frameworkFootnote5.
Ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report for Canada.
Long Description for Ecosystem Status and Trends Report for Canada
This map of Canada shows the ecological classification framework for the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report, named “ecozones+”. This map shows the distribution of 15 terrestrial ecozones+, two large lake ecozones+, and nine marine ecozones+.
During the preparation of Ecosystem Status and Trends (ESTR) ecozone+ reports it became clear that some guidance was required in naming and classifying threats to biodiversity in order to ensure consistency across reports. This paper provides that guidance by reviewing the relevant literature on the use of biodiversity or ecosystem threat classifications and presenting a classification to help identify threats, standardize nomenclature for similar issues in different ecozones+, and facilitate the comparison of information across ecozones+. As this guidance was provided part way through the preparation of ecozone+ reports, its use is not always evident.
Classification of Threats
The concept of a threat is generally understood as a force with an actual or potential negative impact on biodiversity. However, synonymous terms exist for similar concepts and varying definitions exist for the same terminology (see Appendix 1). A paper by Salafsky et al.(2008) identified characteristics of a good threats classification scheme. These are described in Table 1 and are used later in this paper to compare potential classifications.
|Simple||Uses clear language and examples|
|Hierarchical||Creates a logical way of grouping threats that are related to one another to facilitate use of the classification and meaningful analyses at different levels, particularly the ecosystem level|
|Comprehensive||Contains all threats at least at higher levels of the hierarchy|
|Expandable||Enables new threats to be added to the classification if discovered|
|Exclusive||Allows a given threat to be placed in only one category within its hierarchy|
|Scalable||Permits the same terms to be used at all geographic scales|
Source: Salafsky et al., (2008)
Review of Existing Threats Classifications
Venter et al. (2006) quantified threats facing 488 terrestrial and aquatic species in Canada categorised by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, or of special concern. They identified six broadscale threats, in order of prevalence, as: habitat loss; overexploitation; native species interactions; natural causes; pollution; and introduced species. Habitat loss was overwhelmingly the lead threat, contributing to the endangerment of 84% of all species. Each of the six threats was further delineated (Appendix 2) to support finer analysis of how these threats contribute to biodiversity loss.
It is well recognized that threats interact synergistically, therefore semantic distinction of threats is nontrivial. While extensive, threat categories presented by Venter et al. (2006) are not exclusive with threats appearing in multiple categories. For example, pollution due to agricultural and urbanization activities were captured under the category of habitat loss in addition to under pollution. Numerous studies (Kerr and Cihlar, 2004; Kerr and Deguise, 2004) support the link between the conversion of habitat to agricultural and urban use as a threat to biodiversity and further recognize the increase in pollution threats associated with these conversions. The nature of the land use change has been found to be more strongly associated with species endangerment than the area of conversion (Kerr and Deguise, 2004; Brown and Laband, 2006).
A classification and quantification of threats was conducted by Wilcove et al. (1998) on 1,880 species listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Five broadscale threats were examined: habitat degradation or loss; alien species; pollution; overexploitation; and disease. Despite minor differences in the broadscale threats assessed, Wilcove et al. (1998) also determined that the leading threat to species was habitat loss, contributing to the endangerment of 85% of all species. Finer scale analysis using 13 subcategories of habitat loss found agricultural activities and land conversion for commercial development to be the most significant causes of habitat change leading to species endangerment. Similar to Venter et al. (2006), the classification system by Wilcove et al. (1998) is extensive, however broad and fine scale categories are not exclusive, nor explicit enough to support consistent use of nomenclature.
Foin et al. (1998) examined recovery plans for 311 species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and defined nine threat categories for quantification: habitat reduction; habitat modification; introduction of exotic species; population reduction by human harvest; specialized habitats; succession and disturbance; hybridization; biotic interaction; and coevolution. As expected, habitat reduction and modification were the leading threats referenced in recovery plans. This threat classification is not detailed enough to determine exclusivity, however summation of the percentage of recovery plans addressing each threat revealed no overlap among categories.
Lawler et al. (2002) also reviewed recovery plans for 181 species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Fifty-nine specific threats were identified and aggregated to nine categories: resource use; exotic species; construction; altered habitat dynamics; agriculture; native species interactions; pollution; water diversions; and other factors. The most prevalent threats were those associated with resource use, exotic species, construction, and changes in habitat dynamics, each of which accounted for 70 to 80% of all species examined. Not surprisingly, most species faced threats in multiple categories. While specific threats were extensive in scope and arranged hierarchically, the classification was similar to others in its lack of exclusivity.
Dextrase and Mandrak (2006) examined the specific impacts of alien invasive species on freshwater fauna based on information presented in COSEWICstatus reports. In North America, extinction rates for freshwater fauna are five times higher than those for terrestrial groups (Ricciardi and Rasmussen, 1999). The introduction of alien invasive species was second to habitat loss as primary threats to imperilled fish. Most species introductions were deliberate efforts related to sport fishing, including the stocking of sport fish and stocking of forage fish as food for sport fish. Other pathways of introduction that have resulted in significant threats to native species included ballast water discharge, canals, movement of recreational boats, aquaculture and horticulture escapes, and aquarium fish releases. Habitat alteration such as flow modification, urbanization, and conversion to agricultural land served to support introduced species to the further detriment of native species (Light and Marchetti, 2007).
Smith et al. (2006) reviewed the role of disease in species extinction and endangerment and found that mostly anecdotal rather than experimental data support the view that disease is a primary threat to biodiversity. Examination of International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List reports for extinct species found that in no case was infectious disease listed as the sole cause of extinction. Frequently, disease was identified as a threat in association with the introduction of alien species (Smith et al., 2006). For example, infectious disease can drive populations temporarily or permanently to low numbers or densities, predisposing them to extinction by other forces such as increased predation by alien species (Venter et al., 2006; Smith et al., 2006).
Chu et al. (2003) used census data from Statistics Canada to compare regional stresses on freshwater fish biodiversity in Canada. Stress indicators were indexed with species biodiversity and physical environmental data to establish conservation priority rankings among watersheds. The majority of stresses examined in this study were aspects of habitat conversion. A more recent paper by Chu et al. (2008) examined the synergistic influence of temperature, groundwater discharge, and climate change in freshwater biodiversity in southern Ontario watersheds.
Yiming and Wilcove (2005) compared threats to vertebrate species in China and the United States. Differences were observed in the relative significance of threats contributing to biodiversity loss, however the leading threats can be grouped into the same primary categories of overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduced species, and disease. Each category was delineated to a finer scale, however definitions of categories are not provided and categories are not exclusive. For example, food shortage appears as a subcategory under habitat destruction and food, raw materials, and incidental harvest each appear under overexploitation with no explanation of distinctions.
Flather et al. (1998) identified 63 threats to over 600 threatened and endangered species in the United States using published documents, such as, federal register listings, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service technical bulletins, species recovery plans, environmental impact statements, and federal and state agency reports. Richter et al. (1997) similarly identified stressors and sources of stressors affecting such species through expert surveys. Neither Flather et al.(1998) nor Richter et al. (1997) classified these stressors systematically according to key drivers or threats.
Applications of literature
The IUCN has created standard classifications of direct threats, specifically to ensure a common nomenclature is used by conservationists to describe issues and facilitate cross-project learning as well as generalization of information across projects (Salafsky et al., 2008; IUCN, 2011) see Appendix 3). The system is intuitive, comprehensive, and facilitates consistency with its definitions. The classification is unique in that it seeks exclusivity among categories. The system is also hierarchical with fine scale threats aggregating to the following broad categories of threats: residential and commercial development; agriculture; energy production and mining; transportation and service corridors; biological resource use; human intrusions and disturbance; natural system modifications; invasive and other problematic species and genes; pollution; geological events; and climate change and severe weather.
The reports of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) supported information needs of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Convention on Migratory Species. Its objective was to report on global consequences of ecosystem changes to human well-being and identify management options for improving human well-being while conserving ecosystems. Thus direct and indirect drivers of change that were examined had an anthropocentric focus. While a hierarchical classification of drivers was not defined, anthropogenic direct drivers of changes to global diversity were discussed in the reports, including habitat change, invasive species and introduced pathogens, nutrient loading and pollution, overexploitation, and accelerated climate change. It was further recognized that interacting synergistically with these direct drivers are pervasive indirect global drivers that are demographic, economic, sociopolitical, scientific and technological, cultural or religious, and physical, biological, or chemical in nature.
Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 was produced by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2006) to report, through the use of indicators, global progress toward the 2010 Biodiversity Target of significant reductions to biodiversity loss. Global Environmental Outlook 4 was a report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (2007) to describe the current state of the global environment for human development and trends since 1987, and identify priorities for action. Similar to the reports of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), whose results were integrated within the two global assessments, five key threats were identified but not systematically classified.
Natural Resources Canada (2004) mapped threats such as roads, industrial discharges, and sewage throughout Canada. Data on these threats were classified according to the density of road types (for example, highways, primary roads, all roads) in each ecozone, density of industrial discharges within 194 terrestrial ecoregions, and the percentage of the population served by primary, secondary, tertiary, or no sewage treatment.
The National Water Research Institute of Environment Canada recognizes 15 water related threats to aquatic ecosystem health and drinking water in Canada (Environment Canada, 2001). Status and trends, knowledge, and program needs to manage these threats were identified by scientists and managers through workshops in 2001. While some threats were addressed as groupings of similar contaminants, for example pesticides, others were addressed as sources of a mixture of contaminants. Therefore threat categories are not exclusive of one another nor arranged hierarchically. The 15 threat categories are as follows: waterborne pathogens; algal toxins; taste and odour; pesticides; persistent organic pollutants and mercury; endocrine disrupting substances; nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus; aquatic acidification; ecosystem effects of genetically modified organisms; municipal wastewater effluents; industrial point source discharges; urban runoff; landfills and waste disposal; agricultural and forestry land use impacts; natural sources of trace element contaminants; impacts of dams and diversions; and climate change.
The British Columbia Ministry of Environment produces a report on environmental trends every five years and an interim report on trends on a specific topic every two and a half years. The most recent publication (BC Ministry of Environment, 2007) reported on 44 indicators and over 25 supplementary measures grouped into seven topic areas, including species conservation. The topics and indicators are presented in Appendix 5. The threat classification published by Venter et al. (2006) was used to identify the primary threats to 179 species at risk in British Columbia. Overall, habitat loss to urbanization was found to be the greatest threat, followed by introduction of alien species. Differences among types of species did arise with marine mammals and marine fishes being affected by over exploitation and pollution more so than other species.
Alberta Environment commissioned a review of issues threatening aquatic ecosystems health throughout the province as well as monitoring programs and indicators tracking stressors associated with these issues (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2005). Indicators were grouped with threats which are synonymous with stressors and specific concerns, however these are not exclusive and many indicators appear in a number of categories. The classification used is presented in Appendix 6. Key categories of stressors are: contaminant loading; landscape changes or habitat alterations; water use and water allocation; air emissions and acidification; recreational use; exotic species; transportation infrastructure; natural disturbances; and climate change.
The State of Great Lakes 2007 (Environment Canada and US Environmental Protection Agency, 2007) is seventh in a series of reports by Environment Canada and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to meet requirements of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement for regular reporting on binational goals and objectives specified in the Agreement. Ecosystem health is presented through indicators grouped into categories, some of which reflect threats, and others which reflect biophysical aspects of the Great Lakes (Appendix 4). While hierarchical and scalable, the groupings are not exclusive with various indicators (not threats) appearing in a number of categories: contamination; human health; biotic communities; invasive species; coastal zones and aquatic habitats; resource utilization; land use-land cover; and climate change.
Table 2 compares the threats classifications reviewed in this paper against the criteria described in Table 1 on page 1. Among the threats classifications reviewed, only the IUCN (Salafsky et al., 2008; IUCN, 2011) classification was derived with the intention of standardizing nomenclature for threats, and facilitating comparisons and generalization of scalable data across ecosystems. As such, the IUCN threats classification meets most of the objectives for presenting information in the ESTR reports. The IUCN classification is simple in its use of clear language and illustrative examples, and facilitated consistent use of nomenclature by providing definitions. The classification is hierarchical in its grouping of related threats, expandable to accommodate new threats, and scalable to various geographic scales. Among classifications reviewed, only the IUCN’s classification was designed to be exclusive, allowing a given threat to be placed in only one category within its hierarchy.
|Literature and initiatives with references to threats classifications (shading indicates studies focused on issues and species in Canada)||Simple||Hierarchical||Comprehensive||Expandable||Exclusive||Scalable|
|Venter et al.(2006)||√||√||Footnote*||√||√|
|Wilcove et al.(1998)||√||√||Footnote*||√||-||√|
|Foin et al.(1998)||√||-||-||√||-||√|
|Lawler et al.(2002)||Footnote**||√||Footnote*||√||-||√|
|Dextrase and Mandrak (2006)||√||√||√||√|
|Chu et al.(2003; 2008)||Footnote**||√||√|
|Yiming and Wilcove (2005)||Footnote**||√||Footnote*||√||-||√|
|Flather et al.(1998)||Footnote**||-||-||√||-||√|
|Richter et al.(1997)||Footnote**||√||-||√||-||√|
|IUCN (Salafsky et al., 2008; IUCN, 2011)||√||√||Footnote*||√||√||√|
|Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)||√||-||-||√||-||√|
|Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2006)||√||-||-||√||-||√|
|Global Environmental Outlook 4 (United Nations Environmental Program, 2007)||√||-||-||√||-||√|
|Atlas of Canada – Map of Ecosystem Threats (Natural Resources Canada, 2004)||-||-||-||√||-||-|
|National Water Research Institute (Environment Canada, 2001)||√||-||-||√||-||√|
|BC Ministry of Environment (BC Ministry of Environment, 2007)||√||√||Footnote*||√||-||√|
|Alberta Environment (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2005)||√||-||Footnote*||√||-||-|
|State of Great Lakes 2007 (Environment Canada and US Environmental Protection Agency, 2007)||√||-||Footnote*||√||-||-|
Table 2 footnotes
The IUCN classification was derived to characterize common threats to biodiversity issues around the world. When compared to classifications and supporting studies derived specifically from data on Canadian species listed through COSEWIC(Chu et al., 2003; Kerr and Cihlar, 2004; Kerr and Deguise, 2004; Venter et al., 2006; Dextrase and Mandrak, 2006; Chu et al., 2008) the breadth of the IUCN classification was found to be more extensive than most Canadian classifications, particularly in relation to fine scale categories and definitions of habitat loss.
Differences were observed among classifications with respect to the approach to characterizing a threat. The IUCN classification characterizes threats from alien species according to the types of species introduced and further includes introduced genetic material (for example, pesticide resistant crops and genetically modified organisms) in the threat category of invasive and other problematic species and genes. In contrast, Dextrase and Mandrak (2006) distinguished threats among routes of introduction (for example, deliberate stocking of sport or forage fish, aquaculture escapes, ballast water discharge).
Native species interactions including competition, predation, symbiosis, and disease are grouped together as a category of threat by Venter et al. (2006). Richter (1997) further includes complications due to small population size (such as inbreeding or stochastic fluctuation) and genetic alteration (such as hybridization) among biotic interactions threatening species. Foin et al.(1998) define obligate coevolutionary relationships where species are dependent on one another as threats on species other than listed species. While disease is quantified as a threat to biodiversity in Wilcove et al.(1998), no definition is provided for this category of threat. Smith et al. (2006) documented concerns that mostly anecdotal rather than experimental data support the view of disease as a primary threat to biodiversity and that while infectious disease can drive populations to low densities, this predisposes rather than drives species to extinction. The IUCN classification places these native species interactions under the category of problematic native species, recognizing that “problems” occur when native species interactions become out of balance through direct or indirect human activities.
The threat of overexploitation includes intentional (for example, harvesting and persecution) and unintentional (for example, bycatch and road kill) human activities in the classification by Venter et al.(2006). While the IUCN classification neglects threats from unintentional activities, it distinguishes among harvesting activities under the category of biological resource use. Consumptive use of terrestrial animals, terrestrial plants, logging and wood harvesting activity, and fishing are distinguished in the IUCN classification.
The IUCN classification distinguishes among pollution threats according to primary activities (such as agricultural and forestry) generating pollutants and media (such as effluent) through which mixtures of pollutants are introduced to ecosystems. Venter et al. (2006) similarly distinguishes among pollutant generating activities -- agriculture, urbanization, extraction, infrastructure, and human disturbance. However no distinctions are made among media in which pollutants are found. In contrast, the National Water Research Institute (Environment Canada, 2001) and Stantec Consulting Ltd. (2005) grouped pollution threats according to the nature of pollutants (such as nutrients, organic pollutants, metals, pesticides). The State of Great Lakes 2007 report (Environment Canada and US Environmental Protection Agency, 2007) presented pollution threats in relation to both sources (for example wastewater effluent) and sinks (for example air, water, sediment, water, and biota), types of habitat (for example open lake, groundwater) and effects on human health (for example biomarkers of exposure and beach advisories). The B.C. Ministry of Environment (2007) coarsely grouped all pollution threats on biodiversity without any attempt to distinguish among chemical, physical (for example turbidity and sedimentation), thermal, or acoustic types of pollutants that define the category.
The IUCN classification makes the most explicit distinctions among abiotic threats to biodiversity, with separate categories for geological events (such as volcanic events, earthquakes and associated events such as tsunamis, and avalanches or landslides) and climate change and severe weather (for example, habitat shifting due to tundra thawing and sea level rise, droughts, temperature extremes, and storms and flooding). Numerous reports (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005; Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2006; United Nations Environmental Program, 2007) recognized accelerated climate change impacts as threats to biodiversity without definition of the range of impacts associated with the threats. Natural disasters, intrinsic factors, and natural causes are aggregated in the threat category of native species interactions by Venter et al. (2006) however abiotic interactions relating to these subcategories are not recognized or defined.
Classification of Threats for ESTR
Recognizing the purpose of ESTR is to meet the interests of the Canadian Council of Resource Ministers and deliver, in part, on Canada’s obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the following threats classification is based on the analysis of COSEWIClistings by Venter et al. (2006) and expanded by the most recent IUCN classification of threats. Threats classifications and supporting studies that further detail or exemplify threats were also incorporated.
Forming the structure of the threats classification to be used as guidance for ESTR are five broadscale anthropogenic threats and a single category of natural threats:
Ecosystem change (ecosystem loss and ecosystem alteration)
- threats from human activities that result in the reduction, conversion, fragmentation, alteration, or other modification of habitat and/or ecosystems which may lead to a loss ecosystem integrity or function
- threats from chemicals and mixtures of chemicals, nutrients and/or sediment loadings, thermal, acoustic or light pollution, or any other form of pollution that contaminates the environment
Invasive species (and the introduction of alien species and genetic material)
- threats from invasive (alien and native) plants, animals, pathogens, microbes, or genetic material
Exploitation, harassment, or direct mortality of native species
- threats from consumptive use of native biological resources including intentional and unintentional harvesting effects, by-catch, species control efforts, and other human activities that result in the direct mortality of individuals or populations
Accelerated climate change
- threats from climatic changes that may be linked to global warming and severe weather events outside the natural range of variation that could eliminate a vulnerable species or habitat
- threats resulting from any stochastic event or factor
The six threat categories have not been further delineated because as the literature suggests, fine scale threats are not mutually exclusive. Changes in biodiversity are almost always caused by multiple interacting threats and at the fine scale these threats are related through common stressors. Habitat loss or reduction and mortality, developmental, or reproductive impacts at the species level occur through stressors acting synergistically. A simplified classification of threats for ESTR is mapped to example stressors in Table 3. Use of this common classification in the preparation of ESTR products will help standardize nomenclature and facilitate comparison of biodiversity observations across ecosystems and consolidation results to a national scale.
|Threat||Examples of Stressors||Impact|
a) Ecosystem Alteration
b) Ecosystem Loss
Substrate alteration (e.g. impervious soils)
|Exploitation, Harassment, or Direct Mortality of Native Species|
|Accelerated Climate Change|
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|Direct threats, sources of stress, proximate pressures||Proximate human activities or processes that have caused, are causing or may cause the destruction, degradation, and/or impairment of biodiversity targets and natural processes.||(Salafsky et al., 2008) (IUCN, 2011)|
|Indirect threats, drivers, root causes||Negative factors, including social, economic, political, institutional, or cultural factors, that contribute to the occurrence or persistence of direct threats.||(IUCN, 2011)|
|Drivers||Any natural or human-induced factors that directly or indirectly cause a change in an ecosystem.||(Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005)|
(Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2006)
|Drivers, indirect drivers, underlying drivers, driving forces||Fundamental processes in society which drive activities with a direct impact on the environment. These processes include demographics, economic processes, scientific and technological innovation, distribution pattern processes and cultural, social, political, and institutional processes.||(United Nations Environmental Program, 2007)|
|Pressures, human interventions in the environment||Human activities which may be directed toward causing a desired environmental change or by-products of other human activities. Key pressures include substance emissions which may take the form of pollution or waste, external inputs such as fertilizers, chemicals and irrigation, land use, resource extraction, and modification and movement of organisms.||(United Nations Environmental Program, 2007)|
|Direct drivers||Factors, primarily physical, chemical, and biological, such as land cover change, climate change, air and water pollution, irrigation, use of fertilizers, harvesting, and the introduction of alien invasive species. A direct driver unequivocally influences ecosystem processes and can therefore be identified and measured to differing degrees of accuracy.||(Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005)|
(Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2006)
|Indirect drivers||Factors, primarily demographic, economic, sociopolitical, scientific and technological, and cultural and religious, that operate diffusely, often by altering one or more direct drivers. The influence of indirect drivers is established by understanding their effect on direct drivers.||(Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005)|
(Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2006)
|Stressor||Physical, chemical, and biological factors that are either unnatural events or activities, or natural to the system but applied at an excessive or deficient level, which adversely affect the ecosystem through significant changes in the ecological components, patterns, and processes in natural systems (eg. water withdrawal, pesticide use, timber harvesting, acidification, and land-use change)||(BC Ministry of Environment, 2007)|
|Broadscale Threat||Fine Scale Threat||Definition|
|Habitat loss||-||Reduction or degradation of required habitat|
|Habitat loss||Urbanization||Development of human settlements (urban, suburban, and rural) and industrial and commercial buildings|
|Habitat loss||Agriculture||Crops, wood plantations, non-timber plantations, livestock (including ranching), and aquaculture|
|Habitat loss||Human disturbance||Recreation, tourism, military activities, research, transport, vehicle and vessel traffic|
|Habitat loss||Extraction||Logging, mining, fishing, groundwater, oil and gas, aquifer depletion|
|Habitat loss||Infrastructure||Transportation, telecommunications, power lines, dams, impoundments, water diversions, pipeline construction|
|Introduced species||-||Competition, predation, hybridization, infection, or habitat modification by introduced species|
|Introduced species||Habitat effect||-|
|Overexploitation||-||Intentional or unintentional harvest or persecution|
|Pollution||-||Chemical, thermal or acoustic pollution, turbidity and sedimentation|
|Native species interactions||-||Any increase or decrease in a species’ native competitors, predators, pathogens, prey, symbionts, or other organisms with which it interacts|
|Native species interactions||Natural causes||-|
|Native species interactions||Intrinsic factors||-|
|Native species interactions||Natural disasters||-|
|Natural causes||-||Any stochastic event (eg. storm, drought, or fire) or factor inherent to the species (eg. limited dispersal, narrow niche)|
|Area||Threats By Level 1 of Classification|
|Threats By Level 2 of Classification||Threats By Level 3 (examples only) of Classification||DefinitionFootnote bb|
|1. Residential & commercial development||Yes||human settlements or other non-agricultural land uses with a substantial footprint|
|1.1 housing & urban areas||Yes||urban areas, suburbs, villages, vacation homes, shopping areas, offices, schools, hospitals||human cities, towns, and settlements including non-housing development typically integrated with housing|
|1.2 commercial & industrial areas||Yes||manufacturing plants, shopping centers, office parks, military bases, power plants, train & ship yards, airports||factories and other commercial centers|
|1.3 tourism & recreation areas||Yes||ski areas, golf courses, beach resorts, cricket fields, county parks, campgrounds||tourism and recreation sites with a substantial footprint|
|2. Agriculture & aquaculture||Yes||threats from farming and ranching as a result of agricultural expansion and intensification, including silviculture, mariculture and aquaculture|
|2.1 annual & perennial non-timber crops||Yes||crops planted for food, fodder, fibre, fuel, or other uses|
|2.2 wood & pulp plantations||Yes||teak or eucalyptus plantations, silviculture, Christmas tree farms||stands of trees planted for timber or fibre outside of natural forests, often with non-native species|
|2.3 livestock farming & ranching||Yes||cattle feed lots, dairy farms, cattle ranching, chicken farms, goat, camel, or yak herding||domestic terrestrial animals raised in one location on farmed or non-local resources (farming); also domestic or semi-domesticated animals allowed to roam in the wild and supported by natural habitats (ranching)|
|2.4 marine & freshwater aquaculture||Yes||shrimp or fin fish aquaculture, fish ponds on farms, hatchery salmon, seeded shellfish beds, artificial algal beds||aquatic animals raised in one location on farmed or non-local resources; also hatchery fish allowed to roam in the wild|
|3. Energy production & mining||Yes||threats from production of non-biological resources|
|3.1 oil & gas drilling||Yes||oil wells, deep sea natural gas drilling||exploring for, developing, and producing petroleum and other liquid hydrocarbons|
|3.2 mining & quarrying||Yes||coal mines, alluvial gold panning, gold mines, rock quarries, coral mining, deep sea nodules, guano harvesting||exploring for, developing, and producing minerals and rocks|
|3.3 renewable energy||Yes||geothermal power production, solar farms, wind farms (including birds flying into windmills), tidal farms||exploring, developing, and producing renewable energy|
|4. Transportation & service corridors||Yes||threats from long, narrow transport corridors and the vehicles that use them including associated wildlife mortality|
|4.1 roads & railroads||Yes||highways, secondary roads, logging roads, bridges & causeways, road kill, fencing associated with roads, railroads||surface transport on roadways and dedicated tracks|
|4.2 utility & service lines||Yes||electrical & phone wires, aqueducts, oil & gas pipelines, electrocution of wildlife||transport of energy & resources|
|4.3 shipping lanes||Yes||dredging, canals, shipping lanes, ships running into whales, wakes from cargo ships||transport on and in freshwater and ocean waterways|
|4.4 flight paths||Yes||flight paths, jets impacting birds||air and space transport|
|5. Biological resource use||Yes||threats from consumptive use of "wild" biological resources including deliberate and unintentional harvesting effects; also persecution or control of specific species|
|5.1 hunting & collecting terrestrial animals||Yes||bushmeat hunting, trophy hunting, fur trapping, insect collecting, honey or bird nest hunting, predator control, pest control, persecution||killing or trapping terrestrial wild animals or animal products for commercial, recreation, subsistence, research or cultural purposes, or for control/persecution reasons; includes accidental mortality/bycatch|
|5.2 gathering terrestrial plants||Yes||wild mushrooms, forage for stall fed animals, orchids, rattan, control of host plants to combat timber diseases||harvesting plants, fungi, and other non-timber/non-animal products for commercial, recreation, subsistence, research or cultural purposes, or for control reasons|
|5.3 logging & wood harvesting||Yes||clear cutting of hardwoods, selective commercial logging of ironwood, pulp operations, fuel wood collection, charcoal production||harvesting trees and other woody vegetation for timber, fibre, or fuel|
|5.4 fishing & harvesting aquatic resources||Yes||trawling, blast fishing, spear fishing, shellfish harvesting, whaling, seal hunting, turtle egg collection, live coral collection, seaweed collection||harvesting aquatic wild animals or plants for commercial, recreation, subsistence, research, or cultural purposes, or for control/persecution reasons; includes accidental mortality/bycatch|
|6. Human intrusions & disturbance||Yes||threats from human activities that alter, destroy and disturb habitats and species associated with non-consumptive uses of biological resources|
|6.1 recreational activities||Yes||off-road vehicles, motorboats, jet-skis, snowmobiles, ultralight planes, dive boats, whale watching, mountain bikes, hikers, birdwatchers, skiers, pets in rec areas, temporary campsites, caving, rock-climbing||people spending time in nature or traveling in vehicles outside of established transport corridors, usually for recreational reasons|
|6.2 war, civil unrest & military exercises||Yes||armed conflict, mine fields, tanks & other military vehicles, training exercises & ranges, defoliation, munitions testing||Actions by formal or paramilitary forces without a permanent footprint|
|6.3 work & other activities||Yes||law enforcement, drug smugglers, illegal immigrants, species research, vandalism||People spending time in or traveling in natural environments for reasons other than recreation or military activities|
|7. Natural system modifications||Yes||threats from actions that convert or degrade habitat in service of “managing” natural or semi-natural systems, often to improve human welfare|
|7.1 fire & fire suppression||Yes||fire suppression to protect homes, inappropriate fire management, escaped agricultural fires, arson, campfires, fires for hunting||suppression or increase in fire frequency and/or intensity outside of its natural range of variation|
|7.2 dams & water management/use||Yes||dam construction, dam operations, sediment control, change in salt regime, wetland filling for mosquito control, levees and dikes, surface water diversion, groundwater pumping, channelization, artificial lakes||changing water flow patterns from their natural range of variation either deliberately or as a result of other activities|
|7.3 other ecosystem modifications||Yes||land reclamation projects, abandonment of managed lands, rip-rap along shoreline, mowing grass, tree thinning in parks, beach construction, removal of snags from streams||other actions that convert or degrade habitat in service of “managing” natural systems to improve human welfare|
|8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes||Yes||threats from non-native and native plants, animals, pathogens/microbes, or genetic materials that have or are predicted to have harmful effects on biodiversity following their introduction, spread and/or increase in abundance|
|8.1 invasive non-native/alien species||Yes||feral cattle, household pets, zebra mussels, Dutch elm disease or chestnut blight, Miconia tree, introduction of species for biocontrol, Chytrid fungus affecting amphibians outside of Africa||harmful plants, animals, pathogens and other microbes not originally found within the ecosystem(s) in question and directly or indirectly introduced and spread into it by human activities|
|8.2 problematic native species||Yes||overabundant native deer, overabundant algae due to loss of native grazing fish, native plants that hybridize with other plants, plague affecting rodents||harmful plants, animals, or pathogens and other microbes that are originally found within the ecosystem(s) in question, but have become “out-of-balance” or “released” directly or indirectly due to human activities|
|8.3 introduced genetic material||Yes||pesticide resistant crops, hatchery salmon, restoration projects using non-local seed stock, genetically modified insects for biocontrol, genetically modified trees, genetically modified salmon||human altered or transported organisms or genes|
|9. Pollution||Yes||Threats from introduction of exotic and/or excess materials or energy from point and nonpoint sources|
|9.1 household sewage & urban waste water||Yes||discharge from municipal waste treatment plants, leaking septic systems, untreated sewage, outhouses, oil or sediment from roads, fertilizers and pesticides from lawns and golf-courses, road salt||water-borne sewage and non-point runoff from housing and urban areas that include nutrients, toxic chemicals and/or sediments|
|9.2 industrial & military effluents||Yes||toxic chemicals from factories, illegal dumping of chemicals, mine tailings, arsenic from gold mining, leakage from fuel tanks, PCBs in river sediments||water-borne pollutants from industrial and military sources including mining, energy production, and other resource extraction industries that include nutrients, toxic chemicals and/or sediments|
|9.3 agricultural & forestry effluents||Yes||nutrient loading from fertilizer run-off, herbicide run-off, manure from feedlots, nutrients from aquaculture, soil erosion||water-borne pollutants from agricultural, silvicultural, and aquaculture systems that include nutrients, toxic chemicals and/or sediments including the effects of these pollutants on the site where they are applied|
|9.4 garbage & solid waste||Yes||municipal waste, litter from cars, flotsam & jetsam from recreational boats, waste that entangles wildlife, construction debris||rubbish and other solid materials including those that entangle wildlife|
|9.5 air-borne pollutants||Yes||acid rain, smog from vehicle emissions, excess nitrogen deposition, radioactive fallout, wind dispersion of pollutants or sediments, smoke from forest fires or wood stoves||atmospheric pollutants from point and nonpoint sources|
|9.6 excess energy||Yes||noise from highways or airplanes, sonar from submarines that disturbs whales, heated water from power plants, lamps attracting insects, beach lights disorienting turtles, atmospheric radiation from ozone holes||inputs of heat, sound, or light that disturb wildlife or ecosystems|
|10. Geological events||Yes||threats from catastrophic geological events|
|10.1 volcanoes||Yes||eruptions, emissions of volcanic gasses||volcanic events|
|10.2 earthquakes/tsunamis||Yes||earthquakes, tsunamis||earthquakes and associated events|
|10.3 avalanches/landslides||Yes||avalanches, landslides, mudslides||avalanches or landslides|
|11. Climate change & severe weather||Yes||long-term climatic changes that may be linked to global warming and other severe climatic or weather events outside the natural range of variation that could wipe out a vulnerable species or habitat|
|11.1 habitat shifting & alteration||Yes||sea-level rise, desertification, tundra thawing, coral bleaching||major changes in habitat composition and location|
|11.2 droughts||Yes||severe lack of rain, loss of surface water sources||periods in which rainfall falls below the normal range of variation|
|11.3 temperature extremes||Yes||heat waves, cold spells, oceanic temperature changes, disappearance of glaciers/sea ice||periods in which temperatures exceed or go below the normal range of variation|
|11.4 storms & flooding||Yes||thunderstorms, tropical storms, hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, hailstorms, ice storms or blizzards, dust storms, erosion of beaches during storms||extreme precipitation and/or wind events or major shifts in seasonality of storms|
- Footnote a
The classification is composed of 3 levels of direct threats, analogous to families, genera, and species in the Linnaean system. The 1st level is denoted by whole numbers and bold text (1. Residential and commercial development). The 2nd level is denoted by decimal numbers and plain text (1.2 commercial and industrial areas). The 3rd level is denoted by italic text (manufacturing plants). The classifications are designed to be comprehensive, consistent, and exclusive for the 1st and 2nd levels. The 3rd level, by contrast, currently only contains some illustrative examples rather than comprehensive listings of threats at this level.
- Footnote b
Definitions are only given for 1stand 2nd level threat classifications.
|Contamination||Toxics in Biota|
|Contamination||Toxics in Media|
|Contamination||Sources and Loadings|
|Coastal zones||Nearshore aquatic|
|Coastal zones||Coastal wetlands|
|Aquatic habitats||Open lake|
|Land use and land cover||General|
|Land use and land cover||Forest lands|
|Land use and land cover||Agricultural lands|
|Land use and land cover||Urban/suburban lands|
|Land use and land cover||Protected Areas|
|Population and Economic Activity|
|Stressor||Specific Concern||Indicators and Techniques to Identify and Quantify Effects on Aquatic Ecosystem Health|
|Contaminant Loading||Organic Pollutants/Oxygen Depleting Substances|
|Contaminant Loading||Pesticides (includes insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) (acute or chronic toxicity, endocrine disruption)|
|Contaminant Loading||Metals (chronic and acute toxicity, bioaccumulation)|
|Contaminant Loading||Petroleum Hydrocarbons|
|Contaminant Loading||Endocrine Disrupting Substances|
|Contaminant Loading||Wood Preservatives|
|Contaminant Loading||Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products|
|Contaminant Loading||Brominated Flame Retardants|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Construction of Dams and Other Impoundments|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Disruption of Riparian Habitat|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Waterbody Habitat Alteration or Loss|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Draining of Wetlands|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Disturbance of Hydrologic Regime|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Vegetation Removal (agriculture, forestry, cut lines)|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Changes in Chemical and Physical Process|
|Landscape Changes/Habitat Alterations||Intensification of Urbanization of Watersheds|
|Water Use/Water Allocation||Population Growth - Increased Consumption (urban and agriculture)|
|Water Use/Water Allocation||Population Growth – Increased Stormwater Runoff|
|Water Use/Water Allocation||Change in Flow Regime (withdrawals)|
|Air Emissions and Acidification||Industrial Air Pollution (dust and contaminants)|
|Air Emissions and Acidification||Acid Inputs and Acid Rain|
|Air Emissions and Acidification||Vehicle Emissions (greenhouse gases)|
|Air Emissions and Acidification||Atmospheric Deposition of Contaminants|
|Recreational Use||Water-Based Activities (swimming, boating, water skiing, camping)|
|Recreational Use||Habitat Alterations (beach modifications, marinas, docks, piers)|
|Recreational Use||Fishing Pressure|
|Recreational Use||Access Management|
|Exotic Species||Exotic Species Introduction|
|Transportation Infrastructure||Infrastructure Development (roads, bridges, culverts)|
|Transportation Infrastructure||Wetland Loss|
|Transportation Infrastructure||Salinity (road salting)|
|Climate Change||Streamflow and Lake Levels|
|Climate Change||Extreme Weather Events|
|Climate Change||Changes in Chemical and Physical Process (temperature, precipitation, greenhouse gases)|
- Footnote 1
Environment Canada. 2006. Biodiversity outcomes framework for Canada. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. 8 p.
- Footnote 2
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Biodiversity Working Group. 1995. Canadian Biodiversity Strategy: Canada's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Environment Canada, Biodiversity Convention Office. Ottawa, ON. 86 p.
- Footnote 3
Federal, Provincial and Territorial Governments of Canada. 2010. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. vi + 142 p.
- Footnote 4
Ecological Stratification Working Group. 1995. A national ecological framework for Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch, Centre for Land and Biological Resources Research and Environment Canada, State of the Environment Directorate, Ecozone Analysis Branch. Ottawa/Hull, ON. 125 p. Report and national map at 1:7 500 000 scale.
- Footnote 5
Rankin, R., Austin, M. and Rice, J. 2011. Ecological classification system for the ecosystem status and trends report. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 1. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON.
- Date Modified: